Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Quid dixisti? ¿Que dijiste? What did you say? 你说什么?

I love having a diverse class. I love when my room is full of different cultures and languages and, even though I teach Latin, I want to connect to them all.

There are a few things I've tried this year and I have some major plans for next year to make my classroom more diverse itself, more welcoming, and more useful. I want to honour and help my students and let them know that I not only acknowledge their backgrounds and cultures, but I want to celebrate them.

The Wall of Languages

This actually started by accident. A Chinese speaker of mine was showing me something on my board and I forgot to erase it. In the next class, a girl, who also speaks Chinese, came up to the board, read it, and wrote a response. The next day, two Korean students wanted to see if they'd get any hits and wrote a message in Korean. Soon after, Spanish speakers started their own thread. Before I knew it, my board was suddenly taken over by everything except Latin! I couldn't bring myself to end the conversation, so I got a large sheet of butcher paper and taped it to my back wall. I had students copy over messages from the whiteboard and the conversation continued. In roughly a week, the paper was filled and students started asking for more. At one point, over 15 languages appeared on the wall, Latin included. Students were able to connect with each through language, and across my classes. 

I will need to post a picture later, as our board is being replaced.

Making Connections
This year I also made a commitment to use my knowledge of Spanish to help my Spanish speakers make connections. A lot of them already do this, but, especially in the upper classes when we start looking at grammar explicitly, there was room for improvement. With the help of a Spanish teacher, I started reviewing my Spanish and, particularly, the grammar rules. Now, I can quickly point to a similar rule in Spanish to help my native speakers. It has made this year a lot easier grammar wise for both me and my students. We've been able to make a lot of connections, but I am also able to explain equivalents in English and Spanish, making the class a lot easier for all involved. 

Working with ESOL/ELL

One of my goals for next year is to make my room a place where any student can succeed, even if they don't speak English. I tell students, teachers, and parents that all a student needs to succeed is knowledge of how to speak at least one language. While using a Comprehensible Input style lends itself to students of all types, including ESOL/ELL students, I realised that my classroom does not. My safety net is posted, but in Latin and English, along with my question words.

Along with the help of some students, I've started a lofty project:

  • safety net words will be posted on a large poster board in English, Korean, Spanish, and Chinese (along with Latin)
  • helpful phrases (like can I go to the bathroom) will be posted with visuals to ensure understanding
  • basic vocabulary lists for Latin I (see this link for the first two weeks of Latin I) are being separated out so that ELL students can have one in their own language. 
  • a commitment from me to provide hand signals for each new word (and in the process my kids will learn some American Sign Language too!)
I've already begun working on this and I hope as I foster these relationships my resources will grow and I will learn somethings in the process. I'm posting my resources below and I have a request. If you see any mistakes or you know of something better, please let me know! 

Resources