Help with Mayan-Only speaker

Discussion in 'General Education' started by Jill.ela, Jan 17, 2019.

  1. Jill.ela

    Jill.ela New Member

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    Jan 17, 2019

    Hello,

    I teach a Beginner English Learner class the content areas of Language Arts and History at a middle school. I work with all grade levels. I am looking for any resources or ideas to support a learner who is illiterate in their own language. No student or adult on campus or anywhere in my district speaks the language this seventh grade learner speaks.

    Any suggestions or advice? Part of the problem is that I have 50 minutes per period, and nobody else in the class is at the learner's level. So I need to develop a one-on-one curriculum to teach early reading skills to the new 7th grade student without taking away from the rest of the class. I do get aide support, but they have so many different responsibilities that through no fault of their own aide support is not reliable (something I did talk to admin about). Any advice or ideas or resources would be greatly appreciated.

    Sincerely,
    Jill
     
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  3. TeacherGroupie

    TeacherGroupie Moderator

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    Jan 17, 2019

    There's not just one "Mayan language"; the Wikipedia article at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mayan_languages gives a family tree that shows 32 languages - though some are extinct or nearly so, and others are mutually intelligible. If you can find out more specifically the part of Central America from which the student comes, it might be easier to figure out which of the Mayan languages he is likely to speak and then find someone who can talk to him. The local county office of education might be able to give some help, or you might ask around at some universities' linguistics departments to see if anyone is studying Mayan languages such as Jacaltec or Kaqchiquel. And an article in the LA Times, https://www.latimes.com/local/california/la-me-mayan-indigenous-languages-20160725-snap-story.html, mentions some organizations that could be helpful; if nothing else, they might be able to refer you to someone more local.
     
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  4. Unetheladyteacher

    Unetheladyteacher Rookie

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    Jan 17, 2019

    Edited because I am rethinking my response.
     
    Last edited: Jan 17, 2019
  5. ms.irene

    ms.irene Connoisseur

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    Jan 17, 2019

    Theoretically, in an ELD class, you shouldn't use a student's home language, even if you do speak it. I taught ELD and had a student from Nepal. I approached him the same way I did my (majority) Spanish-speaking students, with basic language accompanied by visuals, gestures, etc.

    The student who was much more challenging was actually a Spanish-speaking student who was completely illiterate in Spanish. He was 17 and had never gone to school -- he had worked in the fields his whole life. He didn't know how to hold a pencil, and had no concept of an alphabet. We started with basic phonics like you would with a kindergartner. By the end of the year, he could write his name and a few words. You have to figure out where the student is and meet them there. (Easier said than done!)
     
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  6. vickilyn

    vickilyn Magnifico

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    Jan 17, 2019

    Agreed. In many ways, as counter intuitive as it sounds, the student who is illiterate in their L1 is taught English the same way that you would teach an ELL who doesn't read because of age - maybe a preschooler. You have to give them an alphabet (your student doesn't have one), you have to give them ways to connect pictures/letters/vocalizations to create meaning. The advantage that this specific student will bring is that he knows a lot about his physical world and what language allows you to accomplish. You are there to help him build bridges to prior understanding and knowledge that connects to literacy and the ability to decode and understand English words.

    Speaking the L1 to an ELL is kind of a cheat in ESL classes. It means the teacher is looking for an easy out instead of creating the learning process to build on. Doing it right is harder with an older student because they understand that they should know how to read, and they feel the process is taking too long. Trust me, in the long run, teaching reading and language without resorting to use of the oral L1 will be doing the student a true service.
     
    Last edited: Jan 18, 2019
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  7. creativemonster

    creativemonster Comrade

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    Jan 20, 2019

    "I am looking for any resources or ideas to support a learner who is illiterate in their own language. No student or adult on campus or anywhere in my district speaks the language this seventh grade learner speaks."
    I'm confused. How do you know this student is illiterate in his/her first language? Do they have any friends at school? Are they picking up social english yet? Do they speak any 2d languages? Any social Spanish?
     
