Sunday, November 17, 2013

First Post!

I am convinced that the reason neither Molly nor myself has posted on our shiny new blog is because we are both being polite and waiting for the other to be the first. But, because we are so darned polite, this blog had the potential to never get kick-started. I am SURE that it has nothing to do with our very busy lives! Even though I don't have anything particularly brilliant to say (today), I figured I would post anyway. While, the blog will be a general second grade resource for other teachers and a place for me and my colleague, and friend, Molly to reflect, I have a particular soapbox to get up on today! I just got back last week from a conference in Albuquerque that I thought would be good to start with. It was called La Cosecha, and it was about all things related to dual language education. For me, a startlingly monolingual person, it was enlightening. The population in our school is fast becoming 50/50 English and Spanish speakers. Because I teach in second grade, the students come to me knowing English very well; our Kindergarten and first grade teachers do an amazing job. My Spanish speaking students often struggle with vocabulary and sometimes background knowledge, but are conversational and very functional English speakers. The "ah ha" moment for me at the conference was learning how important it is to have all children fluent in reading, writing, and speaking their first language in addition to their second. Many of my Spanish speaking students are not able to read or write in Spanish. I want that for them. On the other side of the coin, I want that for our English speakers too. So many others countries graduate students who are bilingual or even trilingual. They go out into the world with increased confidence and great job prospects. They don't expect that others will be able to speak their language, like I do when I travel. AND, it is so good for their brain development. My 4 year old son is slightly less monolingual than me because he has has a fantastic program in his preschool in Spanish. My wish for him is that he be as bilingual as possible when he graduates from college and hits the world/work force. My first step as a teacher is to try to get my very hesitant Spanish-speaking students to WANT to learn to read in Spanish.  I am also trying to build my knowledge of Spanish, which will be a slow process, but is exciting! On the way home from the conference in the Chicago airport, the 11 teachers from my school who attended the conference played the card game UNO, in Spanish. It was so much fun! We were probably torturing the people around us with our raucous behavior, but it was a ball. I decided to try the game on Friday with some small groups of students. We had a great time and both the Spanish and English kids loved it equally. To make it possible, I pre-taught a couple of phrases (lo siento and tramposo) that we practiced ahead of time, so that we could poke fun at each other while playing. I also had cards laid out around us with the words for the colors in Spanish. Most kids knew the words for the numbers 1-9, so I just had to teach them the number for zero. After that, we just began to play. Our Spanish-speakers taught us the words to say your turn, reverse, and skip while we were playing. It was a simple way (and was crazy fun) to start my process of reaching outside my comfort zone. I am not a Spanish-speaker (yet), but I can foster experiences to help kids realize the fun and benefit of being bilingual. It helped my students get those synapses firing while having fun! I'm looking forward to learning more and posting updates on my progress. Welcome to A Bird's Eye View!