Monday, January 23, 2012

Literacy Dig: Goodwill

This week, my team and I went to the local Goodwill to do field work for a literacy dig. Goodwill seemed like a great location to have a literacy dig; it could also be taken even further by incorporating themes such as sustainability and building jobs in the community.

Field work is essential to get the most out of your literacy dig. By going to the site to take notes and understand the surroundings, you can iron out any kinks that could hinder your literacy dig.

It is very important to talk to someone at the site to let them know what you are doing and to get permission for any filming or photography that will be shot. Goodwill has a strict policy that needed to be followed; to avoid trouble, the appropriate person should be notified. They can also be very helpful in letting you see areas that you wouldn't have noticed or providing resources that you wouldn't be able to get otherwise. For example, we were able to get old flyers that were out of print because of asking.

Goodwill had a very print rich environment, with signs advertising items and pricing throughout the store. There were also several posters along the wall as well as labels on larger items. Although Goodwill had a lot of unique print, there were "normal" print found in several places visible that could be pointed out to the children such as the fire alarm, the wet floor sign and the signs to the women's and men's bathroom. Because we see these things so often, it is easy to overlook them. It can be a great opportunity to let the children show you their experiences with these typical forms of print.

Of course, collaboration is the essence of teaching and this was no different. I got several wonderful ideas from the media department to do with young children such as:

  • Having a guided tour around the store;
  • Helping the children see that recycling helps save resources and provides jobs in the community;
  • Understanding the difference between something that can be recycled and what is trash. 

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Respecting Cultural Diversity in the Classroom

Often, a second language learner may feel isolated in the classroom because of the huge situation they face of being uprooted from what they know and having to conform to such a different reality than what they are used to. It is no wonder that these students can fall behind easily and isolate themselves from their peers in an attempt to solidify some control over their life.

Fortunately, there are so many ways to bridge that gap between home and school. The first thing that a teacher should look to build with a student who is experiencing culture shock and difficulty adjusting in school is to form a nonjudgemental relationship with the child and let them feel that they are safe with you. Of course, to gain this respect you will need to pay close attention to the child's behavior.

For example:

  • Where does the child feel most comfortable? Set up the space for maximum comfort. 
  • What is important to the child? Is it important for them to do things a certain way?
After you have set up this trusting relationship, the child should be more openly expressing their feelings and participating with more enthusiasm. After this point, there are several ways a teacher can foster a great learning experience for a child while helping them to be comfortable expressing their unique background. 

For example, you may:
  • Challenge the child with new material that they can work on at their own pace;
  • Use a variety of mediums to work on skills;
  • Use things that are important to the child to help them connect with their peers and share their background;
  • Encourage their unique ways of doing things as an acceptable and something to be proud of;
  • Incorporate the child's language background if the child is comfortable with that
A great way to connect with a second language learner is to use wordless books. Wordless books are great because they allow the reader to use their imagination and basically create meaning out of the story. Everyone can see pictures, so there is no pressure to "read" the book. In actuality, they are reading the book! By looking at the pictures, they are taking in many small details and after analyzing, coming up with what they believe the illustrator is trying to convey in the picture. 

The Arrival by Shaun Tan is a great wordless book that I was exposed to recently, that documents an immigrant to a foreign land and the struggles he faces there. The story can have different meanings for different people, and there is no wrong or right answer. This book would be a great connection to make with students who may be experiencing a similar situation of going to a new land!