This past week, my good friend Tracy Martin came to play with my students and me after school.
Last year, I started this amazing group called Acting Up! It’s for English Learners to practice English while working on fulfilling community service requirements. Each year, students at my school must do 10 hours of community service, or 40 by the time they graduate.
The problem is, my students don’t really understand what community service is, or why you would want to take time out of your day to go pick up trash or give out water at a 5K or sort through donated clothes or the like. Why would you do that when you have so much to do at home?
And, my students don’t understand much of what I’m saying.
So, I decided to create this group to make it a little more fun to get done what needs to be done and to help them move forward quickly in their English acquisition process.
Week 1, we tried to look at multilingual stories. I’d love to have students bring to life stories they heard from home. We tried reading Going on a Lion Hunt. But those students didn’t feel excited about this. So they didn’t show up for week 2.
Week 2. New, smaller crowd. We read the Three Little Pigs, which none of these kiddos had heard of before. We talked about sound effects and what kids would like to hear. We talked about how we could make our voices funny in a script.
Week 3. Tracy. We played this FANTASTIC game that combined so many games we had played before. We made shapes while saying our names. Others mirrored that shape. Then we added feelings to that shape.
“What does my shape look like?” Tracy asked.
Students shouted out possible responses:
We voted for the one we thought fit it best, then we moved on. The chairs we sat in then became the “stations” for those emotions.
We practiced moving across the circle in different ways that reflected the sounds we would hear in Going on a Lion Hunt by David Axtell: Swishy swashy, swishy, swashy! (mimicking the sound of grass, pantomiming pushing the grass aside). Splish! Splosh! Splish!Splosh! (mimicking the sound of splashing through the lake). But each time, we’d get to our chairs and go back to those emotions we defined at the beginning.
It was such a beautiful experience, bringing to life words students were encountering for the first time… words like PENSIVE and DEPRESSED. So lovely!
Finally, we read the book. And those words truly came to life. I can’t wait to see what tricks Tracy has up her sleeves this time. And I hope that my students bring back friends.
For teachers of English Learners, our lives are not always predictable. One of my families might be moving, and with that, they will take just about half of my club. It makes me sad. I’m so happy that they are finding a better apartment to live in and that their opportunities may be growing.
But if they leave, I will be sad. And I will have to work to get more students to come in and work with me on bringing this project to life.