I started the year, as most teachers do, completing my classroom description. Two key questions we added this year were: "What language do you mostly speak at home?" And, "Can you read, write and speak in another language?" This helped me to identify some initial groups of students or target students in similar instructional groups.
One reading group in particular has three speakers of Tongan and two students who identify as being able to read and write Tongan. We read and English language story called 'Rescue' but were asked to discuss comprehension questions in Tongan and English. The follow up task was to justify why the characters in the story could be identified as being 'heroes.'
This student personally chose to answer his questions in English and Tongan. This was a great first step for me because it shows that students are feeling comfortable enough to use their first language in the classroom, and use it in an academic context. This student was also responsible for suggesting Tongan names for our learning groups, which I allow students to choose for themselves. If you visit the Room 9 Class site, you will see 'Lau Tohi' which means 'Read the Book', and 'Fika' which means Maths.
However, as you can see, the task above could be improved greatly - there were no sentence starters to guide the responses. I have no explicit way of encouraging students to use two languages - it was purely out of choice. I am going to refine my practice further to make more purposeful tasks that require the translanguaging strategy in the Learn Create Share process.
Where am I at?
I know which students I want to focus my inquiry on.
Where to next?
I need to refine tasks and gain clarity on what I want to do and how I will achieve it.
Who can help me get there?
I may need to revisit TESSOL resources, and perhaps seek feedback about my programme from past lecturers or teachers who have also completed their TESSOL diploma. I could go and visit the local Kura Kaupapa Maori, and observe how they go through the Learn Create Share with their bilingual learners, and if they use both English and Maori.
What a journey I have embarked on!