Monday, April 11, 2016

Our native speakers are English language learners too

I have a new student this semester who recently moved here from Mexico. Both her spoken and written English are rather exceptional and she is an incredibly hard worker. Sometimes I forget that English is her second language when I read her writing. While reading her reflective letter for her Unfamiliar Genre Project, a transition at the beginning of one of her sentences immediately reminded me that English isn't her first language. The word was "firstable." I share this not to make fun, but to commend her for attempting to use a transition in the first place (something many students still struggle with). My guess is that she hears native speakers say "first of all" in rapid fire and therefore the words aren't enunciated when she hears them and so she interprets it as one word, "firstable."

It's easy for us to forgive this error because English is not her native language, but upon further reflection, why aren't we more forgiving with our native speaking students? English might be their first language, but they are still learning too -- and a difficult language at that -- one with more exceptions than rules. We have to remember that students aren't born with a rule book imprinted in their brains. They learn by making errors. We need to curb our frustrations when we come across them because if they're not making errors then they may as well not be learning.

When my husband and I lived in Germany, I was deathly afraid to make a mistake when I was learning the language because I didn't want people to laugh at me. So I understand how fragile minds can be when we project frustration and mockery on our students. And you know what that fear got me? An inability to become fluent in German. My husband was fearless and became fluent in 6 months.

So I want to ask you this question: Is our view of how pure and rule-abiding language should be preventing our students from even becoming fluent in their own native languages?  Do students see language as only an endless set of rules, and not as a means of communication, expression, maybe even innovation? Are we creating a classroom of fearful or fearless students?  

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Links Worth Talking About 4-10-16

Links Worth Talking About is my weekly post of curated links about education, books, and apropos of nothing.

It's been a while since I've posted to this blog. I thought finishing my master's degree would give me more time to write... but then I bought a new house and unpacking and home improvement projects have taken up a great deal of my time lately. So these links are some of my favorites from the past few weeks.

Do you know a middle school teacher who goes above and beyond? Nominate them for the NCTE  Outstanding Middle Level Educator in the English Language Arts Award. Deadline: May 1st

In March, NCTE hosted a Twitter chat about Everyday Advocacy which revolved around the idea of how we can advocate for our students and profession in small ways everyday. If you missed the chat, here is the Storify Archive.

Josh Funk is a generous, wonderful author. In this Nerdy Book Club post, he gives teachers his utmost love and praise. 

In honor of National Poetry Month, I wrote about 3 recent poetry books I am loving right now. 

Betsy Bird shares her early 2017 Caldecott and Newbery predictions 

Donalyn Miller shares the best books of 2016 (so far)

On Cult of Pedagogy, Jennifer Gonzalez tells the story of a school that increased its library use by 1,000 percent. Wow!

In another Cult of Pedagogy post, this one from 2014, Gonzalez explains why it's OK to leave spelling mistakes uncorrected (This post caused quite a stir).

Chris Boeskool shares this important post: When You're Accustomed to Privilege, Equality Feels Like Oppression

Some of these 49 phrases to calm an anxious child could work on adults too (I already shared this link with my husband)

When people hear that I teach middle school, most of the time their reaction is that of horror. I wouldn't want to teach any other age than teens. Why? Because my days are never boring.

Not a fan of reading classics but want to at least know what all the fuss is about? Here are Extremely Shortened Versions of Classic Books for Lazy People. :) 

Here are a few links to feed my recently discovered Hamilton obsession:
The sheet music for the musical is now available! I'm already practicing the title song on the piano.
Charlie Rose interviews Lin Manuel-Miranda
‘Hamilton’ Star Daveed Diggs on Being in the Room Where It Happens
'Hamilton Takes a Road Trip to the White House 
The New York Times Learning Network has some suggestions for using Hamilton in the classroom.

My husband and I lived in Germany for a few years and despite the fact that German will never be granted the World's Most Beautiful Language Award, we love the language just the same. I mean how can you not with words like these

And apropos of nothing other than my love of dogs:
LA just opened a dog cafe and I am insistent that we get one in Michigan!
Puppies invaded a retirement home, pre-school, and gym. Pure bliss ensued.