Wednesday, January 22, 2014

‘We Are Inspired’: Learning about Martin Luther King Jr. Day in Encamínate’s Multi Level Classroom

 Reader to Reader’s literacy program, Encamínate, is back in full swing at Kelly and EN White Schools in Holyoke, MA! Parents from the fall have welcomed in nine new parents in the first week alone and both groups are excited about moving forward. These parents bring a special brand of optimism and enthusiasm for learning to the program each day, which is what enables quality learning to take place in our multi-level language environment. 

Let’s take a close look at how multi-level classes function at Encamínate.  For example one lesson last week was focused on a theme, the upcoming Martin Luther King Jr Day.   After the morning routine of basic conversation and weather, we started with the whole group together calling out words to describe MLK and forming a word cloud on the board. Those who didn’t have enough English to express their ideas were encouraged not to hold back but to go ahead and use Spanish. This way everyone benefited from the debriefing of MLK’s persona and life’s work. New English vocabulary words were explained and noted down by all. Next everyone listened to the last 5 minutes of the I Have a Dream speech, while reading along with a transcript to enhance comprehension. Afterwards the group made another word cloud all together about the emotional content in the speech and how they felt while listening to the recording, even if they couldn’t understand all of the language. More advanced students verbally translated the main ideas of the speech into Spanish, explaining more vocabulary words like “freedom” and “prodigious.”  Next the group analyzed a hand out with graphics comparing racial discrimination today with that of the 1960’s, which led to a quite vigorous bilingual discussion amongst all.

 Finally, after a brief break, the group split into levels. Those who were more advanced read a short biography of MLK Jr, and while reading worked on identifying irregular past tense verbs and regular past tense verbs in the text. After the first silent read through, they took turns reading sentence by sentence out loud, snapping when an irregular verb in past tense was read and clapping when a regular verb in past tense was read. After this they formed teams of three and used the biographies and a short timeline of important events in the life of MLK Jr to make a poster using images that were provided and put together a 2 minute oral presentation for the rest of the class.

Meanwhile, the less advanced students worked on practicing sentences in simple present with the verb “to be” in negative and then question forms. First they completed fill in the blank worksheets to warm up. Then they put away their notes and started the speaking activity: taking turns making sentences by drawing a card with a pronoun written on it, conjugating the verb “to be” accordingly and then pairing it with one of the emotion words that we had written on the board to describe the I Have a Dream speech earlier in order to form a full sentence. For example someone might draw the pronoun card “we” and select the word  “inspired” from the board to then form the sentences “We are inspired,” “We are not inspired,” or “Are we inspired?”  For the last ten minutes, the three teams of more advanced students gave their presentations on the life of MLK Jr for the rest of the group.

Parents come to Encamínate to learn English and to benefit from the family literacy and school engagement opportunities that the program offers. Learning or reviewing about MLK Jr, just as their children are doing at school at this time of the year, will help parents support their children’s learning and will naturally boost conversations and sharing of information at home amongst the family. Every parent can be an asset to their children’s educational experience and Encamínate strives to empower and inspire parents in their role. 

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