Westward Movement

Friday, September 16, 2011

Learning English

Teaching a group of second language learners often makes for interesting word choice. Students spell as they hear, and struggle with the rules of English. Next week, our kids will split into language level classes, and we'll focus on specific needs. As we were talking about individuals, I shared the 10 year old story of G, a new to the country third grader. He was eager to try, and gave it everything he had.

Our class was doing a unit on water. The first lesson focused on surface tension. The kids used droppers to place single drops of water on a penny until the surface broke. They then recorded the number of drops in their science journals. I had written on the board the following question: How many drops fit? I neglected to write the word "penny."

As I circulated the room, encouraging students and asking them about their experience, I notice that G had written in his journal, "I can fit 32 drops of water on my penis." I stifled my laugh. Of course I realized he meant penny, and had heard me mention pennies, thus spelling penny as he thought it was spelled, and adding an s. I encouraged G not to erase his error, but to lightly cross it out and write the correctly spelled word above.

Lesson learned, Stern. When we did the kit next, my question read differently. All the necessary words were on the board. 

I still have G's science journal. I smile every time I see it and every time I tell the story. 

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