  8. vickilyn

    vickilyn Magnifico

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    Jan 20, 2019

    Although I have not met this student (Mayan), I have worked with a student in the 9th grade who spoke Spanish, but couldn't read a single word, or even understand the alphabet. Yes, she had oral language, but was unable to read a single word - she couldn't decipher to give her clues about pronunciation, which essentially made all written language (in Spanish or English) useless to her. She had become very adept at getting others to verbally give her guidance about the overall meaning, but she couldn't identify any word, not even her name. She had knowledge of how the world works, so that was a plus, but the reading had to be started at square one with pictures and English pronunciation taught. This was a case where speaking to her in her L1 slowed her growth in English, so eventually speaking to her in the L1 was eliminated in the classroom. There is no doubt that she conversed with friends in her L1, but she learned to read the L2, and using it to speak emerged. Obviously, when the student is literate in the L1, you can access dictionaries that translate into the L2 to move faster. We went with picture dictionaries in the L2 to connect with her knowledge.
     
  9. miss-m

    miss-m Devotee

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    Jan 20, 2019

    I used something called PWIM (Picture Word Inductive Model) with a 4th grade student last year who spoke a very distinct African language. I could find NOTHING in her language; hardly anyone who speaks it is literate in the language, so there were no resources available. We started at bare basics in English with vocabulary using PWIM.
    We used giant pictures to identify objects, colors, people -- whatever she saw in the picture and pointed out, we labeled and she wrote down the words with a drawing. We sorted the words by beginning sounds, by categories (color words, action words, etc.), and whatever else we could think of to sort them. We wrote and read sentences using the words we came up with. Considering I only saw her for about 30 minutes a day, 4 days a week, and I am not in any way qualified to teach ESL, she made pretty good progress in the few months I worked with her.

    Picture/word cards are also really helpful. I'd say it's probably going to be easier for you to teach this student English without their native language; I have a Spanish speaking student this year who is struggling to pick up English probably in part because he knows I speak Spanish (I also think he may have a speech issue in Spanish that is affecting his English, but that's a whole different thing). My co-teacher and I make him speak English as much as possible -- even if it's just repeating things we say -- but he spent the first few months of school knowing that I speak Spanish and that if he couldn't think of the word in English, he could say it in Spanish and I'd understand him. There were even a couple times I told my whole group of Spanish speakers that I don't speak Spanish anymore (jokingly... in Spanish) and for a couple of them, they've made a lot of progress. But I wonder how they'd be doing if I hadn't translated so much for them early in the year.
     
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  10. vickilyn

    vickilyn Magnifico

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    Jan 20, 2019

    Illiterate is simply the inability to read and write. I taught a US born Latino student who was bilingual in oral language, Spanish and English, but who did not attend school with any consistency until the age of 10. The parents moved frequently, meaning that districts didn't know she was/should have been on their rolls. Because she was verbally proficient in both languages, once she was attending school regularly, she progressed in the L2 fairly well. We couldn't use a Spanish/English dictionary because of her inability to read Spanish. By the middle of high school, she could read between a third and fourth grade level, but still struggled with comprehension. A bright girl, she made the most out of her oral bilingualism, and she worked to read better in her L2 - she did understand the benefits of being able to read English. She was somewhat embarrassed to read out loud in class with several other students, but one on one with me, she really tried to ask questions and make sense of reading and pronunciation. I have fond memories of her. Although I have the ESL endorsement, she was not actuallylegally receiving help as an ELL. She had an IEP, so was on my roster as SPED.
     
  11. Bibliophile

    Bibliophile Companion

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    Jan 26, 2019

    last year I had a student with limited English who moved to the U.S. from Afghanistan on the second day of school. She had never been taught to read or write or alphabetic principals either because the village that she came from forbade girls and women to learn to read or write.

    My school had no EL teacher, aides or class. All we have is 30 minutes a day small group with the classroom teacher while EO kids do quiet independent work teachers work only with their EL's. I had a major task ahead of me. ended up working it out with one of the first grade teachers for my student to go her class each day for 30 minutes when she worked on letters and basic phonics. I did vocab build and site words in class and a ton of listening and speaking stuff. She also worked at home with her dad (mom couldnt read in any language either poor thing) and her brothers.

    She ended up being the most amazing student I have ever had. She was like a sponge for knowledge. She now writes multiple paragraph essays! Yes the language and sentence structure are simple, and yes their were some errors but her writing is so fabulous. You would be amazed at how much process can be made quickly when a student is determined to learn and work hard.
     
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