Improve Quality of Teaching in Rural China

 
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Jun 23, 2014

Home Sweet Home - A Camp for Rural Children

Students write down their observations.
Students write down their observations.

Our Rural Education Innovators in China are not only good teachers to village children -- they are also ambassadors for RCEF's style of student-centered, community-based education to others. As part of their work, they document their lessons in writing and photos and share step-by-step accounts of what they did, for others to learn from.

One such case study is about a week-long camp that RCEF teachers led over a school break. It describes how the teachers invited 4th-6th graders to design their own homes, based on an investigation of local housing. The teachers took all the students out of the classroom for a walk through the village. They were required to observe the characteristics of the houses or buildings in the village, and to note down what they had observed on sheets of colored paper. Once back in class, students with the same color paper formed a small group and organized and categorized all of their observations. Afterwards, they brainstormed questions they wanted to know more about, and made a plan to interview local residents. To prepare, they created criteria to decide which questions to include in their interview, assigned roles, and conducted mock interviews to practice their manners. After finishing the interviews, they wrote essays describing the typical village houses, as if they were writing to a friend from far away who had never seen their village. The students did an excellent job writing about this topic as they had firsthand knowledge about it. Finally, the teachers facilitated as students designed houses of their own, both in drawings and in 3-D models. 

The students said they enjoyed the whole process, as it felt like a combination of learning and playing. They gained more confidence in sharing their opinion, became more eager to ask questions, and said they wanted to participate in this kind of learning experience in the future. Throughout, they were encouraged to observe, question, present ideas, and cooperate with others -- all abilities that will prepare them to advance in developing critical thinking and independent learning skills.

Students explored their own community.
Students explored their own community.
Students show off their own blueprints.
Students show off their own blueprints.
A student concentrates on her blueprint.
A student concentrates on her blueprint.
Mar 24, 2014

Spreading Seeds for Innovative Teaching in Rural China

RCEF Teacher Ms. Sun and her fifth-grade students.
RCEF Teacher Ms. Sun and her fifth-grade students.

Last month, RCEF was invited to present our work to the fellows of Teach for China, an organization that recruits college graduates to teach for two years in under-resourced Chinese schools. Teach for China wanted RCEF to share how we work with local village teachers and the kind of innovative teaching that comes out of these partnerships. We showed videos of some of the creative projects RCEF teachers have facillitated with elementary school children. Ms. Huimiao Sun, one of RCEF's longstanding rural teaching partnrs, shared her personal story and the iimpact that RCEF had on her growth as an educator. 

Afterwards, many Fellows came to us to ask more about RCEF teaching methods and experiences working with local teachers and schools in rural China. Many said they were excited and inspired by the real examples of project-based learning and hands-on education that RCEF teachers have proved are possible in rural China. We were thrilled to see so many people passionate about innovative teaching and look forward to further sharing of experiences and practical methods with them! 

Click here to read an article about RCEF, Proof: Kid-Centered, Non-Textbook, Deep Learning is Possible in Rural China, written by Teach for China's head of training.

Links:

Dec 23, 2013

Opening Doors to Village Culture

Rural parents and children gather for story time.
Rural parents and children gather for story time.

Most children in rural China have little chance to leave the school grounds or study subjects outside their textbooks. In response, RCEF Rural Education Innovator Teacher Sun Huimiao is a trailblazer in developing place-based education that helps students to apply their skills and develop their knowledge in the real world. In September, she started teaching students at Nanzheng Elementary School how to make a map of their village. They brainstormed different aspects of the village environment that they were interested in, and eventually settled on studying elements of village home design. After more investigation, they chose to examine the tall, colorful doors that their parents and neighbors select to decorate home entrances. So far, they have done a survey of the different styles of village doors, collected measurements, organized data using spreadsheets, and interviewed a village elder about the history and significance of rural architectural changes. 

On the weekends, Teacher Sun also organizes free Parent-Child Reading Activities in a Community Education Center that she founded in her home village. She partners with two local kindergarten teachers to read stories to children, demonstrating to parents how to read aloud, and the benefits of promoting habits of reading in children. The free weekend activities have been well-attended and Teacher Sun is planning to hold more sessions over this coming winter break when children are out of school and more parents are home from their migrant labor jobs in cities. 

Free weekend reading activity for village children
Free weekend reading activity for village children
Students work together to measure the door.
Students work together to measure the door.
Sixth graders study village architecture.
Sixth graders study village architecture.

Links:

Sep 23, 2013

Reading Class in Rural China

Animal art project with leaves
Animal art project with leaves

RCEF provides free, enriching education to children in rural China. We support rural elementary school teachers as they implement innovative teaching methods in Chinese villages. One of our partner teachers, Ms. Wang Yanzhen, teaches engaging Reading Classes to students at Xiaochao Elementary School.

