Friday, October 3, 2014

The Sounds of Learning

The sound of student engagement is music to any teacher's ears, but more so to an ESL teacher and especially coming from a group of beginner English Language Learners.

We ended the Beginner ESL class on a great note today and much different than most Fridays. Customarily, Fridays are Show & Tell days for my High School Beginner ESL class.   It's the best part of the week. A time for them to practice oral presentation and listening skills and it's also a time for them to learn from each other.  For me, the best part is what I learn from them. Most of the presentations have some sort of a cultural twist where we tie in their culture to something we are learning.  For example, last week (9/26), students brought in currency from their native country and contrasted and compared their currency to U.S. currency, including the currency exchange rate.  We had been covering the Industrial Revolution at that point and currency related well with the economic growth that our country experienced during that time.  Students were so engaged that one student didn't get to present hers and they didn't even have time to write their reflection.  While they can certainly blog at home, these students still need some scaffolding and so I let them reflect in class. Needless to say, we had one presentation on Monday and they posted their reflection on their blogs. Show & Tell is an awesome time for the beginners, but this week there was lots going on at our school and schedules were a little crazy, so we decided to cancel Show & Tell.  At first, I regretted the decision but hoped that the planned activity would turn out as engaging and productive as S&T.

So, we worked on reading strategies.  I gave them pointers on how to improve their reading comprehension by "talking to the text" and doing "think alouds".  In commemoration of Hispanic Heritage Month, I selected a reading on Cesar Chavez, which went perfectly with the issues we covered on the Industrial Revolution.  We read on Thursday, covered essential vocabulary and I introduced the concept of symbol reading.  Today, I divided them up by native language and asked them to use the symbols as they read and discuss what they were reading and thinking. They were awesome and best of all, they had excellent comprehension.  They were free to speak in their native language as they "thought aloud", but later would be expected to share some of their notes with the entire class in English.  All the chatter, including the talk I didn't understand, was music to my ears and made my day.  

They talked to the text and talked to each other, producing beautiful sounds of learning.  The best is yet to come.


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