Skip to main content

Another Challenge

In January, two new 6th grade students enrolled in my school.
Both are beginner ESOL students.
One studied English in her native country and the other one attended an international school here before transferring to my school.
They're both making progress.
Student A is outgoing and a risk taker.
Student B is shy and doesn't like to speak in English too much.
Today student A was arguing, in a respectable way, with the math teacher about a problem she missed on a quiz. Arguing!

#evaluatethat

In the end, we realized that the issue wasn't the math; the teacher and my student basically agreed.
The issue was how the problem was worded. Although I could see how it could be interpreted to mean one thing, I could also see how my student read this problem because I read it in exactly the same way.
This incident demonstrates that learning a language is an amalgam of nuanced experiences and encounters that go beyond memorizing vocabulary or knowing how to use punctuation appropriately.

My student used her emerging English skills to argue her case and in my view, she won; I would have given her credit for the problem.

All of this is making me wonder how to get student B to be as bold. Is it just a personality difference between the two girls? Or is it that student B is not as passionate about learning another language as student A? Or maybe I haven't found the hook that will motivate my student to take greater initiative as an English language learner? And, as I write this, I remember that student B loves to read. I need to capitalize on that and engage her further by providing guided opportunities for conversations.

Recently, an administrator said that I had my work cut out for me when observing my students writing at the computer, and I agree. But, it's not about teaching grammar or the conventions of the English language, which are anything but conventional. My work is to discover what topics interest my students and use that to guide them to using English to learn.

Thinking about this challenge rejuvenates me as a teacher.

More on this another time.

Cross posted to March Slice of Life Challenge, Day #25.







Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

The Teacher I Want to Be

The
I have been dismayed to realize that despite my self-image as a teacher with a learner centered classroom, I am far from truly achieving that goal. 

I have been listening carefully to myself lately, and I don't like what I hear myself saying to the kids. Instead of empowering my students to take ownership of their learning, I am still the director on the stage. I still ask leading questions rather than ones that push the learner to figure things out for herself. I realize I often spoon feed my students hopeful that they will give me the answer I'm looking for. An answer that will make my job easier. Answers that will fit with what I expect students to say despite the fact that 30 years in education has taught me nothing if not that students are unpredictable, and if we prepare for anything, that is what we should be prepared for. 
Teacher
An anecdote. The other day I was talking with a student about the fact that she was abandoning more books than she was finishing. I was as…

Mini Lessons

Sometimes, I plan too many teaching points for one lesson. For example, instead of focusing on one strategy that students need in order to become more proficient readers and writers, I try to teach several strategies at the same time. 

Sometimes, I stretch out a teaching point beyond the 10- or 12-minute time limit I've given myself because I worry that my mini lesson wasn't enough or my students won't have understood what I intended to teach. So, sometimes, I beat the lesson to a pulp one too many times, or forget to have the kids practice the lesson before they go off to read or write. (Asking students to practice a lesson after you teach it, with you right there to observe and help guide students through the process, is very effective. Try not to skip this step!)  

Here's an example of a mini lesson that lasted less than 10 minutes and resulted in better learning.

My students are in the second round of historical fiction book clubs. In a couple of weeks, we will start …

A Confession

I have a confession to make.

I want to write a book. 
A professional book. 
I think I have a lot to say. 
I think others could benefit from my experience.
After all, I have been an educator for over 30 years.

But, what could I possibly say that hasn't been said before?
What new knowledge could I add to the table?
Who would even bother to read what I have to say?

These are questions borne of fear.
Fear of not being good enough.
Fear of not being able to complete such a daunting project. 
(At least, that's what it feels like to me right now.)
Fear that I won't make time.
Fear that I'll run out of time.

But, over the last couple of days, I've gotten some encouraging words of support from the Innovative Teaching Academy - 
#ITA17 Facebook group. 

You can do it!Write for yourself.
But the message that is propelling me forward is this one: 
It doesn't matter how many times something has been said...each time someone else says it, new people hear it...and that's where you make the d…