Bangkhonthiinai is located in Samut Songkhram, the smallest province in the Kingdom of Thailand and, befitting its gulf-side location, one of the largest producers of sea salt. Near the highway are an endless field of shallow pools, filled with seawater from nearby irrigation canals by the use of a rudimentary but age-old system of windmill-powered “buckets on a chain.” When the pools sit empty during rainy season they are just shallow fields, but during the rest of the year they become a thousand mirrors, reflecting the hazy pink sunrises and the brownish-blue late afternoons as I go to and return from the province.
At least twice a year the salt is harvested, a manual process with long handled scoops that results in these orderly lines of small salt pyramids that are visually very appealing. The salt is then washed and processes and while most of it is shipped off for sale elsewhere, the highway is dotted by small stands selling bags of locally produced sea salt in every size from a few grams to fifty kilos.
A comprehensive evaluation was the order of the day on Wednesday. Tod and I had created a seven-part process for measuring students’ comprehension of English:
- Dictation and spelling of ten words
- Identifying the correctly spelled word out of three, printed next to a picture of the word
- Viewing pictures and correctly naming the item
- Reading flash cards with words written on them
- Seeing a set of pictures and identifying the correct picture when that word is called out
- Making sentences about pictures in a small booklet of photographs
We also evaluated pronunciation as well as confidence, behavior, and participation. Some interesting conclusions we’ve drawn:
We have spent a lot of time focusing on vocabulary acquisition, to the detriment of sentence construction. There were many cases where students could identify elements of a photograph but lacked the verbs and prepositions to tie them together. Thus, we had “dog” and “man” and, in Thai, “sleeps on.” But we couldn’t put that together in English. I think that each week we need to practice making sentences about a photograph or scenario, as well as practicing vocabulary.
The other thing that everyone, even the otherwise high performing sixth graders, had trouble with was the spelling. So we’re going to institute spelling quizzes every week. Spelling English is a bear, I realize, but once you know how sounds are constructed it makes it easier to read unfamiliar words.
All in all, the tests were well-received. No anxiety, little whining. The way we did the testing, since it involved a lot of one-on-one work, meant that the students had a pretty relaxing day. Several did origami and one student made a large paper lotus that was surprisingly intricate. I think he has a crush on his teacher!
After school a group of students were playing a game that was similar to jump rope except they used a long elastic band stretched between two students and a third jumped into and out of it. If you looked really close (if the picture resolution was that high!) you would see that the elastic band is actually a chain of several hundred rubber bands carefully put together. How laborious!
Construction of another condominium is commencing in our neighborhood, two blocks over on soi 23. There are currently five or six projects I can see from our balcony. The specific area for this project is directly in the center of the picture, with a blue tarp on a small building that is being demolished to make way for the condo. The small green fences on either side of the condemned building mark the periphery of the construction site.
As this neighborhood sits right at the crossroads of two rail transit lines, both of which will be expanded soon, and is just one subway stop from what will become the in-town terminal for the airport express train, I’m very supportive of the idea of in-fill growth. Increased density of housing will make much better use of land and promote the use of transit.
The problem is, the projects being built here are upper mid range and higher. If the in-fill is going to help reduce overall traffic, there needs to be housing built here for the middle and lower-middle range (as well as the low-end but those areas are actually well-established in Khlong Toei). Without it, the spread of middle and lower-middle range suburban style housing estates will flourish on the outskirts of Khrungthep, and with them an army of citizens and their fleet of cars that have no good transit options and opt to drive in to work every day.