Sometimes things don't go according to plan...
That Tuesday morning, I followed my schedule as I do every day. It was time for me to work with M and K. I love the energy they bring into the room together. They are hard workers and great listeners. They do the best they can everyday and that's all I can ask.
We have our morning work routine and we get to work right away. Except that morning...
On that day, as we all sat with our materials in hands, ready to dive into our work, M asked me, "Ms. Villalba, may I speak to K in Japanese?" I was in awe by her politeness and of course I said yes. I wasn't sure if this was a quick conversation in Japanese, if it was a matter of a yes/no answer, or if the conversation involved a discussion of some sort. So, I sat back, relaxed and watched in awe as my two students converse in their first language.
As I listened to the beautiful sound of their language, I started thinking...
* Wow. Look at them go with ease in their conversation, back and forth. It's beautiful to hear their oral language in their first language, a beautiful reminder of all the great assets they bring with them.
*This break might be a wonderful thing for their sweet brains that are overwork everyday as they learn not only a new language but also concepts and academics in that language as well. A brain break that might do wonders for them.
*I have no idea what they are saying. And that's ok. As teachers, it's important for us to sit through moments where we have no idea of what's going on. After all, this is what it might feel for them when they just arrive.
The conversation continued for about 5 minutes of beautiful Japanese sounds. Once they finished, M looked at me, vowed her head and said, "Thank you Ms. Villalba. I'm ready." And just like that, we dived into our work. Their minds were ready to absorb new learning. She was now in the headspace for work. I understand that.
Questions for Further Pondering
Are there moments in your teaching day where students have time for conversations? A moment to make space in their minds for sharing, brain dumping, or brain freeing before learning?
Do you encourage your ELL students to speak, read or write in their first language if they're able to do so?