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LONG POST- Tutoring Mandarin Exchange Student - Suggestions

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Joined: 24 Jan 2013
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PostPosted: Sun Jan 27, 2013 6:35 pm    Post subject: LONG POST- Tutoring Mandarin Exchange Student - Suggestions Reply with quote


Forgive the length of this post, and the typing errors, as I'm writing from a tablet. I have ESOL certification, but it being one of those "quicky" courses, it does not cover this.

I'm part of a tutoring service, and a man reached out to me to tutor his exchange student who has been placed in a catholic school -about two months ago - for the remainder of the school term. The young man is eighteen and in the 11th grade. He's extremely pleasant, and polite. I'm told he's doing well in math and the sciences, but failing contemporary lit and history of religion- badly. He's reading and listening on tape, studying from the time he gets home till bed, yet, out of 40 questions, he'll get five right.
The teachers don't seem to understand the wide chasm between American and Asian grammar/linguistics, and frankly, don't appear to care, or else they would have reached out a but more and a lot sooner. For instance, last year, they taught the students about the MLA and essay-writing. I assume each student in this class now owns their own MLA. My student has knowledge of the book, but doesn't own one, and apparently hasn''t been told to get one! Yet, his first paper - littered with errors - received a bad grade, and no adults were notified until,....

The next paper assignment, where this student was brought under the threat of being expelled due to plagiarism.That's right, this student wrote a paper that was measured against some software that determined he copied more than responded to a book he read.
He didn't get into trouble - they recognized he didn't understand the book, the assignment, what was expected, etc., - but the incident is noted in his file. This bothers me, since it seems the school is responsible to make sure the child is capable of the work, or they take the child with the understanding that they will make all tools are available to help him understand. I mean, this is a private catholic school-what are they being paid for??

So, now this is where I'm contacted.

I go and visit the student, and he's hardly able to string a sentence together, which tells me he is not being asked questions unless absolutely necessary. I determined he is operating on a 6th grade level, but am not sure if this due to the language barrier or if he has other issues with comprehension that have not been disclosed. After talking and assessing him, I decide his situation calls for a pre-academic esl" approach. This kid needs to pass these two courses, and then make sure he knows what to work on if he intends to continue going to school here. The need is immediate, and there is little time for anything else.

Fortunately, I was able to find one of his assigned books in ESL format, and I found on the web summaries, questions, and other helps - no cliffs' notes - that level the playing field, but I'm still not sure he is grasping content.

Your input is greatly needed. I'm only seeing him 2 hours a week, but I feel like I should see him almost daily to get him through this.
What should I be providing him? I can help him write a paper, but what he needs is to improve his reading, writing and listening comprehension or else anything I do is immediate and short-lived.

I'll know for sure next week, as I told him to email me with questions ( When we met he was on the sixth chapter of a book that I now have him reading from the first chapter again, using the helps I gave him), and to expect me to write him asking questions on what he's read.

I also have him writing down unfamiliar words and looking them up, something that would be horrible to do in the book given to him by the school, but it should be easier now. This kid doesn't have a real dictionary, relying on the computer. Well, right now, we're working from a place where pencils, paper, dictionary ( I directed him to the Longman dictionary) are his major tools.

If anyone has ideas/opinions on this, please share. Should we be meeting more? Am I right to do the "pre-academic esl" track with him? How much of his intelligence/ignorance should I assume here, and how do I respond or work with it for the benefit of his getting through the school year?

Finally - how common is it to send an Asian student with practically NO literacy skills or comprehension, as an exchange student? What kind of standards are being met to make this possible, where the child doesn't even know to own a dictionary?
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Sally Olsen

Joined: 08 Apr 2004
Posts: 1322
Location: Canada,France, Brazil, Japan, Mongolia, Greenland, Canada, Mongolia, Ethiopia next

PostPosted: Mon Jan 28, 2013 3:05 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

This is really common. Many schools have been forced to have special ESL classes for these students and students who have transferred to the area with similar capabilities. Unfortunately extra help costs money and most educational facilities are being cut back so ESL is the first to go.

There are many things you can do though. If possible meet with the teachers, with permission of everyone involved and find out what is being done and eventually, if you can establish a rapport with them, suggest what can be done to help him. (The first session will probably just require that you listen to their complaints and promise that you will help him with the problems. Be completely supportive - no criticisms or embarrassing questions. In further sessions, you can suggest things that might help. You or the homestay parents are entitled to meet with the teachers several times - at least at report card time. The better buddies you are with them, the more they will help. )

He needs a fellow student buddy or several for each course to work with him on his subject but more importantly establish friendships. He shouldn't be studying every night until bed and not get to know people and the area.

This will help his oral English skills as well.

I think you have started in the right place but it won't help him for a long time so he needs to have a reprieve from judgement for a long time. He can turn in assignments and you can use those to check on his progress but little else at this time. There is not much use going over the assignment if he is getting that much wrong. His buddies can help him with three or four questions so he can get a few more right but he shouldn't be worried about his progress and getting everything right at the moment, just understand one or two more things each time. This will be hard for him because he is probably used to getting top marks. You will have to encourage him to hold on and to appreciate all he is learning.

He should be watching some TV with subtitles in English for an hour or so a day.

You obviously have a supportive homestay parent and they can help him some I'm sure.

Of course, more help from you with the basics will be helpful but who is paying for this? The more help he can get from the institutions, the better.
Are there free English lessons in the community anywhere? Can he repeat the courses in summer school?

If he doesn't have any problems with learning, which should have shown up in his native language by this time, he will probably learn at a great rate and be up with is class in the middle of grade 12. It is always amazing to me how quickly they learn in a completely English environment but it should be fun too so he has good memories.

Is the dictionary in his language and English?

The criteria for accepting ESL students is money.
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Joined: 24 Jan 2013
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PostPosted: Wed Jan 30, 2013 6:46 am    Post subject: Thanks Sally! - Tutoring Mandarins Exchange Student Reply with quote

Hi Sally,
Thanks for your input, I feel a lot more confident southward I'm seeing now. There has been some interesting things going on right now. The school and the family had a meeting on Monday. It was to reach some kind of understanding on expectations of all parties involved. I had a long talk with the guardian of the exchange student. It appears my concerns are shared by quite a few people. The student is the son of doctor. The mother works for the government over there. They are determined to have their child attend a big- name school here. According to paperwork received, it appears the student had all "A's" and "B's" in China, but there is nothing -nothing - to suggest that. He's been here long enough to have acquired some of the skills taught in the classroom,yet, everything seems new to him.
I gave him a study sheet on Monday where I asked specific questions about the first chapter this text. He's red this chapter 10 tines already and he has summaries, quotes ...everything. I even gave him lead in sentences to respond with, and fill in the word questions with answers that are right there. The paper I got back was unrecognizable. This kid has been turning in papers, pop quizzes, etc., regularly, and this looks like...,Well, anyway, let's just say as a mother of three children, who are now grown and using their own credit cards, I think I can spot someone who isn't trying very hard. At one point, the kid wrote the longest run-on sentence I had ever seen, with only three commas!
I took a deep breath, set my italics on the computer, and began pointing out what was wrong, and instructed him on how to fix it. Gave it back to him, and told him I expect to see the necessary changes.
I now have a strange feeling about this, that the boy transcripts may not reflect the grades his grades suggest.
there's more but I'm still digesting...
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