During the (approximately) two years Luis has lived in the United States, he has gone back to Mexico for extended periods. Luis is verbal and is not shy. He can speak fairly well, but struggles with some English. The push in services Luis receives is from a paraprofessional who has had some ESL training. The Para comes in twice a day to work with Luis. In addition, Mrs. Jones has taken the proactive approach of labeling "everything" in the room as well as partnering Luis with strong students.
Lesson Plan Implementation
While Mrs. Jones was working with small reading groups, I pulled Luis to a table off to the side of the room. Using a dry erase board, I wrote the following sentence:
"Billy made a peanut butter and glockum sandwich."
I then asked Luis to read it aloud. Luis had no problem reading aloud (albeit slowly) until he came to the made up word "glockum." I asked him to sound it out. We worked on saying it phonetically ("gl" -"ock" -"um"). I then asked him to reread the sentence three times (which he did). I asked Luis what a "glockum" was. He responded that he didn't know. I told him to listen to the sentence as I read it and then try to make a guess. Luis guessed it was "jelly" (correct).
I asked him to explain HOW he knew it was "jelly." In his own words, Luis suggested that he used context clues to help him infer what "glockum" meant jelly (or it could mean "honey"). We talked about how good readers use other words (chunks of words around the unknown word) to help them figure out what the word means. I asked Luis if he liked to play guessing games. He smiled and said he did.
I then proceeded to modify (e.g. improvise) my lesson plan. Rather than dive into "The Three Little Pigs" text, I continued to write sentences on the dry erase board for Luis to read and use context clues to identify the made up words. I wrote the following sentences:
"Patty liked zooni with her French fries."
"Max loved to read blustuus at home."
"Sam went wudding in the ocean."
(I have to confess that it was a challenge coming up with made up words on the spot).
Nevertheless, Luis and I followed the same procedure. He read the sentences aloud each time. Obviously, the made up words presented the most challenging part of the activity. Luis figured out that the made up words didn't really "matter." What mattered was using the context clues to infer the meaning of the words. In each case, Luis was able to identify the "real" word. Luis identified "ketchup" for "zooni," "books" for "blustuss" and "swimming" for "wudding."
We were getting short on time, so I again modified my lesson plan. I gave Luis the following part of "The Three Little Pigs" to read:
Before they left, their mother told them " Whatever you do, do it the best that you can because that's the way to get along in the world. The first little pig built his shmalta out of straw because it was the easiest thing to do. The second little pig built his shmalta out of sticks. This was a little bit stronger than a straw shmalta. The third little pig built his shmalta out of bricks.
One night the big bad kvetch, who dearly loved to eat fat little piggies, came along and saw the first little pig in his shmalta of straw. He said "Let me in, Let me in, little pig or I'll huff and I'll puff and I'll blow your shmalta in!"Not by the hair of my chinny chin," said the little pig.
I asked Luis if he knew the story of the Three Little Pigs. He did. I told him how much I liked "Chorizo" sausage, which made him laugh. I know working with ESL students, one is not to only focus on native foods, etc. But as we know, good teachers find ways to connect. I told Louis that I would read part of the story aloud. I asked him to follow along with his copy. Whenever we came to a "made up word," I wanted Luis to circle it. I wondered what Luis would circle.
To my extreme pleasure, he circled "shmalta" and "kvetch." In addition, he circled "chinny" (which makes sense, considering the activity we were doing). After reading, the story, I asked Luis to tell me why he circled those words. His response was, "Because they sounded funny." I then asked Luis to tell me what he thought each word meant. He said "shmalta" meant "house," "kvetch" meant "wolf" and "chinny" meant "fat." I asked Luis to explain why he thought "chinny" meant "fat." He looked at me if I was clueless. He responded, because we were talking about PIGS.
To close the activity, I asked Luis to tell me what he can do when he is reading something and he comes across words he didn't know. Luis told me he would use the words around the strange word to help him figure it out.
As the reader can discern, Luis is doing well with his ESL services. He is clearly making progress in his reading. What strikes me is that even though the ____ has a small Hispanic population, the emphasis is on student success. I like the fact there is full "inclusion" and that Luis receives push in services. Mrs. Jones indicated that there were times that the Para also worked with Luis and other struggling readers. This small group helped remove any stigma from ESL instruction. In addition, it seems that this school is very proactive with the use of adults in the classroom. There are flexible groups that are continually being modified, expanded and disbanded, based upon student achievement.
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