I want my students to learn English.
All of it.
Or at least enough of it to be able to read, write, converse, listen, watch movies, chat with friends, go to Disney World, read the classics, buy their favorite flavor of ice cream.
The problem, of course, is that they can’t. They’re four and five years old; I have them for two years. There are some things they just aren’t going to be able to do.
So I have to set goals. What exactly can they learn in these two precious years? How much is too much? How much is too little?
It complicates things that every class is different. Every child is different. And I, as a teacher, am really bad (and really new!) at this concept of differentiated instruction. I hope to get better at it, but for the moment, I just have to understand that what last year’s K5 class breezed through, is too much, too hard, too fast, for this year’s K5. And, simultaneously, what this year’s K5 is doing is way to easy for this year’s K4, who are English lovers and ready for more than their older counterparts!
I’m really good at setting goals for my own life….and, apparently, really bad at setting them for my students. Live and learn, and I’m learning as I live, but sometimes it’s so frustrating not knowing where to focus, not knowing where to pour the precious little time and energy and resources I have. Spread it too thin (conversation, vocabulary, phonics, grammar, reading) and they learn nothing. Concentrate it too much, do too little, and I have the horrible sneaky suspicion that I’m stealing precious time from them….they could have learned more in this year, but I wasted it. I don’t want to waste it.
So that’s what I’m doing tonight: answering the question, what do my students have to know when they leave my class at the end of the year?
What should they know?
What could they know?
What do they have to know? That’s what I should focus on. That’s what I should throw time and energy into making sure even the slowest learners have the chance to learn.
What should they know? That’s what most of the class will be able to pick up on. That’s what I can do over and above the curriculum, over and above the basics. That’s the fun stuff.
What could they know? What could the faster learners, the ones with a real head for English (and, often, parents at home who know something of English), what could they learn if given the chance? How can I include opportunities for them to learn it? How can I stretch them and challenge them so they won’t get bored with the “musts” the slower learners are still struggling with?