The Refugee Project Part 3: Keeping it Real

‘Bringing lessons to life’ is something that all educators strive to do. As teachers, we often refer to this instructional technique as ‘comprehensible input’. Developed by American linguist, education researcher, and activist Dr. Stephen Krashen, comprehensible input simply means including as much real or ‘true to life’ input (also referred to as props and realia) as possible while teaching multilingual-emergent students. Think about it this way: if you were learning the word 植物 (pronounced /you-moe-no/ and in English meaning ‘plant’) in your Japanese language class, you’d probably appreciate your teacher showing you a picture of a real plant or, better yet, bringing a variety of plants into the classroom to help you to understand, right?

As I taught my newcomer refugee class, I knew that trust was being built, confidence was beginning to grow, and progress was slowly but surely being made in our little community of English learners. A week or so in, I decided that it was time to add some new realia to my instruction. The underlying theme of the vocabulary, songs, stories, chants and action activities (known as Total Physical Response or TPR) that I was using to teach included family words, zoo animals, and the color red. I excitedly added my own family picture, plastic but realistic zoo animals from my toy bin, and a few red balloons to my tote bag.

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The Refugee Project Part Two: A New Story

‘Your story is what you have.’ -Michelle Obama

While earning my teaching degree many moons ago, I concurrently worked as a ‘Toddler Room’ teacher at a daycare center in my community as a form of income. After graduating, I’ve gone on to teach Kindergarten for over two decades. Needless to say, I have encountered scores of people encountering ‘firsts’. The first time dropping a child off to be cared for by new people, the first time being away from mom or dad, and so much more.

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This School Year, Think Outside the Box

Lunch boxes, pencil boxes, crayon boxes, tissue boxes… students’ school supply lists can seem endless! As the 2022-23 school year arrives, who’s ready to think outside the box when considering what our children need to be successful?

It goes without saying that there are ‘must have’ items that kids need in order to be productive in school, like the resources mentioned above. More importantly, though, are the things that cannot simply be purchased during a Target run. (Target run…box store…think outside the box…get it?) Thoughtfully preparing for the fact that kids enter our schools with very personal life experiences, prior knowledge, and unique strengths is critical when starting the school year off strong---even more vital than a freshly sharpened pencil!

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