I always wondered what kind of amazing inspiration Annie Sullivan, Helen Keller's teacher must have had, but I am learning her inspiration must have been her student. As a teacher, you have to be inspired by your students where they are now and you have to reach out to them. I still think Annie Sullivan had a stroke of genius, but I am learning to find ways to reach my student who speaks no English.
SEI (Structured English Immersion) is the philosophy used in education for ELLs (English Language Learners) in my state. In SEI (at least the model used here), the general classroom teacher is also the English language teacher. There is no work done with these students out of the classroom. I guess this is supposed to be "immersion."
This year, I have a third grade student who speaks only Mandarin. She learned to read and write using characters. She does not know one word of English--not even yes and no. She doesn't know letters. She is such a bright girl, but she is completely in the dark about what I and everyone else in the school is saying.
I am also responsible for teaching this child third grade content. That's almost funny considering the circumstances, but I am. So, I am having to find ways to communicate.
I am using a Chinese to English dictionary to help translate key words, but it doesn't translate exactly because the languages are so vastly different. Today, I borrowed letter cards with animals from kindergarten and I had her write the characters on post-its for each animal and stick them to the cards. I am first going to teach her the words for the animal and then we'll start on phonemes and letter sounds. This went very well today, and I had the idea to make my own letter cards using more practical items. I printed out photos of pencils, buses, water bottles, and a variety of other things. I am going to use one for each letter, then I will have her write the translations tomorrow. We'll do letters and basic communication at the same time. It was like my own little Annie Sullivan moment of inspiration.