Next semester, I will continue teaching writing structure and vocabulary to first graders.
In this class, there is an uneven mix of students ranging from Early Production to Intermediate Fluency language skills. To help bridge the comprehension gap, I always intertwine oral lessons with visual clues, activity and group assignments, and technology use. The goal of these four strategies is to build comprehension and confidence with students still developing their language skills.
Eleanor is in Early Production, but she has a very enthusiastic personality and is eager to participate in class. Although her communication skills are very limited, she does not let this stop her. When the class is practicing using new vocabulary words in sentences, I give her ample time to think and always write her sentence on the board, correcting any grammatical errors. Then, she repeats the corrected student back to me. This gives her oral and visual practice during the writing period.
Henry is successfully transitioning into the Speech Emergent level. He is very quiet in class when we are discussing a topic he is unfamiliar with, but he is very vocal when discussing topics such as school, food, or friends. I am encouraging him to add more details about the stories he is comfortable telling. If he is writing about a day spent with his friends, I require a minimum number of adjectives and adverbs in each sentence. I provided him with a sheet that lists a lot of commonly used descriptive words that are categorized by topic to assist him with building his vocabulary. This is a tool he can keep with him and refer to as much as he wishes. I don’t want him to feel pressured to remember everything, instead, encouraging organic learning progress.
Do Yoon is Beginning Fluency, but he is very shy and a perfectionist. His written work has minimal errors and his writing regularly uses a variety of words and story lines, but he does not like to speak in class in fear of saying something incorrectly. I call on him frequently, but I never correct any errors in his speech. I have to pull him out of his shell while making him feel safe in the classroom environment.
Julie is an Intermediate Fluent student and enjoys discussing academic topics. I question her on topics she learns about in her mother tongue, and encourage her to write about them in English. All students have access to the class iPad for word translation, but Julie uses this tool the most. Because she is enthusiastic about learning new vocabulary, I have given her the job of helping other kids translate words into English. I want all of the students to feel comfortable asking each other for help.
Group activities are a great way to encourage collaboration and alleviate the pressure some kids feel about speaking in front of the entire class. I typically pair Intermediate Fluent students with Speech Emergent, and Beginning Fluency with Early Production. I don’t want the language gaps to be too close or too far apart. This gives the higher level kids opportunity to help the lower level, and creates a friendly challenge for the lower level students. Frequently, higher-level kids know more than they think they do, and being partnered with students on lower levels gives the higher-level students opportunity to discover their own skill.