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Visiting Thai Teachers Pick Up Tips

DALLAS -- Dallas High School was part of a different kind of exchange program last week.

DALLAS -- Dallas High School was part of a different kind of exchange program last week.

Instead of students from a foreign country, it was teachers from Thailand visiting classrooms in Dallas.

The one-day classroom observation was part of a month-long exchange for 21 Thai instructors who teach English to high school students in Thailand.

The teachers were brought to Oregon through the English Language and Culture Institute in Monmouth and the Thai Ministry of Education. The teachers were learning better techniques for teaching English in their classrooms.

Roger Shinkle of the English Language and Culture Institute said the exchange enlisted a number of speakers to demonstrate language teaching techniques in seminars.

The teachers were in Dallas to see one of those techniques in practice in high school Spanish classes.

The teaching technique is called Teaching Proficiency through Reading and Storytelling (TPRS). It teaches understanding and use of languages in a more holistic manner through reading stories, rather than memorizing grammar rules. The group attended a two-day TPRS seminar at Willamette University before its visit to DHS.

Spanish teacher Kurt Woolner said DHS has been incorporating TPRS into Spanish lessons since last school year after attending a conference on the teaching method.

Woolner said he has already seen improvements in his students' comprehension and use of the language. Reading the stories is a more intuitive way to learn advanced use of the language than the typical memorization methods, he said.

"We saw students using structures in language that they never picked up on (before)," Woolner said. "These students were doing it instinctively."

On Wednesday, May 18, the teachers from Thailand were able to see the results. Woolner had the students break into small groups and read a story to each other -- in Spanish. Later, Woolner questioned his students about what they learned -- again in Spanish -- and they answered in Spanish.

Though the Thai teachers may not have been able to understand the exchanges, some were impressed with the students' confidence in using Spanish.

"It's a good way of teaching the language," said Wutthichai Naksaeng, one of the teachers on the trip. "Teaching this way can make it more personalized to the student."

Naksaeng said Thai students tend to be quiet in class. It would be a challenge to use a technique that requires them to speak more, but if they did, he believed learning the language would be easier.

"It's a good method for the confidence of the kids," he said.

Shinkle said the observation in Dallas was a good complement to the two-day seminar.

"I think it was really helpful for them to see the rubber hit the road," he said.

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