Sunday, January 11, 2009

Baby Steps

My new student from the Domincan Republic had a pretty good first day. She seemed to be alert and really trying to figure out what was going on in class so she could follow along. She repeated words the other kids were repeating, moved her mouth like she was reading when the class was doing shared reading, and copied off her neighbor to get something on her paper during writing. Then the second day happened and I think it really hit her that she is now in a new school where everyone speaks English and she has no idea what is going on.

In the morning during our extended time period (where I have a group of only newcomers) she started crying. I tried to get the other kids to ask her in Spanish what was wrong. Finally in between huge sobs she told them she was crying because she didn't speak English. The boy sitting right across from her was new in September and now speaks just a little English but understands quite a bit. I told him to tell her how he didn't know any English in September and now he knows a lot of English. He translated in Spanish and another boy (who arrived just a few months ago) shouted in English frantically, "Me too! Me too!" "Tell her in Spanish," I told him. Then I told Willy to tell her that two years ago he didn't speak any English either. He told her even though he felt a little embarrassed about doing so. She listened to them all and even though she still looked distraught I felt like it was important for her to hear.

The next day (her third in the school) she was still upset at breakfast before coming up to class. Her parents sat with her for a while and then finally brought her up to the class. I decided she needed a little fun and got out the "Go Fish" cards, which the other kids were thrilled about too since they love it when we get to play games in class. At first I played her hand having her repeat everything after me: "Willy, do you have a tropical fish?" Halfway though the game she knew all the kids names and how to say "Do you have?" KC, another first grader with tons of personality was having so much fun making jokes and silly faces at the "go fish" pile when she didn't get the right card. The new girl totally picked up on that and by the end of the game all the kids, including new girl, were laughing hysterically and having the best time. Ever since that day she has been totally fine in class, no more crying.


Anonymous said...

That's so sweet. It's nice to read positive teaching stories, not huge inspirational things that I wish no one would forward me again, but ,like this.

You got the title right!


Cynthia said...

What a good idea! So many "ice breaker" activities are geared for older kids.

Jack Po said...

That is a beautiful story! Thanks for sharing.

Debra Allen said...

That's such a creative and effective way for students to learn English basics and interact with others in the class. What better way is there to establish a much needed sense of belonging. Thanks for posting. BTW: your blog is one of my regulars.

J said...

this is so cute. you are such a great teacher.

Mariposa Latina said...

This touched me, really it did. i am an aspiring teacher not only that but at 7 i came to new york for the first time and didn't know any english. I think its wonderful how you helped her. It could be really confusing and irritating when you cant communicate with someone especially people your age. thanks for this, it reminded me another one of the reasons why i want to teach.