Yesterday I have my ESL students their second quiz. It consisted of four parts: sentence scrambles, proofreading, fill-in-the-blank, and a short writing section. They did pretty well, although I think I made the proofreading section too hard (even I had to have my TA check it over, and she found a couple of mistakes that I had forgotten about). Everyone seems comfortable w/ “a” vs. “an,” and “there is” vs. “there are,” but they all missed the “their” vs. “there” mistake (oh homophones!). Only one student even noticed it, and he attemped to replace it w/ “theare’s.” Well, at least he tried to make is possessive! They also had some trouble w/ the sentence “Who are you buying those flowers for?” They all wanted to make it, “Who are buying those flowers for you?” I also caught one of them cheating, and was rather taken aback. I suspect this isn’t the first time; he did suspiciously well on one section of the last quiz. But I can’t be too hard on him…the guy is a refugee from Somalia for chrissake! It’s also funny to see how they try translate things they hear into written speech. A couple of people wrote “A” for the personal pronoun “I,” which makes sense since we are in the South, and people say things like, “Well, Ah think Ah forgot my umbrella, and now it’s raining and Ah’m all wet!” “Easy” is “esse,” “next door” becomes “neit bors”; “excited” is “exitadet,” &c. There is, of course, the usual trouble w/ the present particple, which is probably more common in English than most other languages, and also confusion about when to use “do” instead of “make,” since many other languages don’t make the distinction, and instead have one verb to serve for both (e.g. hacer, faire). I know I do the same thing in Russian. Hell, I even do it in French sometimes: I’ll try and trot out phrases that I’ve read in books. I remember one conversation about wine in which I mentioned “un caviste,” and the stoned French guy I was talking to informed me “qu’on dit plutôt ‘sommelier’.” A “caviste” is understood to be a miner. I chalked this up to a possible difference btwn. Belgian French and the French of France, since the book I had seen the word in was by a Belgian author.
I do feel like my students are my babies. Granted, they’re all probably older than I am…but still. I hold them in a v. tender regard, and I’m excited to share the beauties of my language w/ them!…Although there is this one guy who drives me crazy by clicking his pen all the time, and I occasionally want to strangle him.
We’re learning about places right now, so I had them read some passages about Lousiana, and then pretend they were writing postcards to their families about New Orleans. Most of them wrote to their mothers. They talked about the fun of Mardi Gras and the clement weather. A couple of them mentioned that there were lakes and rivers, and talked about swimming and fishing, which is frankly a little bit worrying since the water in either the Mississippi or Ponchartrain is pretty gross. Two of them also quoted directly from the handout I’d given them, earnestly informing their family members that “Louisiana is one of the nation’s largest producers of cotton, sugar cane, rice, sweet potatoes, an [sic] pecans,” and that “second largest industry tourism.” Well, at least they’re getting the nouns. In Russian I tend to blurt out nouns, and then try and connect them using all that other grammatical baggage, adverbs and what not. But I firmly believe that reading is good for them; it expands the vocabulary and exposes them to correct word order and sentence structure.
In a lot of ways, each class is an experiment. I try out activities, to see what works and what doesn’t. Some successes:
*Running dictation: students in pairs compete to see who can memorize and dictate sentences the fastest.
*Question/memory games: A good way to learn everyone’s name, and to learn how to form questions. And who doesn’t like to talk about him/herself?
*Jeopardy: Although, next time I need to remember to get them to place the final question bets BEFORE I get their answers, since I had one team steal victory from another, simply by asking for more pts. after the fact.
Other things haven’t worked out so well. The flashcards I brought for possessive nouns were kind of a bust; and partner activities w/ worksheets are either a) done independently or b) done in a language other than English.
Tmrw. I’m doing a presentation on Valentine’s Day, and I am way more excited for that than I am for the holiday itself. 😛