Finding the right keys

August 8, 2009 at 10:23 am | Posted in Language Learning, Planning, Primary | 4 Comments
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I need ideas and advice for working with a 6-year-old student who is an English Language Learner. He started in our school last February and didn’t start speaking to anyone at school until June. Turns out that he’s very bright, knows English very well and reads fluently- as his family knew all along. We met 3 times in June and he read aloud for me and answered my questions as we were participating in online activities. He’s one of those people who sits back watching and listening until he feels the water is safe to jump in.
image from Kris Hoet
I start working with him again this Monday for 3 weeks until school begins. We will only meet for 2-one hour sessions each week so I want to make the best of our face to face time. Here is what I’m planning so far and I’d love feedback on my ideas and suggestions as well.

  • Set up a google doc and google presentation shared between myself, the student and his family. The Doc will hold any links or text he wants to write. The Presentation will serve as a portfolio where we can embed images and audio we create.
  • SmartBoard- I spent hours while in the US picking the brains of two friends who are Special Ed teachers and had the SmartBoard training a year ago. They shared what they did with their students and the progress these students made. It was so inspiring to hear of the progress and pride the students had for their learning. While they were sharing, I was thinking of this student and how great a tool this would be for him. It’s hands on and away from the “sitting down together” dynamic that is typical and maybe a bit too close for this student. So I’m compiling relevant activitiesthat we can use on the Smartboard.
  • Audio recording. I’m not sure this is a good idea given this student’s reluctance to speak, but I also feel it would be a powerful tool for him. While in a digital storytelling workshop at BLC09 over a week ago, I was thinking about this student as well. if I compile compelling images for him to choose from, put them in a Voicethread and ask him to write comments and maybe speak about the images it may be a safe place to start. It’s risky, but I’ve had 3rd grade students who were reluctant to do almost anything involving literacy and when we began podcasting they were writing and recording eagerly.
  • We’ll meet 6 times before our school begins this year, I’d love to create something with him that he can take to share with his class during those first few days. I’d like to see him to start the year contributing in all ways- not the shy, reluctant boy they saw last year but the bold guy underneath. Again, it may be too risky but is worth a shot.

So, what do you think of the above? Any additional ideas or thoughts to add that may help when I start on Monday??



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  1. Have you seen Dabbleboard? You might be able to utilize that with your student. It is an online whiteboard that can be shared, downloaded, drawn upon, typed upon, images uploaded to from the computer or from another site.

  2. Would it be as useful if he chose the pictures for Voicethread, and then explained why? Maybe search for the pictures with Findr or Flickr Related Tag browser

    Another tool you might want to investigate is Scratch, from MIT ( Lots of conversation would be needed to explore how it works, and then little media scenarios including text and simple voice recording could be the result.

    I hope you’ll keep us posted on developments!

    • Mary, Thank you for your link, I will investigate Dabbleboard.

      Kathy, I love the idea allowing the student to choose the pictures and then share why he chose it. I am familiar with Scratch and thought that the intro time might be too long for our short time together- but perhaps not! I will have a Scratch after-school group again and will suggest he attend- the collaboration piece alone will allow him to make more social connections. Thanks!

  3. […] Summer Language Learning August 19, 2009 at 8:03 am | In Uncategorized | Leave a Comment This is a followup to my last post, Finding the Right Keys. […]

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