This is part of a series of blogposts about my lessons with M, a very enthusiastic nine-year-old girl. She is a pleasure to speak to, and knows a lot of English. She’s also almost completely blind. Each lesson is one hour, one-to-one, at her house.
As soon as I walked in to M’s house, I asked her mum if she had a sheet. I’d brought one with me to show her (her parents don’t speak English, and M translates everything for them), but it was too small. Luckily, they had a white sheet the perfect size. Together we dressed M as a Roman girl, as promised. I added sandals, and some string around her hair (I didn’t get the scissors until after the photo was taken!) and her outfit was complete. As you can see, she was very happy!
We talked a little bit about the fabric and why there was such a big knot (because I didn’t have a brooch or know how to make it smaller!). She asked why it was only on one shoulder, and what they wore in the winter. I said they had a cloak to when it was colder, or at least, that’s what I thought.
We could have taken this further, but M really wanted to start the story, so I’ll save talking about clothes for a future lesson, based on Naomi’s comment on my previous post.
After the initial excitement, we moved on to a couple of chants to help M remember correct version of some of the mistakes she made in the last lesson. These are the two I’d come up with:
I shouted at her.
I shouted at her.
I shouted at her a lot.
Yesterday he went to London.
He didn’t want to go.
He’s coming back tomorrow,
But his friend doesn’t know.
Once we’d practised these a couple of times, we started the reading Alice in Wonderland (Compass Classic Readers Level 2), [Amazon affiliate link to Kindle version]. I said I wouldn’t tell her too much about Wonderland because she’d learn about it during the story, only that it’s a country. I described Alice’s costume, then started to read the first chapter myself, pausing to ask M questions about what she thought would happen next. Within three sentences she realised that she already knew the story in Russian! She told me about the ‘drink me’ and ‘eat me’ before we got to that part of the story. We were running out of time, so I played the CD for the part I’d read (about one page). I sent M the first chapter and the two chants to listen to between the lessons.
This lesson’s lightbulb moment was about correction. I often use my fingers to indicate missing words or words which need to be added to a sentence, by having one finger for each word and pointing to indicate where the error is. I realised this can still be used with M, but rather than showing my fingers and relying on sight, I used touch. I tapped M’s arm to show the changes she needed to make. For example, she said “I late”, so I tapped “I am late” with three fingers on her arm to show her the missing word.
We’ll continue with Alice in Wonderland, but I need to keep looking for a story which M doesn’t know. Unfortunately all of the suitable readers we have are based on classic stories, so she’s probably familiar with them all. I don’t have internet access in the lesson, so anything I want to use should be offline. I’m also going to ask M about her literacy again too – I don’t know how much braille she knows, and whether it’s only in Russian, or if she knows some in English too.