The Effects of bombastic rhetoric in classrooms and what teachers can do to break that cycle
The effects of bombastic rhetoric in classrooms and what teachers can do to break that cycle
Educators with children learning English at home say that they have a hard time getting a handle on how students receive information, interpreting what they learn from the English language. They worry that, from infancy on, their children’s attention spans are permanently short-changed and can’t “turn” that which is given into the language they must learn. Teaching English as a second language (ESL) requires the perfect exchange of information and context in each lesson, an exchange that is not automatic.
“People think that we want them to learn to speak English and be bilingual,” says Tracy Gilbert, a teacher in Tustin, California, and a co-author of a 2017 study, “Evaluating the Teaching of the Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts: Ways for ELL Educators to Better Understand and Support Their Students.” “But when you break down what you teach English-language learners, it’s not so much about growing their skills. It’s more about teaching them how to turn those skills into the language they need.”
In Gilbert’s classroom, a child learns how to add math terms to the paper on which her math worksheet is written. She lets her students write their equations with words like “square” and “two” and “assume,” so that they are tied to their handwritten problem sets. “We talk about why it’s important to use those words and how to select and place the words, so that our little one understands what they’re doing,” she says. The lesson is then put on the table for the class, and teachers comment on the student’s understanding as they go.
“If we’ve provided a context that’s really important to the child, we actually don’t need to explain it all,” Gilbert says. But there are times when, like when a student is on a computer and is trying to get his math vocabulary straightened out, Gilbert needs to describe what is being written. She’s lucky enough to have a ton of practice–she taught 12 years in ESL classes.
In some high-tech classrooms–where schools and companies allow students to “bring their own device”–students may understand concepts better by watching a video clip. The issue, according to Gilbert, is that most teachers are not video producers, so they may choose not to, rather than providing context or explanation. (She’s currently working on a video series to show her students what to do when they are stuck on a tricky problem.)
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