Saturday, August 05, 2006

It's all Greek to me

One of the classes I took this semester is "Teaching Reading and Writing to ESL Students." It's an elective, and I honestly wasn't expecting much out of it at all. I figured it'd be all lecture and theory. I was pleased to learn that the first half of each session was lecture, but during the second half, we'd work one-on-one with a student who is enrolled in the university's summer program for college-bound high school ESL students. I was assigned a 16-year-old girl who just moved here from China seven months ago. Her English was much better than I expected - she said she learned English in school in China. Most of the time, I helped her complete projects that the program director assigned, but in between, we got to talk about a lot of other things. I spend most of my time working with first graders.... I'm not used to having actual conversation with a student!

I have so much respect for students who move here from other countries and have to learn English. Especially when their native language is so very different. Learning English after speaking Chinese for 16 years is quite an undertaking. The languages have different sounds, a different alphabet, different sentence structure... it's gotta be frustrating. I can't imagine having to move to China and learn their language. I have a hard enough time picking up simple Spanish words, and I had some prior experience with related languages (four years of French and a year of Latin in high school).

Anyway, between working with a high school student for my class and having the third to fifth grade group in summer camp, I got to thinking about how much I enjoy working with older students. As much as I love my first graders, there are so many other things that older students can do. They can write more, read harder books, engage in more in-depth conversations, tackle higher-order thinking. I don't see myself switching grade levels anytime soon... but I think now I wouldn't be opposed to it. You never know. It's always good to broaden one's horizons.

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