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ELL and learned helplessness?

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ELL and learned helplessness?
Old 12-04-2012, 08:13 PM
 
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I have a new 5th grade ELL student from India. He has been in the country since July, and he just transferred to my school from another school in the district. His previous teacher did not feel he should be in her class, so he was mainstreamed only in math. The rest of the day, the student followed his bilingual Indian teacher around to her push-in classes (no one is sure how this was ok'ed).

This child, it appears, has learned to do nothing unless someone is practically making him move his pencil. His English is basic. He understands basic words and phrases, and he can write sentences (he wrote a short 5 paragraph narrative with a bit of help, and he did it rather quickly).

The issue is that he does not do ANYTHING unless someone is right next to him. He will not do independent work, and when we did a percent measuring activity that was hands-on and none of the other kids had done, I had to keep asking him to work with us. None of my reg-ed kids knew how to do this, but all were working well. He got bored with the whole thing, dropped his percent tool, went into his math bag, took out his tape measure, and began measuring various body parts (the clean ones... ha).

He either has a *very* short attention span, or he has not learned that he is actually expected to do work in a classroom. Even the ELL teacher who pushes in was going nuts. She works with another student (sits between the two), and every time she turned her head to the other student, this boy stopped working and started playing with paper and pencils and supplies and interrupting her.

This is my 15th year teaching, and my 5th year teaching the ELL block in my reg-ed classes. I have never seen anything like this, and I'm not sure what to do.

I am not sure whether it is too early to establish firm directives with him. I do have access to a teacher's aide in another room who speaks this boy's language and could let him know that he must follow along and do work and that he cannot do whatever he wants to do (walking around the room, etc.). But then, if he does not follow directives, I should establish consequences, and I am not sure how much to do since it is so early on.

Any ideas? Thank you.


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Old 12-05-2012, 05:11 AM
 
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I would try to find a bilingual teacher or translator to ask him WHY he stops working. You might want to find out the background before you take things away. The translator can also tell him

"You need to participate. If this activity is not done, you do not get to participate in ______________ Recess, Friday Fun-Time, etc."

That way he will fully understand that he is losing privileges because he is not doing what is expected of him.

Try to pick something that he enjoys that isn't academic (I'd hate to have him sit out of specials).

He will have to re-learn how to participate. I have a student who learned this (due to parents, not teachers) and it took quite a while before he fully participated.
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Old 01-02-2013, 06:05 PM
 
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If a translator is available, it might be worthwhile to ask the parents about his performance in school back in their native country. With the language barrier, it's always a little harder to tease out the causes of behavior.

I would try what Becca mentioned first, and then talk to the parents/guardians as well, especially if consequences do not create any significant change in his behavior. Try to positively reinforce his behavior as much as possible when he is participating as well. It's always less natural, but more effective to provide praise when students are performing appropriate behaviors than the latter.
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Old 02-05-2013, 12:14 PM
 
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That sounds like a really frustrating situation! I find that ELL students usually can adapt very quickly to new expectations, both cultural and academic in nature. I am wondering if there is more going on than meets the eye. Is it possible that the student is having trouble adapting emotionally/socially to a drastically new environment than his lifestyle in India? Also, do you know the context of his Indian education before coming to your school? I wonder if his school was under-resourced and lacked the structure of his current school? It is possible that there were many students in one classroom and maybe student engagement could not be enforced. I think I would try to inquire about the boy's past, to gain context and possible insights for his current issues. Good luck!
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