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Teaching pre-literate refugees

 
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passenger888



Joined: 25 Jan 2007
Posts: 2

PostPosted: Sun Feb 25, 2007 10:48 pm    Post subject: Teaching pre-literate refugees Reply with quote

Does anyone have experience teaching pre-literate adult refugees? I recently started a position teaching vocational English and Literacy. My classroom is mixed between literate and pre-literate students and I am finding it quite difficult to teach in a mixed setting. I would appreciate any advice.
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M.Hulot



Joined: 23 Jul 2007
Posts: 2

PostPosted: Thu Jul 26, 2007 3:53 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi Passenger,

Your setup sounds fairly similar to mine. The drop-in admissions policy at my school makes it extremely difficult for the instructor to teach toward a specific level, not to mention maintain a communal spirit. I hope you've discovered some useful strategies and materials since you originally posted.

I just wanted to pass along a terrific resource that's helped me immensely. It's a complete course packet for working with pre-literate adult refugee learners, put out by Tacoma Community House in Washington state. It's very practical and customizable, and the salvation of this teacher mired in a perplexing pedagogical reality.

http://www.tchtrainingproject.com/pdf/prelit.pdf

Good luck!

- M. Hulot
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Sally Olsen



Joined: 08 Apr 2004
Posts: 1305
Location: Canada,France, Brazil, Japan, Mongolia, Greenland, Canada, Mongolia, Ethiopia next

PostPosted: Thu Jul 26, 2007 4:23 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Super resource M. Hulot but that only covers the pre-literate students and you can't teach to them all the time unless you get permission to split the class and have them by themselves. I have never been able to do that in situations that I had.

Our solution was to get in volunteers and give them the manual that you have suggested so they can work with one or two students. Some of the literate students were volunteers as well for an hour or so of their lesson each day and found that it helped them to review and understand what they were learning so they could teach it. It also helped the students to become more of a gorup even though they did different work most of the time.

Are the students all of one language? Or do the literate students speak the native language of some of the students. That is a tremendous help.

Try to make as many little traditions as you can with the group so they feel part of the whole. You can have coffee hour together with a different student providing the goodies each time. You can celebrate hoidays and tell them about traditions in your area together with the literate students translating what they have learned. You can go on visits to the library or the supermarket together and again have translation for the pre-literate students.

I would highly recommend that you get someone in to teach the pre-litereate students in their own language for an hour a day though. If they learn to read and write their own language they learn English much more quickly. Again you may need to search for volunteers who can do that if there are many languages.

There are a ton of people out there who would love to volunteer - housewives with a few hours between children going to school and coming home, retired people, people wanting a reference for a job, nuns, and so on. The local police officer even used to stop by for an hour on his break once or twoice a week to help the newcomers understand he was a caring human being.

We did discuss this at
http://forums.eslcafe.com/teacher/viewtopic.php?t=1481&highlight=refegee+issues

http://forums.eslcafe.com/teacher/viewtopic.php?t=1225&highlight=literacy

http://forums.eslcafe.com/teacher/viewtopic.php?t=2763&highlight=literacy
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M.Hulot



Joined: 23 Jul 2007
Posts: 2

PostPosted: Thu Jul 26, 2007 5:13 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi Sally,

Thanks for sharing some great ideas. I particularly liked the informal whole group activities you suggested, like the coffee hour, field trips and class guests.

Like you, I don't have the luxury of separating out the pre-lit and lit students once they make it into my class. By definition my class is a Pre-Lit ESOL class, but really it's just a catch-all beginning class. The students are either totally lacking in speaking/reading skills, conversant in English but w/ no reading ability, or somewhat educated in their native country but with no knowledge of English.

The truly pre-lit students are East-African, but I also have a pair of chatty Gambian sisters, a Laotian gentleman and young Mexican housewife. Luckily, they bond really well and gently nudge each other along. I like to bring the group together most at the beginning and end of class, usually revolving around a picture, an anecdote about something they've experienced, getting them to converse at their own level. Once the spirit is up, I'll do very directive oral activities for some and have the others (who've passed the phonics stage) practice reading simple sentences and recognizing sight words. I also try to integrate some time on Rosetta Stone, in little chunks, on the topic.

