On Wednesday January 14th and Thursday January 15th the Excellence Center successfully continued its workshop on conversational English at Palestine Polytechnic University. Over twenty students from different age groups attended the workshops which were once again headed by Muhammad Davies with help from his teaching assistant Luke Mercurio. They were also joined by Rita Leistner, a photojournalist from Canada, who is working with the Excellence Center to document activities around Hebron for the next month.
Wednesday marked the second lecture in the three day workshop and included an emphasis on verbal expression, reading comprehension, and formal composition, specifically formal emails. Students began by forming groups to practice their verbal communication by asking each other questions related to friendship. Next their instructors gave a short presentation on the composition of formal emails. The presentation focused on how to effectively structure emails to maximize clarity and how to utilize appropriate language so as not to alienate prospective employers.
After the presentation students were put to the test and given a word jumble activity in which they were asked to reassemble an example email that had been separated into fragments. The students performed excellently. Every group was able to quickly and correctly reassemble the emails with barely any mistakes. Finally, students were asked to exhibit their speaking skills by participating in a “Talk for a Minute ” competition: each student was called upon to stand in front of the class and speak for one minute on a random subject.
Once again the students excelled. Nearly every single one was able to speak clearly and expansively on their subjects for the entire duration, and many were able to offer surprisingly sophisticated responses, especially considering the time constraint. On Thursday, the final day of the workshops, students focused on familiarizing themselves with common English idioms as well as “should” constructions and the conjugation of countries into nationalities. The lecture began with idioms, and the students were particularly enthusiastic about studying these phrases, in part because of their practical value when it comes to verbal communication in English. Students both studied these idioms with their instructors and participated in writing activities in which they were asked to use these idioms in context. Luke Mercurio, the Center’s teaching assistant from the United States, also offered some further American colloquial idioms which the students seemed to greatly enjoy. The students learning retention was evident as they continued to use the English idioms throughout the class.
In the second part of Thursday’s lesson students were given a number of statements and then tasked with describing what the actors “should” do with complete constructions. The students offered a, sometimes quite humorous, variety of responses to the statements, and were impressive in their ability to quickly articulate complete, correct sentences in English. Following this activity students gathered around to practice the conjugation of countries into nationalities, a point which the lead instructor Muhammad considered especially difficult for non-native speakers. The students, however, exceeded all expectation and were able to deftly identify and conjugation dozens of countries into their correct nationalities with accurate pronunciation. The activity was so popular that Muhammad decided to follow it up with a second activity that involved identifying sports in English. As always, the students proved themselves up to the task, relishing the activity.
Overall the workshop was a huge success. Over the course of the three days the students were able to augment their existing knowledge with practical conversation exercises which allowed them to reinforce their speaking, listening, and reading comprehension skills. The students themselves were incredible both in terms of their English competency and their attitudes, which never strayed from being positive and enthusiastic. At the end of the course the department chair who had organized the workshop, Doctor Murael Abu Sbaih, came to personally congratulate the instructors on their effective presentations. It was his hope that the university could continue to work with the Excellence Center in the future to organize these English workshops for the university’s students. The instructors themselves were also very encouraged by the results, with Rita Leistner commenting that the skill and energy in the classes was palpable, especially during the final day. Hopefully many of the students who attended the workshop will also choose to come to the Excellence Center independently to continue their English language education!