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ESL Ruminations, Take #2

On May 7th, I wrote a post detailing concerns I was having about the activities that my ESL students were engaged in during our class time. I surveyed the class and got some interesting responses about what was going well and what changes we could make to improve these assignments.

What follows are some of their comments and suggestions:

  • My students asked for the opportunity to have conversations with each other, or with me, about a variety of topics. So, we initiated what I call, "conversation partners". We've done this a few times and  they have been working really well. The first time we did this, we brainstormed some possible topics so that the students would have an idea of what they could talk about with each other; we only had to do this one time. They have approximately 10 minutes for a conversation. We do pairs or trios but no more than that. At the end of the conversation time I ask each of them what they learned about their partner.
  • Almost unanimously, my students did not like doing T-charts about the books they are reading. They say it slows them down and distracts then from their reading; we don't do these anymore.
  • One student suggested that instead of telling a story about themselves, they could do something else. Act it out? Draw it? Write a comic? We haven't determined this yet.
  • For listen to reading, someone suggested that in lieu of filling in a story map once a week they could share about the story they had listened to with the class. Another child recommended that we add a section on feelings (or substitute for one of the 6 areas of the story map?); we haven't implemented either of these two ideas, yet.
The most powerful change we have made thus far has been to introduce conversation partners. First of all, everyone likes to talk and middle school kids are no exception. Having my students partner up with a classmate to talk about a topic of their choice for 10 minutes has proven very successful. Furthermore, students acquiring another language need lots of time for conversation. When they are with their conversation partners, they can get help if they don't know a word or phrase in English. We have made this a part of the Daily 5 choices; the kids call it the Daily 6!

This experience reminds me the importance of asking kids a simple question: what's going well and what can we improve? If you've never done this or if you have, please leave a comment about your thoughts.

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