by Vu Lan Dung
A grain at a time: Children are enthusiatic about the free rice project. They believe that they can learn English as well as help poor people thanks to the website. — VNS Photo Lan Dung
HA NOI — In an English class at Ha Noi Concordia International School, teacher Mona Abinader was quizzing her class on grammar. "Which is correct?" she asked, "Would I say I am too tired to go, or I am to tired to go?" When a student picked the first sentence, Abinader announced that she had just donated 10 grains of rice to Freerice, a non-profit initiative run by the United Nations World Food Programme to help end hunger.
Abinader and her kids started contributing to the project three weeks ago and have so far earned 67,000 grains of rice. Students who answer the most questions correctly and accumulate the most grains have their names displayed outside the classroom.
"I wanted the kids to learn English in context, not just from books or TV. So I looked for a website that would improve their English and also educate them about current events. I hope they realise that English is a language that can help them change the world," said Abinader.
At first, Abinader simply opened the website and used the rice grains as rewards for correct answers. Her kids enjoyed the game, but after a few minutes she lead them to the project's objectives: "What does the word ‘hunger' mean? What can we do to give people food? Can we just go around and give people sandwiches?"
The class gradually made the connection between their responses and the goal of ending world hunger, 10 grains at a time.
The kids have been extremely enthusiastic about the project and have seen themselves progress through the website. Kim Ho-jun, 9, only knew the alphabet at the start of the experiment. He now spends five minutes a day practising English on www.freerice.com and has accumulated 2,790 grains of rice. He proudly said: "I work very hard on the Freerice project because I want to give many grains of rice to poor children."
Twelve-year-old Moeka Yoshinari even plays at home with her mom and sister. "We all have accounts and we often play together," she said.
German student Charlotte Chudalla, 11, said she likes the project a lot because she can "learn English, have fun and help people at the same time."
"I can even play in German! My mother is visiting the website now and I'm trying to get my dad to do it too," she said.
After Abinader presented the website at a recent parents' meeting, four mothers contacted her to become members of the project. Sawako Yoshinari, Yoshinari's mom, said: "I think it's a good way for me to practice my English while helping others."
The teacher and her kids have decided to continue their experiment for the whole month of November. — VNS