Catherine Lamb is a teacher in Shanghai, China and is, coincidentally, my mother! The beginning of her teaching career started with the birth of her first child, and continued until her youngest (that’s me!) was preparing to leave the nest. She then returned to the workforce. She currently works as a Primary Reception (Kindergarten) teacher and grade coordinator in a British international school.
Because she is located in an international school in Shanghai, Mrs. Lamb’s students are often from many different countries. They speak many first languages but their knowledge of English varies from fluency to none at all. She has had students from Brazil, Korea, Japan, Hong Kong, Britain, America, China, etc. Her classroom is bilingual, and she team-teaches with a Mandarin speaking teacher; part of the day’s instruction is held in Mandarin and the rest is in English.
Tips from the Teacher:
1. Repeat repeat repeat. Repetition is key with young kids. Don’t worry about boring them. The repetition will bring fluency and confidence. When I give instructions, I model them; I say the same line over and over and over and I circulate among the children. Sometimes I say something twenty-four times, “Johnny, now it is your turn to show us your living thing. Susy, now it is your turn to show us your living thing.” Repeat repeat. After the “reader of the day” reads, I always ask the same question: “Do you want to keep this in your reading folder or put it in the red bin?” By the time a shy speaker reads, he knows that question is coming and what it means, so he will be ready for it and have a successful experience responding.
2. Follow a strict routine so they know what comes next. My students are tossed into a world where they can’t understand what’s happening. They are young too. Knowing what comes next comforts them. Seeing the schedule and knowing when they will go home gives them a sense of security. Even now (when they’ve memorized the schedule better than I have) they look at it first upon arrival. If I haven’t updated it for the day they want to help me get it ready. They question any new items. One of my students was struggling with being away from his mom everyday, so every day at noon he’d go through the schedule with me to ensure himself he got to go home. The ELL students learn how to spell class subject names because they learn quickly what each word means and they know exactly where to find those words on the schedule.