How To Catch New Students Up


I received the following question from awesome teacher and blog reader Hunter Bishop this past week, and since it's a common one, I decided to answer it for all who might be wondering about this issue.

Hunter wrote,

Hello Jalen! I had a question that I’ve been wanting to see your point of view on. What do you do when you have a student come into your class midway through the year when they have had no language instruction before? How do you “catch them up"?

My answer is simple. I just keep teaching.

Haha, okay, there is a little more to it than that, but not much more. I welcome them warmly, give them the semester's vocab list, make sure they know it's okay if they feel a little lost at first, and if there are assignments that they look worried about or do badly on, I make sure they know that when I grade them I'm taking into account the fact that they just joined my class. They aren't going to be "failing" before they've even had a chance to learn something.

[Note: if they've had absolutely zero language instruction, there is a point at which they need to wait until the next school year to start in Spanish 1, but each school will have its own rules about that.]

Look, if it seems like you should be doing more, like staying after school for an hour every day to work one-on-one with this kid, slap yourself upside the head and stop that crazy-talk. You have a LIFE and in my opinion, free after-school tutoring is just not your job, unless the school wants to pay you extra for it.

Now, some teachers live for that kind of extra, above and beyond, reaching-out-to-kids opportunity. If this is you, please ignore what I just said.

But if you're like me, and you need Me Time starting promptly at 3:15 in order to gather strength for another day of teaching, then do as I say and JUST KEEP TEACHING. The new kid will at some point catch him or herself up. It may take a few weeks, but eventually, without fail, I can't tell much if any difference between my "old" and "new" kids. I think the key is being flexible, positive, and including them in your warm, loving teaching environment without judgment or undue focus on what they don't know yet. Know what I mean?

I hope this helps! Happy Summer to everyone!

[Update on TPT uploads...they have been on pause while I'm enjoying my June, but I will resume creating new products for sale in a few weeks.]

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