Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Baby Steps

Is Progress One Size Fits All?

It's a sad fact that the powers that be often want to turn our children into learning robots. They have to make the required number of sub-levels of progress or they are considered to have learned nothing - and we as teachers are considered to have failed..

This irritates me.

Children are not robots. They do not all learn at the same pace. Some find learning easy and fly, some start well and plateau, some are late starters but catch up. Others find themselves confronted with barriers that they find difficult (often impossible) to overcome without lots of support. Some children make huge steps of progress, while others just toddle along. For these children the tiniest step is a huge achievement. I just wish that the powers that be would see it that way too.

In my job I see the latter every day. They are, to coin a phrase, my bread and butter. For they all come to me with one common barrier - their lack of English language. They are often unable to say how they feel, what is wrong or simply that they don't understand. All of them are unable to access the curriculum to the same extent as their English speaking peers, thus hindering their learning. I am also amazed at the number of times I am told that a particular EAL child has special needs, and I get annoyed that this is used as an excuse for the lack of expertise to manage and teach EAL children. These are children who simply cannot communicate (yet) in a second language but are often very competent in their home language. Yes, of course some of them have special needs, but most of the time they just need nurturing to build their confidence to a level where they are happy to try.

Take for example one of my children. He is 5 years old and has just started full time school. He is a smashing little fella, but is already being labelled because he is easily distracted and won't sit for long enough to engage in set tasks. Well, firstly, he is 5! He loves cars, dinosaurs and trains. Yes, he has limited English, but he has made friends amongst his peers and can hold his own as good as the next child. Secondly, imagine yourself in his little shoes - he has limited grasp on what is going on around him, he has gone from 2 hours in school every day to 5 hours, and he has been used to playing all the time. It takes time to adjust.

I saw him last week for just the second time and I admit I was beginning to think that maybe he needed a bit more time in the class before I began to see him for extra language support. But today we had a breakthrough. Playing on his love for cars, I bought a whole load of the little things very cheaply (15 for £1 - bargain!). Today I asked him to choose his favourite - he chose a blue Formula 1 racing car (good choice but heavy on the fuel...!). Then I took it away from him (boo hiss...) but placed it well within his sight, and told him that it was his after he had done some work for me. Yes, bribery always works! He sat and worked his socks off solidly for a half an hour. I was impressed. He instigated conversation and even corrected me when I slipped up with the pronunciation of his name... (cheeky monkey :-) ) I came away from that school feeling that, yes, maybe it was all worthwhile after all. Here he is using plasticine to shape letters which he later sounded out perfectly.

Identifying colours and discussing the pictures

Dare I use the "C" Word..?

You know the one - Christmas.. I'm busily putting together some activities for Christmas for some 12 Days of hristmas events being run by some of my sweet blog friends, and today I came up with this. It's a very simple CVC short e sorting activity that supports Common Core and will put a wide smile on your children's faces as they play learn. I hope you like it.

Click this image for Teachers Pay Teachers

And this image for Teachers Notebook

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