I teach fourth grade. Today, as I was rushing into a meeting, I stopped in to talk to a fabulous teacher of first grade (used to be fifth and fourth as well!). I am desperately seeking assistance, and Jenny instantly came to mind. In my few moments, I spouted out my agony over one student in my class for the sole purpose of opening a dialogue, selfishly hoping to leach out any grand ideas she may have to help with my current concern, er, opportunity for growth and learning.
I have a sweet new student from Honduras. In the past few weeks I have gotten to know him a bit, and in my broken spanish I have managed to direct him on our classroom procedures and typical American customs such as how it's not okay to tickle people while in line for specials. He has grown socially, and through that growth has become more willing to accept his learning deficits and successes with pride and a sense of accomplishment. So far.
As we have been working with this student, we made observations....
- he will mimic those around him, answering using the same word or thought
- he claims he's 11, no, 10, no, 11....
- he can't tell us when his birthday is
- he can not read to you, but is very good at echoing as he is read to
I decided, one day, to pull out some calendar words that were written in Spanish to see if I could solve the birthday mystery. I had a calendar, and sentence strips with the words written on them - in Spanish. To begin, I asked him to read some of the words.
This is when the emergency brakes screeched. I pulled out picture flashcards I have, and had him identify the picture verbally. Then I showed him the word under the picture and asked him to read it. Silence.
I found out, in this moment, that Mr. November can't read. Or write. In Spanish or English. In fact, he wasn't able to identify the letters of the spanish alphabet. I wanted to hug him and tell him that we were going to try our best to help, and how on earth has he gotten this far without something, someone, anyone... asking him to read. Or write. Someone, something, some system has failed him.
So I could step back and think, I pulled up a great website that has the spanish alphabet, and when you click on the letters it says the name of the letter out loud - which he was happy to repeat, and had a wonderful time listening to and repeating...
and all the while I was thinking.
He is in fourth grade. I'm his fourth grade teacher. I desperately want to help him. But he is on the older side of our usual "age." I'm looking for activities, lessons, games, anything and everything that can help him, but will also not be a blow to his ego. He is very conscious of surroundings and wants to be doing what everyone around him is doing... so even if it's not all of the time, I want him to be sharing in our classroom experiences...