Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Hebrew School

Still don't know why my site is screwed up, but oh well.

Had a frustrating Hebrew School class last night. I teach Resource Room, which is for both kids that have some kind of problem making it tough for them to learn a new language, or kids that come to school half-way through the year, or kids that are starting to learn Hebrew but are a lot older than the other kids in the beginner class, or kids that know a lot of Hebrew but are a lot younger than the other kids in the other classes. I have seven kids. Two are beginners that started a couple weeks ago and are now on the same level as each other. They both are learning the language quickly and are hard workers. Then I have three kids that are officially at the second level, but two have reading disabilities and the other is having a real tough time retaining stuff too, so all three of them are requiring a lot of my attention, and I'm constantly trying to come up with good strategies for them to retain what we have already done, even if it's just the sounds that all the letters and vowels make. Then I have one who is at the third level. He seems to know the Hebrew alphabet well, but is not inclined to work too hard. If I don't really watch him he could just stare off into space the whole time. My other student is officially also at that level, but has a tough time remembering the sounds of the alphabet so needs a lot of review. Basically, seven kids at four different levels. I have insisted that I now have an aide full time, but since the additional students have joined us gradually, and the aide only started yesterday, I haven't figured out how to make it all work. It's very frustrating. DH told me last night that the problem is that I'm a trained teacher, that most other people would just give the kids a bunch of busy work for them to work on in order to be able to work with each group. I can't do that - they're only with me for an hour and a half! I left class yesterday so frustrated, knowing that I didn't spend enough time with each group, and that some of the kids had to wait longer than I wanted. Apparently some of the kids thought that as well.

As I was getting ready to leave, one of the moms of the two sisters with reading problems came back. She said she was half-way home when she just had to turn around and come back. The girls had been complaining since they got in the car. They both were saying that I yelled at them (!) and had told them they couldn't ask questions anymore, that they should just know it by now. The mom believed that I didn't act this way, but I couldn't believe that both of them had this perception of me. Those of you that have seen me with kids know that I'm one of the most sensitive teachers around. At least, I feel this way. I've had too many rough experiences growing up to not be super-sensitive about everything I say. So just knowing that these girls felt this way was killing me! The girls also were complaining that we got a new kid every week, that we now had 11 kids (we have seven, but I understand the feeling) and that all they do is wait. I thanked her repeatedly for sharing all this with me, and told her to explain to the girls how frustrated I was as well and that next week will be a lot better. And then I went home and worked on it for the next two hours.

The problem was that no matter how I cut it, I wanted to start each group with some kind of direct instruction, teaching them something new, but there's no way I can do that with essentially three different classes. I finally came up with a basic plan that has me breaking the class into fifteen minute increments (something I normally do with any class because really, who can focus well for more than fifteen minutes?). During the first fifteen minutes I'm going to have the first two levels do a review game using magnetic letters with my aide. During that time, I'll work with the kids in the third level. When the timer goes off, those kids will begin doing independent work as a review/reinforcement for what they just learned with me. I will take the second level kids and give them direct instruction while my aide supervises a more in-depth review activity for the first level kids. During the next segment, I will provide direct instruction to the first level kids while the third level kids start a project/game and the second level kids do some independent work to reinforce what they just learned.

The other problem is that those kids in the middle, the three at second level, clearly are having a tough time. I know the girls have a lot of trouble reading English, so it's tough for them to work on their own. For next class, they're going to make flashcards for each of the words in the new prayer they're going to start learning. I'm going to provide them with the Hebrew AND the transliteration (the English letters for the Hebrew sounds) so they can match them up and then glue them to either side of the card. Definitely a meaningful activity, one that should make them feel good about what they're learning instead of frustrated as I'm sure they normally feel.

And I'll try to end each class with a game, asking each kid questions on their own level. I want them to enjoy coming to school. Hopefully this helps!

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