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Becoming comfortable...

Serendipitaz's picture

In the beginning of class, the students did their Do Now and studied their vocab words for the quiz. The teacher asked me to pull individuals who struggled to finish his/her homework-- reading and giving meaning to poems in a pre-made packet -- during the quiz time. I knew from the get go, I didn’t want to give the answers to the students right away if they got confused. As a student, I have always benefited from my mentors questioning me in order to help me figure out the answer on my own. The goals of the exercises in the packet were to help the students build their vocab and the ability to interpret stories and poems. Most importantly, the goal was to prepare these ELL students for the benchmark exam.

Each student was on a different level when it came to interpreting the poems and understanding the questions being asked in the packet. Some knew exactly what the questions were asking and went a little farther by giving their own interpretations. For students who had partially completed the assignment, we read the questions together to make sure we understood what the question was asking. I shared some of my reading strategies such as reading the questions first and then the passage then repeating to get the answer. Furthermore, amongst all the students, the main issue that hindered their ability to understand the poem was not having a perception for the subject that’s discussed in the poem. There was not only a language barrier but also a cultural barrier. As a result, for the confusing words, I first tried to help the students define the term based on context. But, I soon realised that they couldn't make the connection since they never saw the subject matter before. Thus, I gave them the definition of the word. This was a very critical moment where I had a decide when to intervene and when to back off. It was as though the ZPD had been reached.

In retrospect I am reminded of the exercise in class where we had to figure out how to teach ELL students about poetry by reading the poem “Cinderella.” My in-class partner and I thought of looking at the parts of the poem in phrases as opposed to dividing it into words as the flow would be disrupted. In fact, when I was helping the students read the poems, I helped them focus on the separate phrases unconsciously. If we got stuck on the meaning of a word, then we would try to figure it out by looking at the context. At times I tried creating pictures and even using their native tongue to help them understand the concepts. The latter may be a trap because I don’t know all the languages the students spoke, but I thought about working with groups of students during those situations where the students could help each other out.  I sat down with as many students as I could in the short time period, and at times I felt bad that I wasn’t able to get through all the students and give them individual attention. I felt like I wasn’t being clear enough, so I have to practice being more eloquent.  

The best part about last week's visit was how the kids came up to me and told me they missed me, gave me a high five, and immediately asked for help from me. I felt like a part of their classroom. I was feeling strange being called Miss Aziz on the first day. But, I introduced myself to the newer students as Miss Aziz since that is what the students are familiar with when addressing "a grown-up." Yet, I can’t help but be a little cautious. The kids are obviously connecting to me more, even though this was just my second day...even though they were calling me by my surname. FYI, my last post was about how uncomfortable I was being called by my last name, and I discussed how we address each other in school is somewhat of a beuraucratic ploy. We shall find out. Stay tuned!


Serendipitaz's picture

I honestly didn't make

I honestly didn't make preparation for the test a goal. I just wanted them to learn how to analyze the poem for the sake of poem. If they learn to do that, I hope the test asks them the questions where they will be able to illustrate their interpretive abilities.

Cathy's picture

Good for you not giving them

Good for you not giving them the answer. No banking (Said Friere). Did you feel like the fact that you had to prepare them for the test hindered you in any way or was it good for orienting you?