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Teachers of Refugee Students-What materials do you need?

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Joined: 26 Jun 2006
Posts: 2
Location: United States

PostPosted: Mon Jun 26, 2006 3:33 am    Post subject: Teachers of Refugee Students-What materials do you need? Reply with quote

Hi. I'm a M.A. TESOL student in the U.S. I began tutoring an adult refugee last semester and quickly became aware of how few materials are out there for beginning level ESL learners in her situation. Like many of your students, she is busy juggling many trials in her new life...English is only one of them...and she hasn't had any formal education...therefore she can't read yet, which makes most of the regular beginning texts rather useless.
After reading many of the posts in this forum, I see that you have also had similar frustrations.
So...I'm thinking of working to create a useful resource for all of us as my Masters Thesis project.
My question for you is, what do you need most?
What do you really wish you had...bundled together in a book or on a website to help you and your students?
Ideas, rants, advice, and suggestions "from the trenches" would really go a long way in getting this project off the ground and closer to a useful reality for all of us!
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Joined: 31 May 2006
Posts: 208
Location: United Kingdom

PostPosted: Sat Jul 01, 2006 1:21 am    Post subject: Things for beginner students Reply with quote

This is a very good idea... Unfortunately the things most teachers really badly need are expensive, because for real beginners people want things like colour pictures, Flash Cards etc. I am putting quite a lot of stuff on my Website, but the difficulty is then printing them and also most of the people with access to this Website already have a real headstart in the fact that they have access to PCs with Internet.

I wonder as its a Thesis, perhaps you could look at the cost of printing/making resoures that last on a very small budget. If you could work out the cheapest way possible, I think that would be very good research in itself. Most of us have to Laminate to make anything last more than 10 mins and that in itself is costly.

Perhaps even going further than that, because this is a not-for-profit project we could encourage companies to sponsor refugees and then mass-produce the project.

Here are some things I do to keep it cheap:

1. I collect old newspapers/magazines because they're a great source of colour pictures and for beginners they have cinema/TV timetables.

2. I try to use lineart, because that can be printed in Black and White

3. (And this is a bit of a cheat) I use my PC screen, because that makes it easy to teach everything in colour. I often use PowerPoint to make flash cards and present new things... It's much cheaper than printing.


P.S. If you do make some resources, I've got a Website with plenty of space for you to put them on: I could also put up a biography about yourself to impress future employers...
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Joined: 26 Jun 2006
Posts: 2
Location: United States

PostPosted: Thu Jul 06, 2006 6:11 am    Post subject: excellent food for thought Reply with quote

Thanks James for your thoughtful response. It really re-energized me to think about this project in a new way. Much appreciated.
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Joined: 12 Sep 2006
Posts: 34
Location: Oman

PostPosted: Fri Sep 15, 2006 10:20 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi Meagan:

I think your idea is a good one. I have had many years of experience in working with beginning refugees in the US from a variety of backgrounds and including those who were illiterate in their own languages.

Most of my experience came from a government funded program in Houston, Texas that had me working under some very challenging conditions (ie: mixed level students, poor classroom environments, no materials, etc.) and I soon learned how to function with only a marker or chalk, and a black board. This was after at least a year of great struggle and difficulty, however, and at that time I wished that I had some resources that would help me. There were some books like Crossroads and Real Life English that were used. In the end, however, they are never adequate by themselves. These books were good in that they were thematic, introduced useful vocabulary, and basic grammar and had tapes to go along with them. They always seemed terribly inadequate to me, however, especially in the beginning.

Upon reflection, I feel that the reason for this is that ultimately, there is no text that is going to solve our problems, but only our abilities as teachers to bring the text to life and harmonize it with where our students are at. The problem here is knowing some useful activities and ways of working with a text -any text- that make that text real and useful. I feel it is important to be able to get beyond the idea that we need a text and learn how to function with what we do have. All texts are imperfect and flawed because all teaching situations are unique. The answer, in my opinion, is not to come up with better texts, but to come up with the skills that enable teachers to function with any or no text. It is also about learning how to ask the right question to tune into the needs of the students and where they are at in their learning and their lives. With this in mind, I feel that we don't really need another theme based text that is supposed to be the newest biggest thing, but rather a book that helps new teachers ask the right questions and adapt to the given circumstances of any situation. How about something that helps teachers learn ways to communicate with people using gestures and non-verbal communication? There is a need for teachers to be able to demonstrate by example everything that is needed. How about a book that tells ways to do this? Writing a dialogue on the board with person A and person B, for instance, may be totally confusing to someone who doesn't read. Putting on different hats, changing your voice and standing in different location as you demonsrate a dialogue, on the other hand, seems to work almost without fail. Instead of a text that presents a dialogue on some issue, how about a text that gives 10 different ways of presenting dialogues of any type that tells you how to conduct them successfully? Having patience and faith in the progress of learners is important. Ways of cultivating patience and faith would, therefore, be useful and these seem to be missing from the literature. Instead of having a text that presents one person's view of a shopping theme, why not a text that presents 10 different ways to handle shopping? The keys here are awareness of options, awareness of students, and adaptability. Anyway, here are some ideas. I have more if you are interested and I wish you the best of luck.
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