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Their eyes would twinkle, or squint

Back in village Afghanistan, I had about 10 students. I used to teach 3 times a week at night time, after work. Some nights we had absolutely no electricity. So we would learn English under the candle light. My little girls – their eyes would twinkle, or squint when they cannot remember a word. We used to act out everything – as a way of learning – I told jokes situated with English grammar so they would pick up words easy. For example I would ask one of my students what is the name of a boy she hates most in school. Then we would construct sentences like “Farhat is an ugly boy” or “I dislike Farhat.” More complicated sentences using conjunctions would sound like ‘”I dislike Farhat because he is an ugly boy.” They would be so tickled by some of the sentences! Imagine all the secrets exchanged in an English lesson! For us, it was an opportunity to share and also to bond, trust developed. They learnt so quickly. And of course they were my teachers too.

We designed the living room as a theatrical space. All of us dressed up. Each had a character and had certain roles. We used props from the kitchen – stove, pans, utensil, wash basin – and the living area – pillow, books, even a gun! – . Part of the room was designed as a house, a school, a market and a hospital. All of us acted and the narrations and script were all in English.

“Mother is cooking in the kitchen. She is cooking bon jon rumi. She is angry because Yama is not doing his homework. Sunbol is going to school now. She is sad because father is in hospital. Mursal is washing clothes in the wash basin.”

These were sentences constructed using the theatrical space and props. Characters came alive. One boy, Shoaib confused the word watching with sleeping. So instead of saying “I am watching Tulsi (character from an Indian serial)”, he said “I am sleeping Tulsi” and goodness gracious me, not only was he later very embarrassed but the lesson had to end because nobody could stop laughing.



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