SIFE

22 Oct

SIFE = Students with Interrupted Formal Education.

I’m not too thrilled about the title of this new class, but it is what it is, I suppose. This class is comprised of students who just recently immigrated to the country and who had significant gaps in their formal education from their home country. They are 9th through 12th graders, 14 to 18 years old.

Not quite sure if you can imagine this class, so here’s just a few things to paint the picture.

  • It started with 5 students, is now at 26 in 12 weeks, and it will continue to grow.
  • 100% of them hardly speak English. Only about 4 of them can understand limited English, the rest, this is their first exposure.
  • 1 is from China, 1 from Brazil, a few from El Salvador, the rest from Guatemala.
  • I teach it mostly in Spanish. My Chinese kid will probably learn Spanish faster than English… =/
  • Almost all of them never used a binder before, let alone dividers. They used to constantly open their binders backwards and then get confused and try to rearrange their dividers again. They would put in their lined paper with the large white margin on the bottom, then write on the back side of the page first with the 3-holes on the right.
  • I had two students not know their birthdays. (Apparently, some cultures celebrate their patron/ namesake saint’s day instead?)
  • I have one student, 15 years of age, who keeps taking out her Hello Kitty coloring book to color instead of doing the classwork.
  • They have never seen or used negative numbers until my class (except for the Brazilian student).
  • For a handful of them, they touched a computer for the very first time.

If you know this population of students and know me, you’ll know that I LOVE this class, both the students and the course. The students are incredibly sweet and respectful and so glad to be here. They were also pretty terrified when they first came in which makes me mother-hen them even more. As for the course, I have no curriculum that I have to comply to and finish in a certain amount of time. I’m teaching for the sake of teaching again!! I can make it as slow and applicable as I want. I haven’t been this excited to develop curriculum in years.

Everyday I can see them absorb a certain amount of knowledge. For some, they are ready for the math. They started never having seen a negative number and are now adding and subtracting them better than many of my Algebra kids. For others, their English is growing in leaps and bounds. They ask me daily how to say certain words and phrases in English and I can hear them repeating and saying them aloud to themselves. Some of them are just proud to be students. They come in showing off their new bags and binders and study their flashcards at every opportunity.

After 12 weeks since the beginning of the course, I’m constantly stumped at how to introduce concepts I’ve never introduced before (like a negative number for the very first time) and answering questions I never considered before (like what is Homecoming Queen/ King?). I’m also excited and terrified of introducing concepts for the very first timelike fractions and Algebra because I will have no screwed up prior knowledge to deal with! … 

(We’ll leave that last one at that for now. If you know, you know.)

Anyways, lastly, there really should be a list of things that ELD teachers deal with in math so that I don’t have to learn from scratch. Anyone have any ideas, tips, training to share?!?! Here’s just a few that I’m finding:

This says 21 - 17. (He got it wrong b/c it was a dictation quiz and I said 21 - 70).

This says 21 – 17. (He got it wrong because I said 21 – 70).

  • Most of them write their 1s like 7s. Their 7s they just cross with a dash. I debated whether or not it was ok to make them all just write 1s as a single vertical line or not and I decided it was necessary. If written anywhere outside of a math worksheet full of numbers, they can’t have $15 looking like $75.
  • They switch their decimals and their commas. If you’ve ever traveled in other countries before, you’ll have seen this. $2.000 for example or $20,99.

I’ll try to keep you posted on the progress of this class (I hope!)

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