If you have ever volunteered at HOOP, you will know we have six English classes, right? Wrong! As of this school year, we have opened a brand-new class: Manatee.
Our seventh class, named after the charming Amazonian aquatic herbivore, opens up an important educational niche for some of our older children with beginner-level English. While our English classes start getting ‘serious’ (well, never too serious) from Koala class upwards, there are some children who are simply too old to join Koalas, but not prepared enough to be with the Monkeys or Kangaroos.
To make sure we give these kids the same opportunity as everyone else, we created the Manatee class. Claire from the UK is the first ever teacher to be leading the Manatees through the metaphorical mangrove swamp that is the English language. We asked her how it’s been going so far…
“Teaching manatee is great. It’s a small class of just five 9-12 year-old students. We’re working on vocab like the body, sports, adjectives… And now we’re tying it together to form sentences with verbs and grammar such as ‘I like’, ‘I am, ‘she has’, ‘she has not’. They really love bingo, which is great for practising numbers.
“As it’s a small class I’m able to teach them a lot. When they first arrived they didn’t have a grasp of ‘to be’ or numbers and basic conversation. The progress is really clear to see, and they seem to enjoy it.
“One of my students comes every day before the lesson and bangs on the door, and counts down from two minutes! Another of my students sometimes has a ‘eureka’ moment when he understands something and is able to construct his own sentence. It can be something simple like ‘I am happy’ or ‘I have three pencils’ – it’s great to see. My goal for the end of my time here is for the Manatees will be able to have a basic English conversation in the present tense.”
HOOP Director Ali also had some wise words to add about why she set up the new class: “Without the new Manatee class, some kids might have been left behind. We know this discourages students and they stop coming to HOOP. Well, we don’t want that to happen, so Manatee class shows them there’s another step. It’s a smaller class that gets more individualised attention, so they feel more accomplished.
“The kids need to feel they are making progress and see that we can accommodate their educational needs. Manatee class is about challenging them and introducing the next level of English in a fun and engaging way.”
So please join us in wishing good luck to our Manatees in their new English class. And, in case you’re wondering what a real manatee looks like, here’s a picture: