I went to my school for my fifth time on October 25th, 2013. This was, by far, my favourite visit so far! I was there for a longer period of time, so I got to work with two groups of students. The first group in the morning was working on some PWIM (Picture Word Inductive Model) work with a picture of sports related things. Just like the other group I was with previously, the students would identify things they recognized in the picture and the teacher would write the word on the piece of paper. They went through each and every word and spelled them multiple times. They also recognized that a lot of the sports had the common word “ball”. The teacher has noticed that they are having difficulties with sounding out words, so we went through the first bit of the Alphabet. She asked students, in turns, if they knew the sounds of each letter and then the rest of the students would say a word that starts with that letter. The students seem most excited about the alphabet!
In the afternoon, we had a couple of older students. There were only two students available, so a classmate and I worked one on one with each student. The student I was working with was encouraged to write sentences about things he knows and predicts. Before class started, he was watching a YouTube video about Captain America, so the teacher suggested that he watches a Captain America video and write sentences about what he thinks will happen, starting with, “I predict” or “I think”. The student decided to watch the last scene of The Avengers. We watched it together and I would pause the video at different times and ask him to write a sentence about what he thinks will happen. A lot of his sentences were looking the same, so I encouraged him to write a sentence with a different structure.
After that, he read a book to me and I was supposed to make sure he was reading the book in a natural flow, more particularly, the higher pitch of your voice when you ask a question. He grasped on quickly to the reading of a question. After each page, we would write down a verb from the story and put –ing and –ed endings onto them. I then asked him to underline the base word or the word that is common in each set. After we read the entire story, I asked him to tell me what the problem in the story was and the solution. He was able to recognize the problem, but the solution was a little hard for him. We read over the last couple of pages and looked at the pictures and he figured it out.
My last day at the school was on October 31st, 2013. We started out the day with an assembly for an hour. After that, we gathered our grade four and five literacy group students. They were learning how to spell and say certain words the previous day and they were given a spelling test today. Instead of erasing the words off the board, she left them up and didn’t tell them that those words were the words on the test. The students figured out that they were the same words on the board, but they had to sound out the words to figure out which one she was asking. I thought this was great because the sounds of letters and words stump them quite often. They marked their own papers with check marks and put corrections underneath their original word. I like the fact that the teacher does not like “x” marks for incorrect answers because I feel like they are very negative, as well.
After the test, we read a story called “Sam and Papa” and each student took turns reading pages from the book. As I said before, they have trouble with sounding out words and we encouraged them to sound out each single letter. When they were finished reading the story, the teacher asked the students to retrace the events of the story. She has noticed that her students have trouble with sequencing, so this is why she is putting emphasis on this concept. They were great at reflecting on what happened in the story, but they struggled with putting the scenes in order. After reading and discussing the story, the teacher had three stations set up for the students, since we only had three students that day. Two of the stations had literacy games on laptops and the other station was for rereading “Sam and Papa”. The variety seemed to work for the students because it kept them interested. Throwing in the literacy games was great because they were having fun while learning!
In ELNG 200, we had a class about putting cultural groups in a box. We then talked about how this is relevant for all people of different genders, sexual orientations, sizes, races, etc. I have not heard any of foul language or name-calling while at this school, but maybe some of the ESL students are not aware of these words or that word carries a different meaning in their language or culture. To follow up on this argument, an interesting thing to think about is the fact that a lot of children would probably not know the negative version of some of these words. In Gloria Naylor’s article, for example, she explains that the “n” word had a different context to white people than her family, which were black. When a boy called her this name, she did not understand the meaning, but quickly understood that it was a bad word to them, since the teacher had a negative response.
The students continue to mention some words in their own language because a word the teacher said sounds like that word. This can prove the idea that all language derives from one early language. In terms of English as a global language, I feel like that is proved also in ESL classrooms. They have basic speaking skills in English and they are quickly emerged into regular English speaking classrooms and ESL classrooms. This is a little different than our discussion on globalization because we talked about English speakers coming into countries and making English a required language. These students have come into Canada with intentions to learn English because it is the most common language spoken in Canada.
I can link audiolingualism to my experiences, as well. Audiolingualism consists of drills, question and answer, dialogues, positive reinforcement and a lot of repetition. When the students are learning new words or looking back at alphabet sounds, they repeat that word or sound various times to get the learning to sink in. This relates to when I talked about the teacher going through the alphabet and getting the students to say the sound and a word starting with the letter multiple times. A lot of the times when I’m reading with the students, I will get them to repeat words to me and read a sentence over to reassure me and themselves that they understand what they are reading. A lot of dialogue goes on in class, which is a great aspect of this classroom. The teacher will often ask something relating to the lesson, and the students will answer and reflect on each other’s answers.
Myth #2 in our Language Development textbook is: Younger children are more effective learners. The reality explained in the chapter is that younger learners are better at learning with little or no accent, but older learners are more efficient. I have noticed at the school that the older learners in grade 4/5 are progressing and understanding faster than the younger learners in grade 2/3. This is on a smaller spectrum than what the author might have been thinking (children vs. adult), but I think it is relevant. A lot of the newly arrived students in the ESL classroom have brothers and sisters in different grades, so they all came into Canada at the same time. The older siblings often compare words in their own language and apply that to their learning. This is not happening as much with the younger students.
You can say that we use operant conditioning in the classroom, also. We are big high-fivers and this often happens when the students succeed in an assignment or accomplish a goal. The students do language learning activities on the computer some times and this is a motivational tool for them to work hard during the learning beforehand because they really enjoy the activities online. The teacher will also sometimes bring in snacks for the students on special days. You can tell that this encouragement affects the students because they smile or look very happy. You can see a sense of accomplishment and pride in them, which is one of the greatest things to see with this profession. These moments are the best things to experience because I see the students progressing, and at the same time, I am progressing because I am learning so much from these individuals as I work with them.