Within the framework of inquiry, teachers should determine activities and tasks at least in part using students’ questions. The examples in this chapter are specific examples of activities that can be carried out in myriad alternative ways. Even though learners enjoy the process of inquiry and problem-solving itself and find it motivating, effective language learning requires that the activities focus on language and content.
► Teachers’ Voices
Another issue is documenting sources off the Internet… I’m going to try using Google Scholar. There is an option under each search result that allows you to cite the resource according to five publication style sheet manuals (MLA, APA, Chicago, Harvard, Vancouver). This should help my students see the format.
Right before Thanksgiving, I taught a signs/mapping/geography unit. It was a combination of life skills and English language learning. During this activity, one of my students told me a sad story. She said her father lived about 4 hours away, in Oregon, and she hadn’t seen him in years and didn’t feel confident driving down there. After practicing with an authentic map and learning more about street signs, she smiled a lot and said it really wasn’t that hard. When we got back from break she told the class that she had, as a result of the class, driven down and visited with her father. This story inspired me and made me reflect on the lessons and activities and the impact they have, that I sometimes take for granted. The following quarter (that just ended), I took it one step further and showed students how to get into different websites that could not only provide maps, but also step-by- step directions, mileage, and even estimated time. They really enjoyed practicing planning trips and formulating presentations for the class with pictures of places they would visit. The exciting part was hearing their purpose for visiting places like Florida, California, and Arizona. Some were actually planning to visit family, and for others, it was a dream and a goal to take their children to Disneyland or other parts of this country.
All my students come from a culture of poverty. Often, within this culture, critical thinking isn’t exposed, modeled, or taught. When I first began teaching my students to problem-solve in math, it was as if they had never activated a part of their brain. They don’t take the time to reflect on what the question is actually asking; rather, they assume they know and blurt out a response that has nothing to do with the question. If it is true that “learning how to approach and solve problems, and accepting that there is often more than one answer to a question or more than one way of dealing with it, is a key part of both education and language learning,” which I believe it is, then our language learners need to acquire, be taught, how to think critically. This type of higher level thinking doesn’t occur in a vacuum. It must be systematically and repeatedly taught, modeled, and practiced. This skill will assist [English language] students not only in their language learning but in all academic areas.
I think as we reflect on cultural diversity in our classrooms, especially with ELLs [English language learners], it is important to provide opportunities for these students to learn in a style and manner that is fitting and conducive to them. Not all students think and solve problems in a linear fashion (from point A to B to C). Some students need to approach it from a different perspective, or a nonlinear approach.