Tuesday, January 22, 2013

How not to teach verbs to a fifth grade student

I am mentally drained. Foolishly, I anticipated a 30 minute or less after-school remedial (aka tutoring in the states) for a Primary 5 "P5" (aka fifth grade) student who was absent the day before due to Jakarta floods.

The session started off normal -- you know.. "Here's what we talked about.. make sure you write this down.. does that make sense?" However, like many of the students in my 5 Joy class, verb tenses are not only confusing but also extremely frustrating (perhaps for teachers and students both..)

You would think that being a native speaker of the English language makes you this know-it-all when in reality, you often find yourself frustrated as you don't recall the proper mechanics of the English language (i.e. sang vs. sung vs. sing or hang vs. hanged vs hung)

I thought I'd give the kiddo a few live demonstrations as the, "Now it's your turn to write a sentence," approach wasn't working. I should know better. It's all about modeling! (hits head) Even though this is my second year teaching, I sometimes still have to remind myself that what may seem obvious to the everyday English speaking child is not as obvious to the ELL (English Language Learner). Plus, the kids at Bina often speak more than one language on a daily basis. At school alone, they learn Mandarin and Bahasa Indonesia on top of English/Language Arts. I even have one 3rd grade student who speaks 5, yes five languages. He travels often with his family to other areas of Indonesia for whatever reason and since there are so many dialects here, it's only natural that the kid has picked a few up.

Anyway, so here I was at 2:30 in the afternoon on a Tuesday, trying my best to ignore my hunger pains as I recovered from a 2 hour lesson with 27 third graders (and a 2.5 hour lesson with 26 fifth graders before that).

The scenario with this dear 5th grade student this afternoon as we sat in remedial went something like this:

Ms Amber (A): I want you to describe what I am doing. (blows up a pink balloon randomly sitting in desk drawer)
Student (S): (eyes get big which is no surprise as my students know about my 'blonde moments') Miss, don't pop the balloon!
A: I assure you, I won't pop it this time.. Okay, now you have to tell me what I am doing in a sentence. (starts blowing up a balloon)
S: Ms Amber is blowing up a balloon.
A: Well, that would technically be present continuous as it is describing my current actions. Just keep it simple -- hence the word 'simple present tense.' Don't add the '-ing' ending.
S: Ms Amber blows up a balloon.
A: Good! How about now? (blows again and stops)
S: Ms Amber blew up a balloon.
A: Excellent. How about now? (continues blowing and is almost out of breath when student finally answers)
S: Ms Amber is blowing up a balloon.

I thought she had it (it was all I could hope for as I was currently out of breath). However, after a few practice questions, it was evident the student needed more practice.

A: (taps pen on desk) Describe what I am doing in the simple present tense.
S: Ms Amber taps her pen.
A: Yay! Okay, how about now but in the past tense? (taps again) 
S: Ms Amber tapped her pen.
A: Spell 'taapped' 
S: T-A-P-P-E-D
A: Good, how about now? (continues tapping)
S: Ms Amber is using her desk as a drum.
A: (trying not to laugh) Well, YES technically that is present continuous because of the '-ing' but I just want you to use the same verb.. Let's try again.

A: (claps hands once) Describe what I am doing in the simple present tense.
S: Ms Amber claps her hands.
A: Yay! Okay, how about now (claps again) 
S: Ms Amber clapped.
A: Spell 'clapped' 
S: C-L-A-P-P-E-D
A: Good, how about now? (continues clapping as eyes start to follow the obnoxious noise)
S: Ms Amber is giving an encore.


Looks like I will be teaching the lesson again tomorrow...

xoxo amber 

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