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I am curious to learn where the people who are reading my blog are from in the World. I don't know any way to find out except to ask, so I am. I have a Visitor's Poll on the right side. Please take a second to select the best answer. If I don't have your Country listed it is not intended as a Slight (China was suppose to be there; I can't add it now). I quickly realized I could not list every country, so I have continents listed. Feel free to drop me a comment or email as to which Country you reside in if it isn't in the list IN ADDITION to selecting the best answer in the poll. Thanks

Monday, January 28, 2008

It's been 3 weeks, and I'm still learning

It has now been 3 weeks since I began teaching English to students whose native language is Spanish. When I made the 680 mile drive down to Cuidad Migual Alemán, I understood that I would be taking over a class of 10 second grade students. The class was one of two being taught by the other US citizen teaching here, Amy. She was teaching English to both first and second grade but really was having to short both since she was having to split her time. When we arrived for classes on January 7, the plan was that I would help her initially with the second grade class for a day or so just to learn where they were and what they were doing. Then I was to take over. That didn't happen. Both Amy and I learned just before classes commenced at 8 A.M. that I was to be teaching Third grade instead. The former teacher did not continue after the Christmas break. So I found myself suddenly teaching 16 Third Grade students. Talk about being unprepared.

I had no books for Third Grade except 1 planning guide. I was (and am) teaching from 8 A.M. until 10:30 am every morning. Then from 10:30 until 11 A.M. the children have "recess" and more or less lunch. It is not a cafeteria experience as we have in the states but the children can buy tacos and sandwiches and similar foods at this time and most do. From 11 until 12:45 on Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday they have their Spanish language class. That is not taught by me (obviously since I am slowly learning Spanish). Then they have a recess break from 12:45 until 1 P.M. From 1 until 2 P.M. they are under my tutelage once again. On Tuesday they had Computer lab for 45 minutes carved out of their Spanish time. I say had because my class gained a student about a week ago (up to 17) and when it did, we suddenly had too many students for 1 computer lab. So now half of the students have lab on Tuesday during their Spanish time, and the other half have it on Thursday morning during my morning session. I had the teacher doing the Computer labs split my class so the students who need more help in English will have labs on Tuesday and I will have them on Thursday. That way I can focus some time on helping them learn the basics most of the better students know while those better students are taking Computer lab.

That is a general synopsis of the schedule. During the time I have the students, I am to teach not only English grammar and spelling but also reading, science, art, cursive writing, and science. Yes science falls to the English teacher and it is causing headaches. The students do not have a US Third Grade vocabulary of the English language, but the Abeka course material is designed for US Third Grade English. Many of my students have never had any English before. Suddenly they are presented with Third Grade US English. LOST. I have 6 to 8 students who are able to do the Third Grade spelling. Those students are not able to read and understand the science material. SO where does that leave the poorer English students? And this is a common problem in 4th, 5th and 6th grade also. The material is too advanced for students whose native language is not English.

For 2 weeks I did evaluations. I had no idea what the students knew nor what they had been taught the first half of the year. I did get the books but quickly learned that they were not comprehending them. So I am now going backwards in order to go forward. This week I am testing the students on pronouns such as he, she, it, you, me, us, we, him, her, they and which. The better students all did well on my exploratory spelling test using these words (I gave the class a spelling test without warning on these words). "Which" gave the better students problems, but that was the only word. The poorer students however knew some of the words but not all. So I will be having them learn these words this week rather than the Third Grade spelling words like preached, continually, several, etc.... Even the students who are spelling these words correctly are doing so without any understanding of what the words mean. So I am regressing to basics to build up their vocabulary and reading skills. I am also using Dr Seuss books and others that I brought. Each student had selected 1 book to read at his or her level (supposedly). I figure the weaker students need to experience some success. Hopefully by having them learn words they can learn they will start to gain some confidence.

If you are wondering why I haven't been writing much in the past few weeks it is simply because I had problems getting onto the internet. Initially it was because I needed a stronger wireless card in my computer. My computer was too far from the base router. Then once I got that solved, we lost our DSL service for over a week due to rain and a bad phone line. I finally got the internet back just this weekend.

Here is a photo of my students:

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