Monday, April 4, 2016

#SOL16 The Word Gap

I tweet. I vox. I even snapchat now. But I haven't really embraced podcasts until the last couple of weeks. After reading a great post by Kimberley Moran about the podcast her students created, I knew I needed to listen more to podcasts. I couldn't really envision a way for my students to create their own podcasts or even why they should do that until I saw the value myself. Now I can say I am a podcast lover!

One of the podcasts I started listening to was Penny Kittle's Book Love Foundation Podcast Teacher Learning Series. Today I listened to a podcast about teachers as leaders. During the conversation, a teacher shared how being part of a local site of the National Writing Project gave her confidence with her writing and support as she learned strategies to teach writing. Penny spoke about the model of teachers sharing with each other as being so powerful and how the Writing Project remains the most favored professional development. 

This was music to my Writing Project ears. I have been part of the Long Island Writing Project since 2002 and most recently became one of the co-directors of the site. Last weekend, my friend and fellow Slice of Life blogger, Barbara Suter, prepared and presented an engaging and rich conversation about poetry and ENL students. (ENL is the latest acronym for ESL- it stands for "English as a New Language.") Barbara had so many beautiful poetry books on display, as well as several samples of books her ENL students had created. 

She opened with a lovely Native American Prayer Poem, which we read together, as Native American inspired music played softly in the background. Then, Barbara moved to reading two separate pieces aloud, asking us to take notes and then pull together our thoughts on the two texts. One was an article about the word gap between children in poverty and children from homes with professional parents (the Hart and Risley study). The other piece was about poetry not being a test, not having one "right answer." From both pieces, I wrote a poem, which I will share for today's Slice:

The Word Gap

My 3 year old Megan
knows many words:
customer
spatula
buffet
tunic
banister
She sings all the time.
My father has taught her
to sing "Weave Me the Sunshine"
Megan sings, "Weave me 
the hope of the new tomorrow
And I'll be back again."
My mother reads to her,
sings to her, 
takes her to the library,
where she soaks up words
like a thirsty sponge,
then sprinkles them
smartly in conversation.

I am at work,
where my 3rd graders
are often puzzled 
by what words mean.
They stop me 
during read alouds
and in books they read,
jotting down the words
on a piece of paper
adding to our bucket 
of unfamiliar words.
The ENL teacher 
who works with me
one period a day,
stops to explain words
I take for granted they know.
I move full steam ahead,
Not understanding...
They don't understand. 


Many thanks to Barbara for a thought-provoking presentation that has given me much to reflect upon as a teacher who works with students learning English. The LIWP Director, Darshna Katwala, wrote a beautiful poem inspired by Barbara's workshop. You can find it here