ELNG 200 Placement: Part Two


cc licensed ( BY NC SA ) flickr photo shared by Jeff
Here is part two of my experiences at my ELNG 200 placement:

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.

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ELNG 200 Placement: Part One


cc licensed ( BY NC ND ) flickr photo shared by peko-chan
Since my semester is over, I decided to reflect on what I’ve experienced throughout the semester.  In my ELNG 200 class, we had a placement in an ESL classroom.  As an assignment, we wrote two letters to our professor and connected our experiences to the class.  I thought I would share my experiences from my placement!  This is my first letter:

October 10th, 2013 was my first day at my ELNG 200 placement!  I was very surprised when I walked into the doors of the school I was assigned at because I have never seen a school that has looked like this before.  The furniture was colourful and everything looked new!  I met with the ESL teacher and she gave me a tour of the school and went through the kinds of activities she does with her students.  One thing that I found interesting was that when children pick a book at the library, they should follow something called the “5 finger rule”.  When students pick out a book, they should read a page and put down a finger when they don’t understand a word.  If you put all 5 fingers down on one page, then that book is not appropriate for your reading level yet.

At around 9:30, we picked up 4 children from grade 2 and 3.  Once we got all settled in her room, she brought out a story called “Friends”.  The first page had two dogs on it and the name was underneath their pictures.  She started out by asking them to read their names.  One of the dog’s names was Taco and that went further into a discussion about the student’s favourite food.  I think this was great because the students recognized that Taco was a kind of food and connected that to their everyday lives and preferences.  We then started the story.  Every page had about 1-2 sentences and she got them to read a sentence each in order.  It was interesting to see that they are very committed to reading and sounding out the words when it was their turn.  A few of them sounded out the words correctly, but the word was said wrong because English is very difficult that way.  For example, instead of saying “t-aw-co”, a student said “t-ah(as in [a]pple)-co”.  When one student was struggling, the other students would try and help that student read the sentence.  This is great for relationship building and for creating a support system within the school.

After reading the story, we looked at strips of paper that included a picture and the English word underneath.  She asked the students, one at a time, to find the word she said and then to spell it out.  After we did this we joined the class where the students were from and participated in a reading activity.  The teacher asked the students to read a book to another person.  I sat with one of the ESL students and got him to read a book to him.  I realized that he had trouble with a lot of the words and encouraged him to sound out everything he was reading.  Another thing that seemed to help was to get him to repeat the words over again to try and remember those words.

My second time in the ESL class was October 17th, 2013.  We had two more students in the classroom today, with a total of six.  The teacher had training earlier on in the week on a program called PWIM (Picture Word Inductive Model).  First, teachers would choose a picture that their students can relate to and the picture is attached to a larger piece of paper.  For example, we used a picture of a child’s room with toys.  Students are asked, one by one, to pick something in the picture and identify it.  Some of the words the children said in my example were “toys”, “vacuum”, “dinosaur” and “garage”.  Every student picked out one word from the picture, which came to a total of six words.  After that, students are encouraged to sound out the word and to try and spell it.  We went over their words multiple times and spelled them out each time.  Dawna put the sheet up on the board and asked the students to write the words in their notebooks.

After we identified words in the picture, we spelled the words again, using movements for letters in the “attic”, the “basement” and the “main floor”.  Words in the “attic” are tall letters like t, l, f, d, h, etc.  Letters in the “basement” are letters that hang low like g, y, p, q, and j.  Lastly, letters on the “main floor” are letters that are in the middle like a, e, r, u, i, etc.  We then proceeded to the grade 2 classroom again where we participated in the students’ time to read to another person.  I read with a different student than last week and I used the same strategy of repetition for mistaken words.  I didn’t just want to tell him what a word said if he made a mistake and this student did very well with sounding out the words for himself and figuring out the word.

My third time at the school was on October 24th, 2013 and I was with a different group of children today that were in grades 4 and 5.  The day started out with journal writing and they had monsters as a theme.  They first brainstormed describing words that they could use on their monster.  For example, “sharp teeth” was a term used.  They went through each and every word and spelled them out.  The students then decided what they wanted their monster to look like and put that description into a sentence.  The next step was to decide where their monster was and write a sentence about it.  One student decided that his monster was in his backyard.  One student I was working with was not really engaged in the activity and was not making any decisions.  This student was not writing sentences, so we decided that he could draw a picture of his monster first so he got an idea of what his monster will look like.  I read through the list they made and had to give him multiple suggestions until he started working.

In the afternoon, we read through a poem:

Two little bats sitting on a wall

One named Peter,

One named Paul

Fly away Peter,

Fly away Paul

Come back Peter,

Come back Paul

The students all read through the poem by themselves, one at a time.  They were asked to identify the rhyming words (wall and Paul).  They compared various combinations of words to hear if the words sound similar.  The students were then given a fill in the blank worksheet of the poem.

While I’m at my field experience, I try to keep in mind the myths, theories and content that we have learned in ELNG 200.  This class has opened my eyes to a lot of ideas that I have never really thought of before.  While working with these students, I think about the myths of bilingualism and I free my mind of any of these misconceptions.  I’ve realized and heavily thought about how easy it is for people to believe these myths if they are not aware of them.  For example, there’s the myth about the child’s brain being monolingual.  Parents will become nervous because they are concerned that their children will not be able to separate their two languages and it will result in slower linguistic development.

There’s not really a choice of staying monolingual for children coming in from non English speaking countries.  Teachers and peers can’t really communicate with this individual if they cannot understand each other.  There is this one student in my placement that doesn’t like to use English in the school and heavily relies on the students that speak the student’s home language.  Using their first language is celebrated, but if the students do not dedicate a certain amount of attention to their second language learning, they are not going to grasp English as fast.  Like we said in class: if you don’t use it, you lose it!  Also, from my experiences, learning a new language is most effective when you speak with a community of people that are learning the language alongside you or to a community of native speakers of that language.  This shows how important it is for students to have access to language.  Using the language more benefits the child socially and results in communicative competence.

I’ve noticed the dimensions of phonology and semantics in the students. It’s interesting to hear the different phonological sounds that the students use.  There was a time in my experience where a student misunderstood me because our sound systems are different.  I was going through each sound of a word with this student and I said something that sounded like the letter ‘r’ in the student’s home language.  Sometimes in class, students will recognize a word the teacher says because it sounds similar to something in their language.  This shows the different semantics in our languages.  One student answered a question of her’s with “lala” (I’m not sure if that is the proper spelling) and she asked what “lala” meant.  The student responded by saying that “lala” meant sleep in their language.  The ESL teacher is always eager to learn new words in their languages and the students are excited to share this with her!

I definitely see the internal and external factors that influence learning a second language in my experience every time I’m there.  All of the students are under 20 years of age, so they fit that part of the theory.  Most of the students I have encountered are very confident and have a high self-esteem, which results in excellence in communication skills!  When students are on the shyer side, it’s hard to tell if they have a high self-esteem or not, especially since I’m not there everyday to get to know them.  There are a few shy students that do not seem to want to speak out in class.  This could possibly be a silent period for them.  Some of the EAL students are shy, but they are excellent at communicating in English. There is a lot of motivation in the classroom from peers and teachers.  Students in the class are always helping each other out, as well as the teachers.  The students are also reflecting on their own experiences with their home language and with their cultures.  The teacher is great with helping the students out with curriculum learning.  She is always referring their cultures and helping with clarification.  She also creates a risk free environment through her instruction and leading conversations.  I also feel very comfortable in her classroom and I can have conversations with her naturally.  As I mentioned before, there is access to language at the school because the majority of people speak English.