1) Perceval vs. Manon
I tutor two six-year-olds from two different families right now. One is a boy, and one is a girl, whom I’ll call Perceval and Manon. Perceval is in CP and knows how to read and write. Manon isn’t yet in CP and can’t do either. The two kids and their classes are incredibly different.

Manon lives with her dad half of the week and he’s the one who hired me to do English with her starting in April, once a week, and talked me down from my normal asking price. She had started doing in English with a Canadian student, who charged very little, and who had to go home because of visa problems. I have no idea what they did together. Conversations with her dad are pretty much nonexistent, although he is of course friendly and courteous. They pick me up at the bus stop and drive me to their house with the radio on, where Manon and I spend 45 minutes struggling to focus on English and usually failing at some point, long before 45 minutes are up. Manon does almost everything she can to not do English. One week we tried playing Memory with cards with fruit/veggies on them. One week we tried a sort of TPR activity. One week we tried playing 7 Families in English (more or less). And last week I gave in and we watched English videos on her dad’s computer. I have no idea how much she’s learning because she doesn’t like to demonstrate what she knows.

I work with Perceval and his parents once a week on Wednesday, doing a half hour of English with Perceval and then one and a half hours with his parents. Perceval is almost always agreeable, although of course no six-year-old is always on task, and planning for him is easy. An activity that I know wouldn’t work with Manon works immediately with him. He retains words from week to week because his dad listens in and notes down the words and phrases we’re learning and reviews them with him during the week. We only do half an hour and we always end in the middle of something.

Needless to say, I really like working with Perceval and I dread my afternoons with Manon. There’s nothing wrong with Manon as a kid, obviously. But she has no motivation to do English, unlike Perceval who sees his parents working on it themselves and whose parents work on it with him. I know Perceval’s parents and I know I could talk to them if there were ever a problem. When Manon acts up, her dad occasionally yells at her (not too loud of course) and then she behaves for about three minutes, and we never talk about it. It’s very hard to get a word of English out of her some days. I’m sort of at my limit with her and think that when tutoring stops for the summer (which I assume it will), I’ll try to find someone else for her to work with in the fall.

2) In search of project ideas
I’m trying to plan my fall semester and am starting with my first-years. I already have a couple of projects that I did last fall that I’m going to do again. But I’d like to ask the students to do something big but low-stress at the end of the semester, a presentation or “animation” of a class session, that they can build on and work on in groups/with the rest of the class online in the second semester. I was thinking about something involving English-speaking countries, or planning a trip, or both. Any ideas? I know this is sort of vague.


4 thoughts on “Teaching

  1. Have you tried songs with Manon? In my experience my students loved, loved, loved singing. Even the horrible songs I made up they thought were fantastic! Chanting was big too. I can forward you some songs if you like.

  2. Another thought – what about coloring? I used coloring very successfully when I worked with a CLIS class. I was so amazed and proud that the kids were able to retain some colors! Kiz Club is a really great resource and they have these fun color filed you can make: http://kizclub.com/colors.htm They also have some really good number and counting stuff. Check the site out and see if you can use anything.

  3. Thanks for the ideas Soleil! Coloring is a big part of what we do. She’s begrudgingly learned some colors—though she rarely says them out loud, I know she knows them. She also knows 1-7, a couple of fruits, 2 or 3 animals, and family members. So maybe I’m not failing as miserably as I thought. But I still think I’m going to let her go—I just have to decide when. Turns out the dad wants to do lessons during the summer.

  4. You are definitely not failing. It’s really hard to teach little kids who barely know French! What about body parts and the song Head Shoulders Knees and Toes? Every single kid I ever taught LOVED that song, they used to bed to do “the dance.” She may already know it in French, actually.

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