Monday, August 30, 2010

Learning about Immigrant Students' Names

With the school year just starting, we want to think about how we register immigrant students in our schools. Here are some hints about names from different cultures. All guidance counselors and school secretaries who register new students should be aware to the varying naming conventions.

Avoid the temptation to Americanize a student’s name or create a nickname. Immigrant students have already suffered the trauma of leaving behind their extended family members, friends, teachers, and schools. Don’t further traumatize your students by calling them by an American name. If the child comes to school with an Americanized name, there is not much you can do, but the school should never Americanize a student’s name. It is important to learn how names are used in your students’ culture. Here are a few examples:

1. Korean names are written with the family name (Kang) first and then the given name (Chung Hee) which usually has two parts. Two-part names should not be shortened. Also, Kang Chung Hee’s mother does not take her husband’s name, but she retains her own family name.
2. In general, children from Spanish-speaking families have a given name followed by two surnames. The first surname is the father’s family name, and the second surname is the mother’s family name. Schools should not drop either of these surnames. If a child registers as Maria Hernandez Lopez, both the Hernandez and Lopez and should be retained. Spanish-speaking families who have lived in the United States awhile will often either hyphenate the double surname or use the father’s family name.
3.Because Hindu names are often very long, family members and friends may shorten a child’s name. In school, however, teachers use the formal names. Hindu adults and children do not call anyone who is older by their name. A six-year-old girl will call her seven-year-old brother “Bhaiya” or “Older Brother” and he calls her by her first name.
4. Chinese names are usually made up of three characters. The first character is the family name, and the other two characters are the given name. Families generally give their children two names. One name is a nickname to be used by friends and family and the other is an official name used for the birth certificate and the school. Students are usually called by their full name in school, but friends and close relatives may use just the given name. One of the readers of this blog wrote to tell me that sometimes a student might have just one character for their given name. However, if the student does have two characters for their given name, both of them are used. You wouldn't use just one part of a two-part given name.
5. In Russia, children have three parts to their names: a given name, a patronymic, and the father’s surname. A patronymic is a type of middle name based on the father’s first name. If a student named Marina Viktorevna Rakhmaninova enrolls in your school, you can tell that her father’s name is Victor. The “a” at the end of all three names shows that she is female. In American schools, Russian students will often use their given and family names following American custom.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Using word walls is more than just displaying words

ASCD author Debbie Zacarian presented on the topic of word walls at TESOL 2010 in Boston. Her presentation was based on information from her latest book (co-authored with Judie Haynes)on Teaching English Language Learners Across the Content Areas (ASCD, 2010), Although this presentation was geared toward English Language Learners (ELLs), Zacarian’s points are valid for all learners.

Reading researchers such Beck, McKeown, and Kucan. (2002). divide vocabulary into three tiers: Tier 1 includes basic 1-2 syllable words or phrases used in everyday conversation (e.g., blue, pencil, chair). Tier 2 words are synonyms for Tier 1 words and translition words that mean and but and so. Tier 3 words are low-frequency multi-syllabic words that students often learn in subject area study. (eg: quadratic equation, iambic pentameter, ecosystem) These words are not generally used outside of the classroom.

English Language Learners and students who struggle to learn are often not directly taught much needed Tier 2 words. Vocabulary should be taught in chunks as opposed to single words. Zacarian uses the acronymn TWIPS to help teachers and students to consider vocabulary as key terms, words, idioms and phrases. (TWIPS) Word walls help visually communicate key vocabulary to help students to learn, understand and, most importantly, use.
Zacarian recommends having two "word walls" in your classroom to help students practice their words and phrases: one reserved for for Tier-1 and Tier-2 TWIPs, and another reserved for content-specific Tier-3 TWIPs. Transition words, such as and, but and so, for example, should be included on word walls of synonyms that students can readily see and use to develop and expand their vocabulary. The words on the Tier-3 wall should change from unit to unit. Words should not be arranged on a wall in alphabetical order but in categories. This helps students remember the words.