Tuesday, January 06, 2009

New Newcomers

I got another new student today. She's a first grader who just arrived from the Dominican Republic and doesn't speak any English (yet). That brings my newcomer group up to eight students! I don't know what it is about this year but four new newcomers in one year is more than I have ever had. The other four students range from two to two and a half years here, so even though they are all "newcomers" there is still quite a range in the abilities of the students in the group. (Especially when you account for some of the being very strong in their native Spanish while others are very behind.) The newcomers are my favorite group to teach so I'm thrilled to be getting a new student. I can't wait to see the students who were brand new at the beginning of the year sort of graduate up to become the students who are translating and helping the new girl.

And speaking of moving up, I've been meaning to write about one student, "Willy," for a little while now. He came to me in the first grade from Ecuador two and a half years ago. At the time he didn't speak a word of English and was incredibly shy to top it off. In the last two and a half years he has learned so much English and grown about a level and a half each year in reading that he's on his way to being almost unrecognizable as an ELL at first glance. He's not there yet, to be sure, but I can really see his progress towards that. It's interesting to see how he fits (or doesn't fit) in the two groups that I see him in. Twice a day he is in my newcomer group working on basic English vocabulary and sentence structures, etc. He can often be heard saying "This is easy!" or predicting what we are about to do and jumping ahead of us on exercises. But still, he needs work building this foundation and each day he does learn new vocabulary and sentence structures that strengthen his academic English. Then, later in the day, I will see him in his grade-level group (with mostly long-term ELLs who are also in third grade) and after the mini-lesson he will immediately say, "This is too hard. I can't do it." With a little extra support and confidence building though, he can. Willy is a very bright student and it's interesting to see him straddle these two groups, one in which he is very confident and another in which he is very unsure of himself and his skills. I love that I have the flexibility to be able teach him in both of these groups because I feel that by working to both strengthen his basic English foundation while challenging him with his academic English, the gap between the two will close rather quickly.

I'm pretty sure that having this big group of newcomers to teach is part of what has made me much more content in my position as the ESL teacher (rather than a classroom teacher) this year.

4 comments:

Angela said...

You have such a great attitude. Thanks--on behalf of the newcomers--for welcoming them to our country and helping them to get adjusted. I'm sure that your friendly and encouraging demeanor will make a huge impact on their impression of their new home. :-)

Chapati said...

What Angela said! People can grow so much under the right teacher (if they have the desire to!)

I know a girl who moved to korea just before her GCSEs. Before she got here she knew no English at all. She spent summer learning intensely, the two years working really hard, and ended up not only getting an A* but a prize for one of the top 5 marks in the country!

Chapati said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Chapati said...

Sorry I meant moved from Korea to England...

Think its time for bed!!!