Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Student Reflection

by Haily Pribyl-Shay

In helping out in both my classrooms at Leal Elementary School, I have learned a great deal about my strengths and weaknesses as a Spanish speaker.  Walking into the bilingual classroom for the first time was intimidating to say the least.  I did not know anything about the classroom, how it was organized, or if I was going to be able to communicate with the students and understand them.  I think I was most afraid of being accepted by the students as a new volunteer whose Spanish speaking skills were intermediate at best.  There are two other volunteers in the classroom while I am in there, and they are fluent Spanish speakers that are able to communicate easily with the students.  I try my best to observe and learn from the ways in which they use commands and interact with the children.  I knew that this was going to be an incredible opportunity for me to practice proper pronunciation, verb conjugation, and overall vocabulary development.

My very first experience involved working one on one with a girl that needed help with a rhyming worksheet. I did not know every word that was given, but I tried to help her to the best of my ability.  Although disappointed in myself for not being able to help her, I was proud of myself for being able to communicate and ask questions. While the students in the bilingual classrooms are learning English, I learn Spanish by asking them how to say certain words.  For example, the other day I was not able to think of the word for eraser, and I asked a girl how to say that word.  She smiled and said “borrador.”  Although I am still not able to understand everything that the students say, I am learning to build upon my current knowledge of key phrases and expressions in order to help the students in any way that I can.  In Spanish 232 we reviewed the basics of numbers and counting.  I was able to apply these skills to my first grade classroom at Leal.

I was asked to work one on one with another girl to help with her counting skills.  We counted by ones, twos, fives, and tens using a number chart and dry erase board.  I was surprised at how confident I became in helping the students with math because this type of tutoring involved a lot of repetition of key words and phrases.  What was most rewarding was seeing the smile on the student’s face once she completed a counting sequence correctly.  During my time in the classroom, students are assigned to various stations of different content-areas, so I usually try to pick a station that might need extra help and guidance.  Mrs. Sacco will sometimes point me in the direction she wants me to help supervise, and this helps give me direction and purpose.  She will explain that certain students are reading a book in English and they might need help with vocabulary and pronunciation or another child needs help finishing their narrative about the summer.  Other times, I am sent to help the kids concentrate and complete assignments.  It varies day to day.  But no matter the assignment, I feel happy when happy to be needed and excited to work on new activities.  My foreign language skills are slowly but surely developing and improving because of my experiences in the classrooms, and I feel fortunate to be given the opportunity to learn in a community-based setting such as Leal.

The sign in the image above reminds children about appropriate hallway behavior.  It also serves as a symbol of bilingualism, which has signs represented throughout the school.

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