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Monday, February 09, 2009

No habla ingles

It's that time, once again, for the kids to do their TELPAS writing samples. I think I blogged about the TELPAS last year, calling it the stupidest, most subjective test ever. Thankfully, I passed it after the 3rd time last year and I don't have to take it again. Also thankfully, the test is for teachers and NOT for the kids.

All the kids have to do is write when I ask them to, ABOUT what I ask them to. There's really only one catch.

They have to write in English.

Now that's not a problem for most of my kids. Their spelling is often pretty lousy and their punctuation often nonexistent, but they are getting their thoughts across in English pretty well.

I have one little boy though that just knows no English whatsoever. I mean, he knows SOME, but very, very, VERY little. Certainly not enough to be able to put down his thoughts in English. Not even enough to put down a few WORDS along the lines of his thoughts in English.

And yet the guidelines say that EVERY child on the LEP (Limited English Proficiency) roster must have these writing samples, and they all must be in English!

So I'm just not sure what to do about this kid. He could probably copy words from around the room, but that's specifically forbidden.

Any ideas from people who have gone through this before?


Miss Panda said...

And an English-Spanish dictionary is also not allowed? I teach in Mexico English as a second language (ESL) and we usually allow the students to have one of these dictionaries. Another tactic I used to do was to ask the kid to write his thoughts in what little English he/she could and then help him a little with his grammar (kind of like a draft of the final piece).

Bitner said...

I need to go back over my TELPAS rules again (since it is that time again!), but I think that the student must only write the English that they feel comfortable writing. TELPAS doesn't have the same significance as TAKS, and I believe is used more for rating the child, and assess their stage of English acquisition.

That being said, I would imagine this particular child is a relative newcomer, which would be reflected in school records. Again I'm not sure this really matters. I do know that these must be authentic, so like you said copying is out as is a rough draft...but I would have him write on the same topic as your other kids, in a reflection journal or maybe write out the steps to a math problem in complete sentences.

I am curious as to what strategies you use to reach him in the classroom. I do not think that having another child translate the topic would violate the rules. Your blog is great btw!

kath said...

Didn't some of the TELPAS samples just have a sentence or two, and some of the words were in the home language.

Have him right about how he feels right now, and go with that.

Mister Teacher said...

The kids can't use translation dictionaries, and this boy doesn't seem to be able to write ANY English sentences at all. So it's not just a matter of small quantity. It's NO quantity!

Bitner, during normal instruction, I have his partner translate to him in Spanish, and I occasionally work with him in my limited Spanish. I had his partner translate the topic or writing prompt to him, translate the instructions, but he just wasn't able to write anything at all in English.

Bitner said...

After reading the 2007 manual I see where you run into the problem, since it is ill-advised to include something written in the native language. God Bless the State of Texas, since on the one hand they have the longest exemptions for language on the TAKS and at the same time don't understand that academic language acquisition takes about a decade, that it must be practiced and that it is fluid (gained and lost depending on use).

Soap box aside: Work with the bilingual teacher on your team. I recommend that you Stop translating in class unless it is absolutely necessary. I know that this is incredibly frustrating, and time consuming and that you might be afraid you're even farther behind (believe me I know), but then he will get exposure to the language and maybe even have to use it. Right now w/ his translator he doesn't.

Back to the Bilingual teacher. Maybe they can help you with these during tutoring, or give you some vocabulary acquisition strategies that you can use with the whole class or one on one, that way by the time you have the next sample to put into the folder the student will show progress. From what it sounds no matter what he will be a beginner. That is really all that the TELPAS is looking for. Granted it's a useless test because they don't base teaching or legislation off of it, but we have to do it. Good luck. I hope this was helpful.

JenPB said...

Another reason I'm glad we opted for homeschool. Teachers are in SUCH a tough position, with so many children in each class, and each with his own special needs. Some are fast to learn, others need more direction and an increasing percentage (in our area, at least) don't even speak the language in which government mandates tests be given. Best of luck!