Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Conversation girls

Twice a week I meet with anyone who wants to stay at school after classes for some conversation time. I have a core group of 5-8 girls who usually stay. There are about 10 others who join us every now and then, but I can almost always count on my "regulars" to find me once their classroom is clean so that we can practice doing what teenage girls do best -- chit-chatting.

Today six of my eighth-grade girls stayed after school. The day was lovely -- sunny, bright, and warm -- so we climbed up the iron stairway on the side of the school building and talked about what we saw around us. I taught them the words "buttercup" and "clover" which are blooming in large carpets of yellow and purple across the side lawn. We talked about the mountains -- still snow-capped -- and how thankful we all are that the snow is no longer plaguing us with its icy chill. We talked about how the melting snow is affecting the river that surrounds our island-village, rising and rising and threatening to overflow its banks.

Then I pulled out a book of poetry that I had checked out of the library -- Poems Children Will Sit Still For. It's a collection of poems that are meant for little children, but the level of English vocabulary was just right for my group. I opened to the section about animals and read some poems to them. I wasn't sure how well they would like them, but I wanted to give them a little taste of poetry in English.

They loved it! Of course, my willingness to read the poems with gestures and over-done intonation and facial expressions helped. They learned so much! With the end of each piece, they immediately wanted to hear it again. During the second reading, they stopped me at each word that they did not know. I either described it in simple words, acted it out, or drew whatever it was -- they were thrilled to be learning things like "snail," "mosquito," "turtle," "tree stump," "firefly," and "quack." Three of the girls took out their notebooks and wrote down all the new words they learned -- another did what I always do: wrote the new words with her finger either in the air or against the wall to visualize the look of the letters and imagine the word against its meaning.

Their favorite poem was a series of riddles by Eve Merriam called "What in the World?"

What in the world
   goes whiskery friskery
      meowling and prowling
         napping and lapping
            at silky milk?
What is it?

What in the world
   goes leaping and beeping
      onto a lily pad onto a log
          onto a tree stump or down to the bog?
Splash, blurp,

What in the world
   goes gnawing and pawing
      scratching and latching
         sniffling and squiffing
            nibbling for tidbits of left-over cheese?

What in the world
   jumps with a hop and a bump
      and a tail that can thump
         has pink pointy ears and a twitchy nose
            looking for anything crunchy that grows?
A carroty lettucey cabbagey luncheon
To munch on?

What in the world
   climbs chattering pattering swinging from trees
      like a flying trapeze
         with a tail that can curl
            like the rope cowboys twirl?
Here's a banana for you!

What in the world
   goes stalking and balking
      running and sunning
         thumping and dumping
            lugging and hugging
               swinging and singing
                  wriggling and giggling
                      sliding and hiding
                         throwing and knowing and
                            growing and growing
                               much too big for
                                  last year's clothes?
Who knows?

Before I could finish each verse, the girls were clamoring to answer the riddle. They got them all with no extra help or hints. I did have to read the one about the monkey a second time, but then they got it. They made me so proud!

I am constantly pleased at how well they understand me -- amazed at how easily they learn this very difficult language -- proud of their consistent accomplishments -- humbled by their love for me -- and thrilled at the opportunity to have an influence on their lives and learning.

My conversation girls.

1 comment:

  1. This post really made me smile! I am glad you have teenage girls to chat with in Georgia because you are so good at that!