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February 21, 2010 3:30 PM   Subscribe

How to prime my struggling learners for success?

I am finishing a teaching certification and will be looking for a job in the fall. In addition to my anticipated specialties - Middle grades integrated, 6-12 English, K-12 Spanish - I plan to add endorsements in ESOL and Reading.
I am most interested in teaching mainstreamed struggling students, including English Language Learners and students of lower Socio-Economic Status. In addition to what I hope will be rigorous and valid educational techniques, I would like to make my classroom as hopeful and inspirational a place as possible.
Among other things, I would like to use as many non-white people as possible in my examples, and use positive priming in verbal exercises before starting the lesson. I am also interested in integrating the work of influential non-white educators into my pedagogy.
Also also, I am white. No way around it.
The actual Questions:
- Do you use priming in your classroom? If so, how?
- Where are good resources for non-white exemplary people? Bonus for those still alive/active or otherwise modern?
- Who are some influential non-white educators/education experts (besides Harry Wong)?
posted by toodleydoodley to Education (10 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
ahem - I don't need you to be a teacher to respond. Have you or your kid had a great teacher that brought struggling learners in their class up to or closer to grade level? Is your kid's teacher aware of and actively working against white privilege in the classroom? If you can describe what they're doing, I'd like to hear about it.
posted by toodleydoodley at 4:40 PM on February 21, 2010

I don't know how relevant this will be, but I tutor at school for "troubled kids". The kids I work with are 11 and 12, and they are mostly recent immigrants to Canada who are at least one grade behind their age group. One thing I've seen that worked very well was when a teacher asked everyone to write down a story that they learned from their family, or talk about an aspect of their culture. It didn't isolate the white kids, and the immigrant kids got to talk about something they knew better than anyone else, all the while practicing language skills.
posted by OLechat at 4:49 PM on February 21, 2010

awesome OLechat - that's definitely the sort of thing I'm looking for!

more please, folks?
posted by toodleydoodley at 5:17 PM on February 21, 2010

If you are working with 'troubled kids' you may want to look at Ruby Payne's work. She has done a lot of research with low income learners and I have found it very useful at my school. For example, building relationships is super important. Taking even the smallest interest in my students has helped immensely. When invited to a school play or concert I do my best to attend. If students are involved in sports I ask how their game went.
There are lots more helpful strategies in her books.
posted by sadtomato at 5:26 PM on February 21, 2010

Thanks sadtomato - I love Ruby Payne's work.

more please - and does anyone know of any non-white education experts?
posted by toodleydoodley at 5:36 PM on February 21, 2010

Read Dreamkeepers by Gloria Ladson-Billings. It is a chronicle of several successful teachers of African-American students, some white, some non. It offers a lot of practical wisdom for teaching students of color and low-income students.

In terms of priming, I find that my students enjoy call-and-response activities, especially those that build community. We have class cheers and chants for each homeroom, some of which the kids wrote themselves.

In terms of hopefulness/inspiration, I have found that while signs and slogans can be used well, there is really no substitute for the following things:

1. High expectations. That means set a high standard and hold students accountable when they don't meet it. Celebrate them when they do. This applies to behavior and academics.

2. Lots of positive reinforcement. Compliment them as much as possible and make those compliments specific and real. Examples include "that's a very thoughtful question," "I like how you used logical thinking to solve that problem," "I am impressed with your progress reading that book - you must have worked on it a lot at home."

3. Take an interest in them. Ask them about their weekend, their family, what they like. Do this every day, even if it's just for a few minutes now and then.
posted by mai at 5:53 PM on February 21, 2010 [1 favorite]

One of our math teachers recently pointed out that most of the word problems in the book are about cows and farms, things our urban students have only seen at the zoo, if at all. He's working on creating word problems that instead talk about the area of an urban block, or counting cars, or how far buildings are from fire hydrants -- things the students know about and can relate to.

I am sure there are ways to do similar things in an English classroom. While it's important for students to be exposed to great literature and cultures outside their own, to broaden their experience, it'd probably be good if, say, grammar exercises or spelling example sentences or whatever weren't all about cows and farms. :)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 7:22 PM on February 21, 2010

yay! more please!
posted by toodleydoodley at 8:22 PM on February 21, 2010

Disclaimer: I work on and its sister sites. My coworker is the editor of ColorĂ­n Colorado, and she had the following message for you:

Congratulations on being willing to take some risks and move out of your comfort zone! It's really important for kids to see themselves and their classmates (and people they may not have a chance to meet) represented throughout the curriculum.

In terms of multicultural resources, here are some ideas from Colorin Colorado, a bilingual website for teachers and parents of ELLs:

You will definitely be able to find lots of helpful resources connected to "celebration" months (Hispanic Heritage Month, Black History Month, etc.)

Here are some additional recommended resources:

Finally, you may wish to join and post something about culturally responsive teaching for ELLs on our new social network and see what else is out there! It's a great chance to interact with other teachers who have experience in the field:
posted by sa3z at 2:13 PM on February 22, 2010

you are totally the man. thank you
posted by toodleydoodley at 8:56 PM on February 22, 2010

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