Late last term, I had a student join my classroom.
When he first arrived, he didn't speak English. Or wouldn't...
It was the end of the term, I was exhausted, and I really didn't know what to do with this kid.
I started this term knowing I would have to do more for Paula.
But considering I couldn't even communicate with him, I was a bit lost...
Slowly, I began to build a relationship with Paula (albeit through a lot of sign language and translations from my other Tongan students).
I came to realise this kid is very bright.
Yes, he might not understand what is going on sometimes and stare at me confused on a daily basis, but he knew a lot more than he let on.
As he grew more comfortable in the classroom, he began singing (in English, with confidence), making friends with other boys, participating in games, even taking his turn to do maths on the whiteboard in front of everyone.
He is very confident in maths, and has been taught how to use algorithm.
I have decided to stick with that. It's not worth going back and teaching him a million number strategies when he doesn't have enough English to comprehend my explanations. He can just stick to algorithm. He is learning to skip count and memorising his times tables along with his maths group. He makes me laugh, as I ask him 2x8=?, and he skip counts in 2's in Tongan, then sits and thinks about what the English word for 16 is. But.... he knows it.
I've began teaching him some addition strategies (e.g. tidy numbers), but I think he will always prefer algorithm.
For his reading and writing, I tried getting him to do both of these in Tongan with the help of Tongan speaking students. Typically, it is better to get get ELLs (English Language Learners) to use their first language as a base, then convert to English later on. It seemed that Paula wasn't confident in Tongan, for example he refused to read aloud in Tongan. If students are not strong in their first language, it is incredibly difficult to build onto it. So, I have started teaching him to read and write in English.
He practices high frequency words with Bob almost everyday.
Today, I took him to our resource room and started at the lowest level of books.
Now, I have never taught below year 3 (7 years old). I have no idea how to teach somebody to read for the first time. I admit, I have no idea what I am doing.
Luckily for me, my friend and colleague Lucina was there as well, and helped me to decide what level to get Paula on, and she was able to recommend good books at his level. Thank you Lucina!
She modelled how she introduces new books to her students (she teaches year 1 and 2, so actually uses this level of books and knows what she is talking about) which will be super helpful for me.
Tonight I made up this Google Drawing, with audio files linked to the books so he can listen to the stories as he reads them.
I hope with time, I can help Paula to learn to read and write in English.
He is growing in confidence everyday, and I want him to feel safe enough to take risks.
So far, nobody in my class has seen Paula as 'dumb' or anything similar, but recognise that he is smart in Tongan, but needs to learn to speak English. Hence, they are happy to help him or translate for me.
Lucina and I have talked about me observing her further, and hopefully one day her observing me to give me feedback and feedforward.