A small school achieves big success

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A small school achieves big success

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The students from the Heul-ri branch of Kwangsan Elementary School came in first place at the 11th Gangwon-do Elementary School English Play Competition. Park Jin-woo, far left, who taught acting, and chief teacher Kang Seong-il, second from right, are pictured. [Kwangsan Elementary School]

The Heul-ri branch of Kwangsan Elementary School in Goseong County, Gangwon, has only six students and no native English teachers.

Nevertheless, the school won the 11th Gangwon-do Elementary School English Play Competition on Oct. 4, aimed at elementary school students in the province.

Each student at the school had to participate in the competition, unlike other elementary schools which could select fluent English speakers, usually among those in its higher grades.

The students dramatized the children’s story “The Three Little Pigs.”

Teacher Park Jin-woo, 39, who majored in English education at Chuncheon National University of Education, and the six students co-wrote the script for the play.

The group practiced together constantly and since September participated in training sessions every two weeks. Their hard work showed, with the judges praising the performance, particularly their teamwork and pronunciation.

Each day, the students and their teachers would gather at Jinburyeong Museum in Goseong County at 8:30 a.m. and walk to school, a commute that takes about 20 minutes.

“We started doing this to learn how to communicate better and improve our health,” Park said. “And active interaction helped the students change their attitudes. During class, they don’t hesitate to ask questions.

“If I teach [a lesson about] marine animals, for example, the students would have to discuss various topics like endangered species or illegal fishing to answer my questions,” he added. “The students then naturally progressed into having discussions, which helps them continue thinking.”

But the students at the school have swept the board in other competitions as well. Since 2013, they have won 12 prizes in different art competitions.

Yoon Jeong-mi, 46, an assistant lecturer who majored in design at Hongik University, taught the children about art history, as well as how to draw and paint.

“Because art helps students in developing creativity, I invited [Yoon] to teach since teachers with more generalized backgrounds are [limited in their knowledge],” Park said.

The Gangwon Provincial Office of Education and other regional governments currently support similar school programs.

Kang Seong-il, 45, another teacher at the school, lauded the school’s accomplishments.

“Since there are only five teachers, all six students essentially receive one-on-one attention, which is most effective,” Park added.

BY PARK JIN-HO [koo.yurim@joongang.co.kr]

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