Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Not Fast Enough

Below my response to a tutor's monthly report. She expressed some concerns about how her learner was not learning fast enough and having trouble doing worksheets for homework.  

I wanted to reply to your feedback as soon as I read it. It has been four months since you and H. got started.  Let me see if I can summarize your concerns and try to address them in some kind of coherent order.

  1. Linda is not learning fast enough
  2. It’s hard to get her to converse in English
  3.  Explaining the exercises in English takes extra time, when you can do it in Spanish.
  4. She may need easier assignments to do for homework. Audio resources may help because her vision is poor.

Well, one thing seems clear. You’ve gotten to know her pretty well in the time you’ve had together. I think you can be happy with the fact that she is working hard and trying faithfully to learn...Language learning is usually slow, there’s not much getting around that. The fact that she’s actively trying to do the work you give her is wonderful news.
                I might be able to answer several of your concerns...with one suggestion.  Given that she is not a quick learner, that explaining things is tough and that you were thinking about audio resources, why don’t you give her audio homework? Here is a place where you can find songs with accompanying videos and lyrics:  http://www.esolcourses.com/topics/learn-english-with-songs.html.  If you look across the top of the webpage you will see that you can choose songs from three lists—Easy, Medium and Hard. In the Medium category I heard the very slow-singing Rufus Wainwright version of John Lennon’s “Across the Universe”  Here’s a link to that, by the way: http://www.esolcourses.com/content/topics/songs/rufus-wainwright/across-the-universe.html
                You could think in terms of “easier or harder” assignments, but maybe the better question concerns appropriateness to her learning style. The academic approach—textbooks and worksheets—works for some. But most learners at LitNet don’t come from an academic background and mindset. It occurs to me that you could structure conversation around the Wainwright song.  Ask her to listen to the song and use her dictionary to look up one or two phrases that may have confused her, then try to bring what she learned to your next lesson. Ask her to think of how the song made her feel, and what it made her think of.  Again, she could look up the words for those feelings and then try to talk to you about them using new vocabulary.  Having an emotional content helps many learners process new language skills.
                In addition, you can also assign worksheets. You don’t have to stop doing that. It’s great that you’re assigning homework and she’s trying to do it.  Here is a link to where you might find some worksheets:  www.delicious.com/literacy_network/worksheets. One of the sites there had some worksheets on various topics, including count/non-count nouns, for example: http://englishforeveryone.org/PDFs/Count_and_Non-Count.pdf. 
Thanks for being someone’s tutor

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