Working Effectively with English Language Learners – by Rob Peterson and Kelley Dawson Salas
For the second part of Curriculum as Narrative, I chose to analyze more in depth the story about English language learners. But for a moment, let’s pretend this is about “Working Effectively with French Language Learners”. I know the assignment is designed for us to make connections with the short stories, and this is the way I connect with this one. As some of you might already know, I am part of the Bac program for education at elementary level (K-5). Therefore, I am aiming to be teaching in a French Immersion school or a Fransaskois school at the end of my bachelor’s degree. I found the short story to be very interesting, but the whole time I was reading it, I tried to imagine how it applied to me. Why would I be working with English language learners? I am going to be in a francophone environment… VOILA! Having this enlightening moment, I then tried to read the story and apply it to a French context. Why would it be any different from English to French right?
In Saskatchewan, there are multiple French programs for both francophone and anglophone peoples. First off, there are francophone schools, usually called “école fransaskoise” where students, who have parents that attended a francophone school, can be found. In these type of schools, every single subject is taught in French from kindergarten to grade 12, aside from the English class. Then we have French Immersion schools where students who don’t have French as a first language, can go to school and learn in French from kindergarten to grade 3, and then be introduced to English classes in grade 4. It is also possible for some student to partake in the Late French Immersion programs starting in grade 6 through grade 12. In addition, there is a Core French program where, depending on the grade you are in, are taught French as a subject for a certain amount of time every week. For example, kindergartener to 5th graders will be having French lessons for at least 30 minutes four times a week (120 minutes) whereas 6th to 9th graders have to learn French for 150 minutes every week, and so on. For anglophone parents who decide to send their children to a French Immersion school or a Core French program, there are many resources available in order for them to be able to help their children with homework and lessons taught in French, such as Canadian Parents for French.
As a preservice teacher aiming to teach in a French environment, I found the short story by Peterson and Dawson Salas really applied to my situation. Like it is mentioned, I will have to constantly remind myself that my students’ first language might not be French unlike me. Therefore, I will have to be extra cautious to speak very slowly and clearly so that my class can understand what I am saying. There is also a possibility that I will encounter students who just moved to Saskatchewan or Canada and don’t speak English or French. That’s where visual aids such as pictures, posters, videos, books, slide shows will come in handier than verbal instruction. By showing kids something visual, they know what the animal, action, tree, etc. is in their first language and therefore, they are able to make connections and for example, be like “oh chat [in french] is just like gato!” (which is spanish for cat). I will definitely use the idea of introducing vocabulary and concepts to my students before jumping into lessons, which will also allow me to evaluate the levels at which my students are at. I probably would also review vocabulary and concepts related to every week’s lessons before starting to teach so that my students are really comfortable with the terms. The idea of using songs, skits and games to learn is also very appealing to me. I even find myself singing French songs to my anglophone niece sometimes and she thinks its hilarious and she really enjoys trying to sing along with me. I have also discovered that many French songs and rhymes have an English version. That would be a very helpful tool for my anglophone students to use in order to make connections with their first language.
The only aspect of the short story I am “iffy” about is the one that suggests not to use whole-class instruction. I understand that not all the students will be at the same French level, Fransaskois or Immersion school, but I think by reviewing vocabulary and concepts with all the classroom would benefit everyone. When it comes to projects, readings and assignments, then yes, I believe working in smaller groups would be more beneficial and I would probably tend to put together teams containing a diversity of students so that everyone in the group gets the chance to be in the shoes of both a learner and a teacher. Including words and expressions from other cultures in my lessons is also part of my plan, as I find myself easily entertained when finding out the meaning of certain words in languages that are unknown to me. This could be an interesting idea of an activity to do with my students. I could give them a sentence in English and have them translate it to French and two or one other language and have them make connections between the words. What are the similarities and differences? Of course the root of the language and the words can be a little complicated, but there are ways to have this activity adapted to different levels.
Overall, I thought the reading of The New Teacher Book to be very interesting and constructive, and I will definitely be using the book in the future. It is something that I will want to have close to me during my first few years as a teacher as it touches multiple issues one can encounter in different contexts. In addition, I will definitely be taking the time to read the whole volume once time permits!