This month, my "professional goal" is to meet these kids where they need me. Here are a few of the ideas I've come up with, but I'm also curious to hear your thoughts.
One strategy I'm experimenting is by using the videos of my instruction. Not only am I recording their stories from class and putting them on my YouTube channel (my kids think having a YouTube channel is so cool haha), but I'm also including the reading and a carefully chosen set of Quizlet flash cards that parents/students can practice.
In addition, I just started teaching novice students (0 hours of previous instruction) and am telling them a novice version of the stories ahead of telling my regular class their more intermediate version. I'm encouraging students who might want/need some extra practice and support to pre-listen to these easier versions of the story to understand the basic problem, characters, storyline, and vocabulary that they'll hear in their in-class version of the story (on the condition that they'll still pay attention when I tell it and won't spoil the story for others). These include the reading and flash cards as well. My hope is that by scaffolding the story this way, they'll increase their comprehension level, get more meaningful input, and I will still be able to tell the more difficult versions of the stories that the rest of the class is ready for.
Here are some other ideas that one of our excellent ELA/SPED teachers suggested after I described Story Listening to her (I'm still processing whether and how I would use them; these could be whole-group or small group) - she pointed out that typical students need 40 or more exposures to something to understand it and use it in a new way; students with learning challenges or exceptional needs can need twice that exposure to comprehend. Thus, these activities are aimed toward increasing that exposure in order to comprehend words in new contexts (PLEASE NOTE - I know that these do not lead to acquisition. Acquisition isn't my goal; rather, I would be using these strategies to increase comprehension of the input so that the stories are more comprehensible and effective for acquisition - perhaps think of these as "practical preliminary steps" in order to provide quality CI for all of my students given the particular challenges and demands of teaching in K-12 public schools) :
Interventions for students who are not comprehending the stories in the first place:
- TPR (whole group): I already do this, but making more intentional effort; my students also report that this is one of the things that helps them the most
- Signals (whole group): Something I already do, but I will continue training students to use signals to let me know when they are confused.
- "Preview" the story by going over the main characters, setting, conflict, and key vocabulary with the small group (Not the resolution, so students are still intrested in listening to get the details and find out what happens; Of course, students who watch the novice videos beforehand would have most of his information but this might be a fail-safe for students who don't watch them)
- Pre-teach the key vocabulary - I would emphasize that the point is to use the words to understand the story better, NOT the other way around, i.e. telling a story to learn the words
- Provide a Graphic organizer with the key vocab to use as a reference during the story (perhaps organizing the words into boxes that will go along with the images and "scenes" I'm drawing? I might be able to provide basic images as well that wouldn't give away the story, but help students make connections as they hear the story and watch me draw) --> They should NOT be writing on this during the story, but rather using it as a reference (Here is an example that I made and want to try out for our story next week)
- After the story, have the whole class re-tell and sequence the main steps (in L1) and have the struggling students put this information into their graphic organizer.
- Provide flash cards with key vocabulary (I'm doing this with the videos as noted above)
- Video the story for review (I'm doing this now!)
- Play games with they key vocabulary (not my favorite, but maybe something to do on a special "fun" day, like the Word Chunk Team Game or a game where students try to come up with the funniest/weirdest/saddest sentence using the verb)
Interventions for students who are understanding the story, but are not transferring what they hear to what they read, whether in context or when applying to new contexts (in addition to providing more auditory input):
- Have students who are struggling to read (and often struggling to pick appropriate reading materials) read with me in a small group until they show they are able to select and understand materials with ease.
- Students keep a small notebook to create their own dictionary of words to practice (a Montessori approach)
- When creating the personal dictionary, I help students write a sentence in a new way/context than the original use.
I think I will explore using the graphic organizer and pre-teaching in the coming weeks, although I will have to re-arrange my class activities to do small groups. As a secondary teacher, this seems a bit daunting - but I have to give it the good ol' college try! If I can pull it off and my students are able to comprehend (and therefore acquire) more, then it's absolutely worth it.