A new student has just been added to my 5th grade class. She was adopted from Kazakhstan in June and began learning English in June. She's extremely bright, but obviously language is a barrier. In math, she's a whiz. The "hard" words are new to all the students, so she's learning right along with them. The rest of the words are "easy" words. Plus, usually I just have to explain the directions for the assignment to her once and there are a dozen or so problems for each direction. So she can do the work.
But when we get to subjects where assignments have questions that she has to read, it's very difficult for her (obviously). I can't take the time to go over every question with her to the extent that she needs for 2 reasons. 1) My class is the sort that you can't turn your back on. If I spend any significant amount of time with her, they're off task and chatting and poking each other with pencils and stealing each other's papers, etc. 2) I assign, for example, 5 questions to answer and think about, and then we'll have a class discussion. In the amount of time it takes me to explain the first question and explain the material in the chapter and re-explain what I've said at the front of the class, the rest of the class is finished and doing all the above. If I assign them "extra" work to do just to keep them quiet, while I work with her, we'll just get more and more behind (in a quarter where we're already horrifyingly behind because of a bazillion Christmas program rehearsals) from going so slow. I'm already two days off just from the 5 days she's been in my class.
Then there's the fact that we're halfway through a novel study, so she's having to catch up (and her parents are being very helpful in catching her up, but even catching up without a language barrier is difficult). She also gets very down on herself if she spells things incorrectly, even though I've told her over and over that she just has to sound it out and I won't mark it wrong for misspelled words.
Then there's the issue that even the alphabet is different for her, so I have to write everything extremely neatly for her to be able to understand the letters. I do so much writing on the board that's just quick notes, and I don't have the time to write perfectly every time. If I forget to dot an "i" or there's no "stem" on my "m" or my "w" has a rounded bottom instead of a "v" shaped bottom, she doesn't know what the letter is.
Have you considered using peer tutors? It would be a mistake, I think, to assign just one, but perhaps you could choose a different student to help her in each subject. Perhaps a couple of extra desks at the back of the room would provide a place for this help so their quiet conversation would not bother others. You might need to discuss this with their parents before implementing it, and of course, you can make other arrangements if it doesn't work.
I once had a Russian child who came in knowing only yes, no, and thank you. By the end of the year, he scored 97 percentile on the achievement test. He was very bright, but in the beginning successful only in math.
Have you considered modifying her assignments? She's just learning ENglish...have her read a book that's smaller and simple ENglish and learn to read and comprehend that before moving to a novel.
One of my best ESOL classes started witht he prof walking into our room speaking all greek -- modern greek. She illustrated 3 kinds of lessons. first she did a short lecture. We understood none and could answer NONE of her questions in greek. Then she did a lesson that was slightly interactive and we learned a few basic words from gestures and pointing to things in the room. Third she did a lesson teaching us to count and using hard manipulatives, then switched to the arabic numbers and by the end we were all counting in greek.
The first part was so scary and intimidating for a room of ADULTS. let alone a single child hearing it all by herself. What guidance does yoru district offer you? Our ESOL children are expected to progress -- but definitely not be on level with the others immediately. That's a huge leap for them to make -- learning letters to reading a novel to answering questions... They are graded on the progress rather than "in comparison with the others in the class." Illustrate the directions, shorten assignments, simplify the language, these are all modifications for an ESOL student that will help the learning to be less stressful for her and for you!
Also -- know, that even if she's not answering aloud, she's learning a lot. Kids take 2-4 years to learn CONVERSATIONAL english and 5-7 years to learn ACADEMIC english -- so just work at her speed! Does this help at all?
What do you do during class discussions if you modify for one student? If the rest of the class is reading one novel, and we're having class discussions about facts, themes, and literary devices and she hasn't read the book at all, won't that be more confusing?
I don't have a district. We're just a small private school, and I'm the only fifth grade teacher (and it's my first year). I don't really have any idea what I'm supposed to do, and the administrator that I asked didn't either. She's supposed to get back to me with something. Her suggestion was an in class aide, but I don't really want another adult in my room (plus, there is physically no more room for another adult. The kids in my classroom have to squeeze to get around, and I can't reach some areas of the classroom because of desks being squeezed together. )