Based in Battambang, Cambodia amid the juxtaposition of French-colonial architecture, handmade stilted houses, and a rolling patchwork of rice fields, EL Specialist Leslie Sapp designed an arts-based English language curriculum for Phare Ponleu Selpak, a vocational visual and performing arts school. Phare Ponleu Selpak, which translates to “The Brightness of the Arts,” serves approximately 800 Cambodian children and youth from severely underprivileged backgrounds. In addition to creating a customized learner-centered, arts-based English language curriculum, Sapp provided resources and training to teachers to help increase the English language reading, writing, speaking, and listening capabilities of students through interactive drama-based methodologies.
“Outside the USA and especially in the developing world, most English language teachers are not taught the importance of providing students with truly spontaneous practice of newly acquired language elements, much less given the know-how or resources to accomplish this,” Sapp explains. During her five-week project, Sapp taught five learner-centered, drama-based English language teaching (LCDB ELT) classes and delivered three LCDB ELT teacher training workshops in Battambang. Sapp describes her five-hour intensive workshop for 38 government school English teachers as one of the highlights of her project. She states, “having five hours with three dozen devoted and enthusiastic English language teachers was such a joy! It enabled me to go deeper into the principles of LCDB ELT and model a wider array of creative strategies.”
Across the board, workshop participants were remarkably enthusiastic, and all seemed extremely engaged with and appreciative of Sapp’s approach. At the close of the workshop, several participants shared that they would use some of the strategies introduced with their own students the very next day. Several others asked Sapp for additional learner-centered drama-based strategies. “This was a most gratifying affirmation of the relevance and tremendous educational value of learner-centered drama in English language teaching!,” Sapp exclaims.
The impact of Sapp’s LCDB ELT workshop continues to spread. A few weeks after leaving Battambang, a story about her workshop was published in the Battambang newspaper. Sapp is hopeful that workshop participants will continue to pass forward LCDB ELT methodologies, creating a ripple effect that increases English language learning and creative expression throughout Cambodia.
Leslie Sapp is an EL Teacher, an ELT Trainer, an Arts-Integration Specialist, and a creator, performer, teacher, and director of movement-based story theatre. Leslie’s area of special expertise is the integration of drama, movement, and storytelling activities into English language teaching. She holds an MA in ESL from the University of Arizona (USA), a Post Graduate Diploma in Drama in Education from Trinity College, Dublin (Ireland), a BFA in Visual Arts from the State University of New York, Purchase College (USA), and a CELTA Certificate in EL Teaching from Cambridge University/Akcent International House (Czech Republic). Sapp has taught English and trained EL teachers extensively in the U.S.A., as well as in Cambodia, Czech Republic, Jordan, Laos, Palestine, and Turkey. She has also devised, directed, and implemented grant-funded projects supporting international refugees in the collaborative creation of original theater productions based on their life stories and their dreams for the future.