Thursday, May 29, 2008

English as a Second Language

The purpose of this blog is to share interesting ideas I have found in recent American professional publications dealing with the teaching of English at all levels, elementary, secondary and college.

Topic: A Teaching Problem

Title: “Creating International Communities to Support English Language Learners in the Classroom.” Judith Rance-Roney. English Journal (May 2008), 17-22. A publication of the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE).

The Problem: “Earlier in my career, I taught in a large suburban district in New Jersey. In my junior class, side by side in the front row sat Tu and Phan, two Vietnamese brothers whom I estimated knew a few hundred words other than ‘Hello, how are you?’ I thumbed through my minutely planned unit on Beowulf and early English and I felt like crying. How would I teach Beowulf to these brothers who were struggling to learn the basics of English grammar and vocabulary? How could I teach the new language of early English to my ‘regular’ students while teaching ‘real’ English to these young men? I was an English teacher and I was stumped. I know that more and more teachers are facing these questions.” p. 17.

Summary: The author worked to bring the class together to help each other. She gives several techniques—the “jump-start” in which she gave the brothers preview material before teaching the unit [Not a bad idea for regulars students. RayS.] and a project in which the students shared cultural differences and similarities, but essentially it was the spirit of helpfulness on the part of everyone in the classroom that worked.

Comment: I remember working in a school that was emphasizing individualizing instruction. One of our teachers was making amazing progress in individualizing her instruction. When I asked her about the secret to her success, she said, "The more you try it, the more you find ways of doing it." RayS.

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