Mistake of the Month
Why making mistakes when learning a language is good?
In this Newsletter you can find:
Letter to Kids
Every newsletter includes a letter from Mistake to kids. In this month's letter Mistake shares experiences related to speaking a different language and invites the kids, their families, caretakers and educators to share their stories as well.
Hello my friends,
This month I started preschool. I liked my new school, but I was worried to go there because they all speak a language that I hardly understand. At circle time I couldn’t understand what the teacher was talking about. I normally like to participate in conversations during class, but now I cannot understand much and can’t express myself the way I am used to in my native language. My teacher and classmates are very nice about it, yet I still feel intimidated.
One day I was hungry but didn’t know how to tell the teacher that I wanted to eat, so I started crying. While my teacher was trying to comfort me, I remembered the song “apples and bananas” and pointed at the apples on the snack table. My teacher handed me an apple and I was so proud of myself that I found a way to tell her what I needed.
The next day I was very sad. I loved learning in my new class, but everything was new and I was overwhelmed. Not understanding most of what’s being said makes things more stressful for me. I was crying and hoping that my mommy would come to pick me up, but she didn’t. I am happy that I stayed in class, because my teacher remembered that I like Disney songs and she played some music in class. I was so happy singing and dancing with my teachers and new friends. I enjoyed the rest of the day very much.
My experience has taught me that there are some tools that could help me to express myself without words. Songs are a wonderful way to learn and connect with others. I can also point at things and make some gestures with my body that can help others understand me. This is not easy, but I am so excited to have the opportunity to learn a new language and make new friends
Have you had a situation where you felt that you could not express yourself well? I would love to read your stories. You can share your story on my Upload Stories page.
Note to Parents
The US census says there are 26 million immigrants in the US, and according to the Washington Examiner, 22% of the US population (44 million people) doesn’t speak English at home.
Being multilingual is a wonderful advantage for any human being, but the learning process can be tough and for many children of immigrants it adds a layer of stress when, on top of developing social and intellectual skills, they do it in another language.
On the positive side, multilingual children develop skills like problem solving, empathy, creativity, cultural sensitivity, mental health, critical thinking, and of course, have a professional leg up when they grow up.*
It's important for parents, caretakers and educators be aware of the emotional toll it may take on children that are in the process of bilingualism: the experience of a full immersion in a different language, the inability to communicate and comfortably express themselves may trigger stress, anxiety, low self-esteem, bullying and even eating disorders.
That being said, the advantages of bilingualism supersede the temporary disadvantages of the process and in the end, the child acquires abilities that will positively mark their lives and those around them.
understanding that you can communicate the same concept in multiple words could help children develop the realization that an object or event can be represented in more than one way, which could bolster children’s understanding of other people’s perspectives.**
This month at Mistake Club we will be providing children, parents, caretakers and educators with information, tools and resources to navigate life as an ESL child, from many different perspectives.
Please send comments & feedback to we would love to hear from you!
Anne Ney has almost 30 years of experience as ESL teacher. Anne’s training is Elementary Education but over the years she has worked with all ages.
Anne’s loving, inclusive and happy personality is an incredible addition to her extensive knowledge and deep understanding of ESL education.
My experience as an ESL Teacher
I am a self-taught ESL teacher. I was teaching adult education at a local junior college and when I went to a state meeting with other adult ed teachers, one new friend said that I had the personality to teach ESL. I didn’t know what she meant at the time, but I learned that my vivacious personality and habit of gesturing when I speak are probably what she meant. When an adult ESL opening came up, she offered me the job. She took me to the basement of a local church, showed me the keys to the book cabinets and came back a year and a half later. She was also teaching and supervising and was very busy. I took it upon myself to contact the teacher before she moved on and visited a few times to see what I had gotten myself into. It was a multi-level adult ESL situation. We had three classrooms in the basement of a church. Luckily, there was an aide and she was continuing.
First impressions matter
I quickly learned that the first few minutes, when students came to the classroom for the first time, were crucial to the learning curve for the student. To be comfortable with me and to know that I was non-judgmental was very important. I would allow students to join immediately in my class as they came to visit without making them wait for a three-week enrollment session, because I wanted to take advantage of their enthusiasm and motivation at the moment. I realized that it might have taken them a long time to just walk into my classroom and to send them away to wait was not advantageous for them or me. I welcomed them enthusiastically and quickly introduced them to the others to help them feel comfortable. I knew that that initial meeting was so important. They were mostly Spanish speaking students from Mexico, but over the years I have had many other groups of students.
