My ninth graders are one of my hardest grades of students to engage. Asides from being rowdier than a cluster of jungle animals, most of them have only a very basic understanding of English. The government-mandated textbook for their age level is just too advanced for them.
Whenever they read something in class, practically every other word is foreign to them. A great majority of them are taking English tutoring lessons during the week at a beginner’s level. So in essence, they’re trying to learn English, they just need to be learning it from a sixth grade textbook.
I tried to talk to Nona and the other English teachers about disregarding a student’s age, and placing them in a class based on their skill level- but somehow, no one at my school seems to think this a worthwhile idea. Go figure.
Thus, I try to do activities with the ninth graders where they can use the minimal English that they seem to know in a way that correlates with their current curriculum.
Not too long ago the ninth graders were studying how to start their own business. Much of the text seemed to go in one ear and out the other for almost every student, but I thought it would be an opportune time to bring in some American advertisements and have the students try to decipher what the ads were for. A lot of their responses were really entertaining.
One advertisement showed a little girl in a tutu jumping on a sidewalk. In the corner of the advertisement was a photo of a Lunchables school lunch. My students noticed the word “Lunch” in “Lunchables” and agreed that the advertisement was for a type of food. They told me that the message of the advertisement was that if you eat Lunchables, even a puny girl like this will become strong like a man.
I’m not quite sure where they got the “strong like a man” part but the class seemed to be in agreement on this idea.
Another advertisement was for some Clearasail product, a type of freeze-away pimple cream. The advertisement showed a frozen Clearasail tube. The girls who analyzed the product told me that you can put this product on your hands when you’re too hot and it will make you cold. (Who needs an air conditioner when you have freeze-away pimple cream?)
It’s pretty interesting seeing how advertisements are perceived to a generation of kids that a) cannot fully understand English and b) are not exposed to creative print advertising.
Similarly, my eighth graders read a text that essentially talked about the ethics of cigarette advertisements. As a supplement to this text I made my kids a PowerPoint presentation of some of the most creative print ads I’ve seen that encourage people to buy things they don’t need. My kids had a real kick trying to guess the products (even the kids that never like to participate were shouting along in broken English). It was funny how some of the ads that I was exposed to almost daily in the states (ads that I don’t even process) had my twelve year old Georgian students hysterically laughing. One boy even fell out of his chair laughing at some silly shampoo ad!
All the print ads that I’ve seen here in Georgia are very basic and simply show a products uses. Many of my ninth grade students even confused the meat of the magazine with their advertisement. They mistook a page full of different pants as an advertisement for pants and not a spread on different fashionable pants.
I guess it’s important to note that the glossy, colorful magazines popular in America and all over Europe are non-existent in Georgia for all I can tell. Popular Georgian magazines like Gumbati and Tbiliselebi have one clustered, colorful cover and then feature newspaper-style, black and white pages with advertisements that barely take up an eighth of a page.
Sometimes there are funny, creative advertisements on television but often they’re just dubbed commercials from other countries. (There is a cute commercial out now for Dirol gum and my students talk about it as if they helped produce it). Commercials aside, my eighth graders told me that print ads in Georgia are just never funny.
I guess the day Georgia starts issuing glossy magazines, will be a day where it’s one step closer to becoming a fully developed nation.