In January, two new 6th grade students enrolled in my school.
Both are beginner ESOL students.
One studied English in her native country and the other one attended an international school here before transferring to my school.
They’re both making progress.
Student A is outgoing and a risk taker.
Student B is shy and doesn’t like to speak in English too much.
Today student A was arguing, in a respectable way, with the math teacher about a problem she missed on a quiz. Arguing!
In the end, we realized that the issue wasn’t the math; the teacher and my student basically agreed.
The issue was how the problem was worded. Although I could see how it could be interpreted to mean one thing, I could also see how my student read this problem because I read it in exactly the same way.
This incident demonstrates that learning a language is an amalgam of nuanced experiences and encounters that go beyond memorizing vocabulary or knowing how to use punctuation appropriately.
My student used her emerging English skills to argue her case and in my view, she won; I would have given her credit for the problem.
All of this is making me wonder how to get student B to be as bold. Is it just a personality difference between the two girls? Or is it that student B is not as passionate about learning another language as student A? Or maybe I haven’t found the hook that will motivate my student to take greater initiative as an English language learner? And, as I write this, I remember that student B loves to read. I need to capitalize on that and engage her further by providing guided opportunities for conversations.
Recently, an administrator said that I had my work cut out for me when observing my students writing at the computer, and I agree. But, it’s not about teaching grammar or the conventions of the English language, which are anything but conventional. My work is to discover what topics interest my students and use that to guide them to using English to learn.
Thinking about this challenge rejuvenates me as a teacher.
More on this another time.
Cross posted to March Slice of Life Challenge, Day #25.