I always think of a heritage speaker as a student who is fluent but can’t write in their language. I don’t know – I could use the term native speaker. It doesn’t matter. I don’t know the terms. What matters is that very often we have kids who only speak the language plopped down into our classrooms and we don’t know what to do with them and it’s a pain for us to deal with.
I have already addressed how useful the Word Chunk Team Activity is in occupying these students. But we can’t use WCTA very much in our teaching – it’s just a very fun game.
Now, however, I have found a much more powerful way of engaging these students. They have to write the story in the TL. Well…they can’t. So what to do? Make them write it anyway, on the computer while you are asking the story.
I literally have my L1 story writer, a superstar because getting the details right is so important, sitting next to the native speaker L2 story writer. They help each other. I will make a short video clip in which I explain how I have my classroom set up (clip to be inserted in a post later).
You will be able to see where the two story writers are placed in the classroom. They are also seated right next to the artist(s). The three/four can confer in L1 as the story unfolds, to get details right. I also like having the artists right next to me during the creation of the story, because I can keep an eye on them (vs. with the iPads which caused them to forget that they were even in a class). The kids also like/love drawing in front of the class during the story. It’s an incredible thing to see.
Today a German kid whose dad is French, who was placed in a beginning French class (I kid you not) but who cannot write, asked me after class to correct what he wrote. It was a mess, an error every other word. He was so grateful to be learning something! I was so grateful to have him doing something meaningful in my class! A win-win for all!