Last weekend, the ATMA SEVA team took a trip up north to Wiang Hang to participate in a 3-day English camp for novice monks and set up our newest on-site intern Maria. The camp was held at Plekwiwek Dharma Center, a Buddhist center attached to Wat Kong Lom, that leads meditation retreats, hosts various camps and seminars, and teaches novice monks to grow and cook their own food, design and build houses and become leaders within their communities. The center is in a beautiful location with outstanding mountain views.
The camp was organized and led by friends of ATMA SEVA, Yao and Lawrence, who had run a similar camp with the same students back in March. The theme of the English camp was “Community Helpers” and we played games, sang songs, and lead group activities all focused on people in the community and their job responsibilities. Here is quick overview of our schedule for the first 2 days:
- 8:00 – 8:30 Orientation/ Breakfast (Choose names, make tags, name games and general introductions to camp. Second and third day made waffles!)
- 8:30-10:15 Review of theme & new vocabulary (lots of singing and group games)
- 10: 15 – 12:00 Cooking & lunch (Remember the monks cannot eat after 12!)
- 12:00 – 12:30 Break
- 12:30 – 2:30 Station Activities (Introduction to community helpers, job responsibilities and where they work, drawing, matching games and “salad bowl” -see games list below)
- 2:30 – 3:00 Break
- 3:00 – 4:00 Writing activities (Crossword puzzles, what do you want to be and why?)
- 4:00 – 6:00 Free time & dinner for the teachers
- 6:00 – 8:00 Games! (Not all related to community helpers but fun and engaging games)
Since the camp stretched over a few days, versus one day or an afternoon, we had a variety of different activities to keep the novices engaged while still practicing the new vocabulary and keep with the community helpers theme. Yao took classic nursery rhymes and kids songs but changed the lyrics to fit the theme, had flashcards with the helpers and their job responsibilities, and enforced the vocabulary with pictures and acting games. Even when some vocabulary and phrases felt repetitive, it was the best way for the novices to understand and retain the “curriculum” of the camp.
In addition to helping with the morning and afternoon activities, ATMA SEVA was in charge of planning two 2-hour blocks of games in the evening for the 40 novices. Below are some of our favorite games that worked well with the novices and can be played with larger groups of school kids as well.
Cooking – Cooking is a great way to engage all your students, teach about food and foreign dishes, hear new vocabulary, and for the students to learn new skills. Make sure to plan menus well ahead of time to prepare shopping trips, and enough food for the whole time. During our three days we made: waffles, scrambled eggs, toast, pork burgers, french fries, salad, fried chicken and spaghetti!
Salad Bowl – Students sit in chairs in a circle, with one person standing in the middle. Make sure there is one chair less than the number of students, just like musical chairs. Each student has a slip of paper with their “group” name written on it that they don’t show others. For example, for community helpers the groups were : doctor, fireman, policeman, etc. The student in the middle calls out a group and everybody in the group has to get up and find a new seat before the person in the middle gets one first. The last student left standing is now it and shouts out a new “group” of his/her choice. Great way to practice vocabulary and we found the novices playing the game themselves well after camp was over!
Human Knot – Students stand in a circle and grab hands with someone across from them (but not their neighbors!) When all the students have joined hands, they must work together to untangle themselves and become a circle again without letting go of their hands! There is no too much English involved but the novices really enjoyed the challenge and cheered when they untwisted themselves!
Hokey Pokey – A classic but it works! The novices loved seeing the teachers be silly and getting a chance to be silly themselves. Plus it is a great way to review body parts. (Hint: We reviewed body parts before the song by using a human model and having the novices identify and stick labels to match “arm”,”leg”.. etc.)
Who’s the Best – Split the students up into even teams (and equal mixes of age and English ability) and let each team pick a name. The instructors create a list of “challenges” for the students to do, and each group chooses one person to come up and do the challenge and the “judges” award points to each team. We even added group challenges for teams to win points together. The team with the most points at the end of the game wins. Examples of challenges include: count backwards from 20 the fastest, most pushups, best animal noise, best whistler, and best Gangnam style! For team challenges we gave the teams a word scramble, and to list all the ASEAN countries. The novices had fun with the friendly competition and were excited to play against their friends. You can incorporate any challenges to fit your theme and can have a mix between English related challenges as well as fun and goofy ones.
No Bananas in the Sky – This activity was added by an ATMA SEVA volunteer with experience teaching at summer camps and was a fun song to sing with the novices. We taught the lyrics: “There are no bananas in the sky, in the sky, there are no bananas in the sky. There’s a sun and a moon and coconut cream pie, but there are no bananas in the sky, in the sky.” Each word has an action attached to it and after teaching both the song and actions, you remove a word each time and just do the action until you are not singing and then add the words back in one at a time. The novices picked up the song right away and all the teachers joined in too! Definitely a great addition to the evening games.
Advice for planning an English camp:
- Be sure to prepare materials ahead of time and bring extra pens, pencils and paper. Also bringing music is a good idea for games, sing-a-longs, and to play during down time or liven up an activity.
- If cooking food with the students, prepare utensils and food stations ahead of time and let each teacher/volunteer know their roles. The novices are pretty self sufficient but still needed guidance and supervision.
- Have a back up plan! If the power goes out, you run out of materials, or what you planned for 30 minutes only takes 10, be ready to have some simple backup games and/or group activities. Stick to your schedule as much as possible to stay organized but be flexible to adjust games, activities and timing based on students understanding of the games, content and/or unexpected challenges – especially in Thailand!
- Remember to take lots of small breaks for the students to relax a bit and the teachers to regroup and go over activities for the day.
- Tailor your games and activities to be appropriate for the age and ability of your students and keep rules in mind when working with novice monks (can’t eat after 12, no “touching”, games not too physical, etc.)
Overall we had a great experience and are excited to go back for another camp very soon! A big thank you to Yao and Lawrence for organizing the camp and to the monks and novices of Wiang Haeng!
Stay tuned for the photography corner about this camp and if you have any questions or comments about planning games, setting a schedule, or anything else just leave a comment below!