The group I have has been a core group for a couple of quarters. Yet I still have drop-ins who need to work on their letters and sounds. Isn't it fun?

I need to learn how to utilize volunteers better. I'm all for it. I know a number of Amharic and Tigrinia speakers who would probably be able to cut right to the heart of what these students need.

I'd be curious to learn a little more about the pre-literate refugee program you taught in. It sounds like you took a really creative approach.

Best,

M. Hulot
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Sally Olsen



Joined: 08 Apr 2004
Posts: 1305
Location: Canada,France, Brazil, Japan, Mongolia, Greenland, Canada, Mongolia, Ethiopia next

PostPosted: Fri Jul 27, 2007 5:04 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

It was so much fun. I started the program sponsored by a school board in a little community builidng designed for the square block park it was situated on. It had washrooms, a small kitchen, a large room with benches and a small meeting room with nothing but a nice floor and two windows.

The school board gave us old computers and the students built desks for them, the school board provided tables and chairs, tape recorders and TV with VCR. We advertized in the area which is full of apartment buildings and was a known area for refugees.

I started first with a group of Italian university educated Somali students who were hoping to become settlement workers. They brought their family members who were mainly illiterate. Then we got a group of Canadians on workman's compensation who were also illiterate and with another teacher mixed the two illiterate groups. Finally we got another teacher to take advanced English as we had a lot of Mexican, Hungarian, Bulgarian, Serbian, Georgian and Lebanese students who wanted to train for jobs. I think the registrar just interviewed the students at the main board and if they didn't fit anywhere sent them to us.

We ran a skating rink in the winter, a canteen, and placed people in various jobs through our volunteers.

I thnk we had 28 volunteers at one point coming in on different days and different times. We had tape recorders and programs to go with a tape for days when a volunteer didn't arrive but the more advanced students often took over if we didn't have anyone. We even hired two of them as teachers for one session.

As you say, it is a great atmosphere and sometimes I could just go in and phone to arrange field trips or ask for donations, arrange for speakers and so on and wasn't even teaching if there were enough volunteers. It gave us time to talk individually with students and work out their problems.

The Canadian students were a great help in knowing the welfare system and where to buy things cheaply and the foreign students inspired them to work hard again and have hope despite all that had happened to them. None of the Canadian students had had the terrible experiences of war, famine and torture that the foreign students had experienced and so their problems, although great seemed a bit smaller.

The computers helped so much and we just got old ones from the computer department of the school board and they had tons of old programs for everything from phonics to Math. I just loved those old Mac Classics as they had few items on the pull down menus and tons of educational programs.

One of the students would bake every day and we often gave the students breakfast and lunch with donations from local super markets.

It is amazing now when I go back to visit these students and find out what they are doing. Most of the Canadians are still in trouble of one sort or another but they all have jobs and the foreign students are in positions of respect. Most went back to university and requalified. Many got jobs in the manufacturing industries. One of them married my son and has given us a beautiful granddaughter. What more could you ask out of teaching?
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WisconsinMom



Joined: 02 Nov 2007
Posts: 3
Location: Wisconsin

PostPosted: Mon Nov 12, 2007 3:45 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
I just wanted to pass along a terrific resource that's helped me immensely. It's a complete course packet for working with pre-literate adult refugee learners, put out by Tacoma Community House in Washington state. It's very practical and customizable, and the salvation of this teacher mired in a perplexing pedagogical reality.

http://www.tchtrainingproject.com/pdf/prelit.pdf

Good luck!

- M. Hulot


Thank you SO much for posting this link...I'm a new volunteer tutor for a young woman from Kosovo and I've had only 5 hours of very rudimentary training, with no help with making lesson plans, what to teach in what order, etc. This link will help me a LOT!
Thanks again!
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