October 2, 2007

A good night

Posted in English as a second language, Literacy Needs, Second language learning, Teaching Tools at 8: 34 pm by MK

So much for the doom & gloom of my last post. Tonight’s visit, while not exactly soothing my guilty conscious, was really great. The kids are in school and are thriving. They have successfully (and quite confidently I must say) navigated the public transportation system and have settled into new lives as 6th & 7th graders. They could proudly and clearly tell me the name of both their school and their teacher. (Although the whole Mrs. vs. Mr. thing did need to get sorted out…)

We spent most of the evening looking through the papers in their backpacks. One of the first things I discovered was an emergency contact sheet that needed to be filled out for both children. I went over it with Z. & G. and had them each write in the necessary pieces (address, phone number, parents’ names, DOBs). It was good to hear them recite both their address and phone number. However, when G. went to write his parents’ names, he incorrectly spelled both of them. K. was right there watching over his shoulder and did not recognize the misspelling of her name in English. I helped to correct the names, and then reviewed with all of them how to spell their names. Is K. misspelling her name on anything she needs to sign or write in English?

I could not explain “date of birth,” so I ended up asking K. for her immigration papers. On the papers I found birth dates for all the family members and explained that this was the information that needed to be written on the sheets for the two children. Now maybe it’s just a wild coincidence, but Z. & G. both have the exact same birth date a year apart. Yes, they are one-year apart in age, but were they really born on the exact same day of the same month? This seems pretty unlikely. But if the date is incorrect on their immigration papers, what is the chance that it will be changed? And do they know what to change it to? Even though I think I correctly communicated what the date stands for, they all readily agreed that it was correct. Yeah, not sure what to do about this one . . .

A young man (Burmese speaking) from the apartment downstairs came up at some point to translate a few questions A. & K. had for me. The issue is that the children would like to eat lunch from the school but are unsure if it is halal. I expressed that the safest (and cheapest) bet would be for the kids to pack their lunches and bring them along. But then I realized they would definitely qualify for free school lunches. I brought this up to my translator (yes, he did speak English, but it was still rough) who responded that in order for the kids to get free school lunch the cost of the meals would be deducted from the families’ food stamp allotment. This doesn’t seem right to me. The family then told me this was a problem because they currently do not have food stamps left, and are waiting for the next installment. Worried, I asked repeatedly if they had enough food in the house to eat until they received the next installment of food stamps. They said yes. I’m not so sure they weren’t telling me what they knew I wanted to hear. However, when I left K. was cooking something that smelled fantastic, but just to be on the safe side I’m going to drop a note to their case worker tomorrow.

G. had homework to complete for tomorrow. He had to read out loud for 15 minutes and then record what he had read and how many pages. Well, by slowly sounding out letters and words we actually got through 2 pages of a children’s book– I was really proud of him! But again that guilt kicks in….who’s going to be there to help him tomorrow?

I looked through the ESL assignments they’d done in school so far and it made me feel really good. Most of the exercises were things that I actually had been doing with them, so it was a nice confirmation that I have been on the right track. And the best part is, the kids, and the family as a whole, seem to be on the right track.


August 22, 2007

Building Vocabulary

Posted in Teaching Tools at 2: 32 pm by MK

I purchased an Oxford English Picture Dictionary for A. & K. in hopes that it will help them learn new vocabularly.  We have just about covered everything in their home, and I am learning there is only so much charades will convey.  I’d like to add five new words each lesson and I’m hoping this will make that goal a bit more attainable.