Her students have read literature ranging from Tang dynasty poems to stories about dreams, animals, science, and the environment. Through in-class activities and teacher facilitation, students have gained understanding of the literary themes and shown great improvement in their reading habits. As a result of the coaching and support she has received from RCEF, Ms. Wang has already been invited by other NGOs and schools in China to share her teaching experiences and insights with more rural teachers. Some of these lessons are below.

Reading Time

Children in rural China don't usually have access to books in their homes or schools, and independent reading outside of the textbook is rare. Ms. Wang found that "...when students read in class, they could only concentrate for about twenty minutes so I adjusted the time into 10 minutes of sharing interesting plots with each other, 20 minutes of sustained, silent eading, and 10 minutes of storytelling activities. For example, we read Shixi Chen's animal-themed books together. The students and I discussed interesting parts of the plots, read the books together, and told stories. The students' interest never ceased, they read the books carefully, and traded the books with each other."

Learning to Discuss

Ms. Wang found that when she asked students to form small groups to answer questions, or have a group discussion, there were always a few students who did not participate, worked on other homework, or just acted lazy. She explains her response: "Now I first give my students time to write down their thoughts and then have group discussion. This allows every student to contribute their unique ideas. In one activity where I asked students for their opinion about Shixi Chen, the author, I did not expect that they would come up with so many attributes: smart, curious, brave, imaginative, loving, persistent, etc. From the look of things, this activity definitely benefited the children."

Learning to Create

After reading, Ms. Wang encourages her students to create. "I asked to use different kinds of tree leaves to create collages that showed their love for animals. This method encouraged students to investigate their natural environment and, cultivated their imagination, and aesthetic sensitivity through active practice. Students had a passion for it! It was the first time for students to participate in this kind of activity. I was very suprised when I was looking at all my students' work. For example, Haojie He does not really like to speak and he fails to take most of his reading homework seriously. For this assignment, however, he pasted different kinds of leaves together to create a suit with wings. He hoped to make it so that everyone in the world could fly. Xuening Jia, who is often quiet and has a hard time expressing herself created a butterfly flying in a flower field."

During the creation process, my students said that at first they felt they wouldn't be able to do it, but through effort they discovered that they were able to do a good job. Also, during the activity a few students followed the tree leaves characteristics to decide what to make. So although the original requirement was for students to create their favorite animal, they ended up making various kinds of animals, adapting to the materials and coming up with new ideas."

Student shows off her creation proudly.
Student shows off her creation proudly.
Reading Journal Example
Reading Journal Example
Students love sustained, silent reading time!
Students love sustained, silent reading time!
Student Reading Journal
Student Reading Journal
Jun 26, 2013

The Story of Yiling

Yiling Reading in front of the class.
Yiling Reading in front of the class.

Yiling just finished fourth grade at Xiaochao Primary School in rural Shanxi Province. She has been a student in RCEF Teacher Wang's Reading Class for two years, and shows the kind of positive change that RCEF teachers and Reading Classes can promote for rural children in China.

To see Yiling now, one is struck by her intelligence, outgoingness, and self-confidence. But Yiling wasn’t always this way. She did not speak up in class and read very slowly, lacking concentration. One day, Ms. Wang’s class read the book Reunion by Liqiong Yu.  It tells the story of a village girl who looks forward to seeing her migrant worker parents during the Chinese New Year. Ms. Wang recalled, “When we finished reading, Yiling said out loud, ‘Teacher, I feel like I’m the girl in the story.’” In fact, Yiling’s parents are also migrant workers far from home, and she lives with her farmer grandparents. 

Every week, Yiling's class would go to the school library to check out books. At first, Yiling had a hard time picking a book so Ms. Wang paid special attention by recommending books to her and trying to understand what kinds of books she likes. It seemed that stories of people with special powers and imaginary worlds appealed to Yiling. As Yiling began to read more, Ms. Wang saw her open up in class, even reading a book aloud in front of the whole class with great feeling. She represented her group in presentations and participated enthusiastically in the poem recitation contest. She even wrote poems for her absent parents.  

Yiling began to notice things around her and connect them to the stories. She was especially moved by the translated stories of Christian Jolibois in which the main character, a hen, dreams big dreams. She wrote about how she dreams for eternal life because she doesn’t want people to undergo grief when a loved one dies. She wrote about watching a funeral in her village and how sad the relatives of the deceased were. Although she could not change reality, she and her classmates created an “Angel Plan” to help make the lives of the elderly easier, by talking to them and helping them out with household chores. 

In the last two years, Yiling has truly undergone many changes. She is more confident, courageous, clever, responsible, and knowledgeable and Ms. Wang reports she is also closer to her teachers.

Yiling
Yiling's Artwork in response to Reading.
Yiling writes about grieving in her village.
Yiling writes about grieving in her village.
Yiling read this poem over the phone to her mother
Yiling read this poem over the phone to her mother

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Organization

Project Leader

Diane Geng

Co-Founder, Co-Executive Director
Rochester, New York United States

Where is this project located?

Map of Improve Quality of Teaching in Rural China