Teaching is teaching. That's what this summer has taught me above all else.
The dynamics between teaching adults and children are different for sure (have I mentioned that they actually LISTEN and do things the first time you tell them to?) but the major themes/concepts remain the same.
The volunteer program that we've been given to work with this summer is interesting. There are definitely aspects that I will steal to use with my own bilingual students (mostly newcomers) during the regular school year (most of which involve acting things out and having students interview each other to practice new sentence structures). There are other aspects, however, that just make me want to shake my head at the university professor who developed the program.
To summarize, so as not to belabor the unimportant, the first several lessons introduce vocabulary and verbs in the form of commands. The words and actions correspond with picture stories that will not actually be seen by my students until 10 lessons from now. That's right, all of the work and effort that we're putting into learning and teaching this information is completely without context. Now I don't know if anyone is tired of me and my soap box when it comes to this point, but here I go again: LEARNING TAKES PLACE WHEN DIRECTLY RELATED TO REAL-LIFE SITUATIONS THAT STUDENTS HAVE A VESTED INTEREST IN. In short, if something has no meaning, it will not be retained.
Something about teaching students who have very pressing real-life issues (like adults tend to) with jobs and children and finances (to say the least) who are willing to still take time out of their schedules to learn something new and difficult REALLY drives the point home. The words "star, coins, fish, gift, and book" do not mean a damn thing without meaningful context with which to use them.
This time, in order to in some way remedy the situation, I took the coins out and extended the lesson, having the students learn and practice the individual names of each coin and their respective denominations. Not only did the students enjoy practicing asking for and handing out money in English, but they talked about how it would make their interactions both personally and at retail establishments so much more comprehensible. And thank heavens, because that was the goal!
The problem comes along when I am inevitably given information the I can't think of how to logically connect to anything substantial. OR, when other volunteers who are extremely well-intentioned but have no teaching background do not think to improvise. I hate the idea of wasting peoples' time when everything in my training tells me that there's a better way to get things done. Crazy teacher mind.