Scaffolding vs showing off and talking too much

Friday night I found welcome relief from science; from imagining the motion of matter along gravity-created geodesics in curved space-time. Rocky's Sports Bar? Studio 10 Theatres? Nope. A quiet kitchen and a chance to tell the story of Canada.

I support a learner who reads at a lower-level, and who wants help prepping for her citizenship test. It's not an ESL gig - English is her first language. But she is from Africa, and so her spoken vocabulary lacks many of the words and phrases she'll need to pass. It's the problem of background knowledge again, compounded by low literacy.

Last Friday was our fourth or fifth meeting, and as I told the story of the growing web of railways, I drew maps and charts, wrote out the names of people and places, and generally represented graphically whatever I was presenting verbally.

I always do this, and it makes sense for me because I'm a "visual" learner - I learn by visualizing and/or by recasting ideas in graphic form.

But does it make sense for her?

I was right in the middle of printing out F-e-d-e-r-a-l, when it occurred to me that I might as well be printing out, well, g-e-o-d-e-s-i-c.

Then, I got to thinking about me yammering on and on - I do love showing off, as I'm sure you noticed! - leaving her the role of passive learner.

Now, it's not exactly that bad. Well, yeah. It is. I've given her some blank maps to write in, but that's it.

So, course correction. Before we meet again, I've got to devise some active learning activities appropriate for a learner with limited background knowledge about our country, and who reads independently at a level two.

If, um, you've got something like that in hand, you will let me know. Right?



Action Read Blog said...

How about getting her to play railway engineer? Ask her to plan a route for railways across the country. Work with her to research the cities and towns that might serve as stations, the landscape that will have to be traversed, the labour force available to do the work in the 19th century, the pros and cons of a more accessible and better connected Canada. I don't know where she's from in Africa, but there are railways across the continent, so she may be able to link this exercise up to stories more familiar from her native land. Sorry I don't have anything in hand, I just enjoy creative lesson planning! -Kimm Khagram, Action Read

Wendell said...

Creative lesson planning indeed! Thanks for that, Kimm.

Anne Dunn said...

It's a bit hard, not knowing what she has to learn or do, but try a large map of Canada and handing her pictures, and cards with words, phrases and sentences. Get her to group them and then explain each stage and match the sentences. Start with simple phrases and vocab and then gradually build up to more complex sentences. The pics are crucial as they will help lock the images with the words in her mind. Grab a kid's history of canada -- that sort of thing. Then if it's a matter of spoken vocab, get her to tell you all about the pictures, using some of the vocab and phrases on the cards. You can rehearse bit by bit.

A lot of African students are really good as learning aurally and orally, as their schools are poor in written/reading resources.
Good luck.

Wendell said...

You're right, Anne. Pictures and picture-phrase combinations will certainly be important (maybe used in conjuction with Kimm's railway route idea - we can take a virtual train trip across the country).

You've also got me thinking about a timeline built of image & phrase cards.