Minimize responses to mistakes
We all make mistakes and it is so important for the teacher to take the lead and not make a big deal. The students will take your cue and do the same if you make the effort to lessen the embarrassment of mistakes. It is a common practice to call upon students to speak in class in America, but this isn’t the case in many foreign countries. In many countries, classes are very large and teachers don’t have the time or privilege to call on students individually. Also, many students are never asked their own opinions in a classroom setting. As part of my effort to make my students feel comfortable, I soon learned to refrain from calling on them. As they became comfortable with me and my classroom manner, they might offer comments.
Encourage students to embrace their unique accent
Many of my students agonized over the fact that they would never sound “American”. I quickly told them that, since they had not grown up here, their pronunciation of certain letters would always have non-American sounds. I told them to appreciate how they sounded. To me, the important point is how well and successful they communicate. If they were able to express themselves well, that was the most important point. The accent of a foreign-born person gives their language it’s particular “flavor”. My grandmother was from Romania and there were certain sounds she couldn’t make. That made her English so beautiful, to me.
English is a mongrel language, not a pure language. Because we are a country of so many immigrants, who brought their languages to our country and lifestyle, the words are a mix of sounds. An Israeli friend living here told me that her mouth hurt at the end of the day, after speaking English all day. We use our mouths for so many sounds absent in other languages. Nobody expects a foreign-born person to sound perfectly ‘American”. Again, if one is successful communicating, that should be enough to feel self-satisfaction.
Plan lessons that are relevant and practical
A favorite lesson expanded on colors, numbers and clothing. I’d bring in a bag of clothes from my house and we’d “role model” returning the items. Some of the students were from cultures that didn’t “return” purchased items. In our culture we return everything we can. In our simulations one person would be the customer and the other would be the cashier. I would encourage conversations like, “I want to return this shirt. It’s red and I want green. It’s the wrong size. It’s a medium and I need a large.” They always enjoyed the lessons and reminded me later how much they had learned. I think we have to focus on making lessons “real”. Sometimes we have to get out of the books, drills, and use the language in real life situations.
Acknowledge and value other cultures
Over the years of working with ESL students I have learned to appreciate their cultures and keep that in mind as I am teaching them. Our cultures are different, sometimes our religions, our manners, or our ways of showing appreciation, etc. It is so important to keep these things in mind as a teacher. Just as I am proud of being a Jewish American, they are proud of their ancestry and culture. We must honor and accept their differences. They have come here to make better lives for themselves and their families. We must acknowledge that and let them know that they are valued.
Teaching ESL has changed my life in so many ways. I know that I have a greater appreciation of my students’ differences, their goals and their attainments.
Meet Our Experts
Sarah Tuvia is a lifelong teacher, having been in both formal and informal settings all of her adult life. Her experience living, learning and teaching abroad has positioned her in an especially unique position to share her insights on mistakes in language use. These mistakes in language can help propel a Second Language Learner forward in their development, if the educational setting is one of acceptance and encouragement.
Agustina Lodoen is an Argentina native and a Spanish Immersion teacher with over 20 years of experience in the private and public sector, in which she’s currently a 5th grade Spanish immersion teacher. Her passion for education has trespassed frontiers as a volunteer in rural Mexican schools and the coordinator of many cultural experiences for her students nationally and internationally.
The Word Collector by Peter H. Reynolds
The Boy Who Loved Words by Roni Schotter
The Lost Words: A Spell Book by Robert Macfarlane
My Language Your Language by Lisa Bullard
Runny Babbit by Shel Silverstein
Fun Language Activities
Invent a Word
Make up a word and think of a meaning that you would like to give that word. Watch the video of Pipi Longstocking inventing a new word as your inspiration.
Click here to download the Word Search file and search for the 20 words listed on the page. Once you're done, try to find additional words that are not listed.
Family Fun - Random Poem
Cut paper into 1”x 3” pieces.
Pick up a magazine or a book you like.
Each family member should choose 5-10 single words and write them on the little pieces of paper you cut.
Put all the pieces in a bowl.
Each family member picks up one piece of paper and writes it down in the order in which the words were picked from the bowl (up to 5 words in every line).
By the end of the game, you’ll have a random and unique poem created by your family.
Altered Books Art
The art of altering books changes books from their original form into a different form, altering their appearance and/or meaning. If you have an old book that is falling apart, keep it! You can give the book a new life by using it in your art.
Choose a random page and mark the words you like best by drawing a rectangle around them.
Once all of the chosen words are marked, start connecting them in any way you choose (creating a meaning or randomly) by drawing paths from one to another.
When all of your words are connected you can draw something around them, black out the other words on the page or just doodle around them. See examples below: