First Day Forms

February 14, 2011 at 10:52 AM | Posted in AmeriCorps, Class, ESOL, Teaching | Leave a comment
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In an attempt to alleviate some of the lengthy registration-day procedures, LCNV changed things up this session so that students only had to fill out one profile form on the day they registered instead of the usual two.   While the two forms that are required of our students, the LCNV profile and the Virginia Department of Education profile still needed to be completed, we decided to save the latter for the first day of class.

The state of Virginia changed their form this year in response to the new way that the federal government is collecting race and ethnicity information.  If you’ve filled out any governmental form recently, you might have noticed that under the race and ethnicity heading there are now two required fields: “Are you Hispanic” (yes or no), and “Check all races that apply” (American Indian or Alaskan Native, Asian, Black or African American, Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander, or White).  These questions are very difficult for our Latino students to fill out because everyone must provide a response to both questions (i.e., a Hispanic student would have to check “yes” to Hispanic, and then choose at least one option from among the “race” categories, none of which seems  automatically intuitive to most of them).

To find out more about the new fields on the state form, go to this link:

http://www.nrsweb.org/docs/tips/RaceandEthnicity.pdf

On the one hand, we wanted to be able to personally guide our students through this confusing new way that racial information is being collected.   We also wanted to make this form part of the first day of class because in general, filling out forms accurately is an English survival skill that should be practiced regularly so that when our students need to take their children to the doctor, apply for a job, or get a library card, they will be able to do so without skipping a beat.

AmeriCorps members created a lesson plan that teachers could use along with the form by adapting it to their students’ levels.  The lesson plan offered suggestions of activities and items to review that go along with each part of the form.  For example, at several places on the form, students needed to write dates (date of birth, today’s date, and registration date), so something that a teacher could review is the U.S. date-writing convention (i.e., month/date/year) because people in other countries write dates in a different order.   Then teachers could have students go around and find a classmate who was born in the same month and introduce him/her to the class.

I did an activity with my class to help give them a visual to go along with the race/ethnicity questions.  I had each student write their name and country on a post-it and then go up to a big world map and stick it on their country.  I explained that students from Central and South America are Hispanic and students from other countries are not.  Then I explained which racial categories students from different countries traditionally identify with.  This activity got students up and moving around, and it was also fun to see the big map of the world with post-its all over the place representing the great diversity of our classes.

-Alicia Nieves, Lead Teacher and AmeriCorps Member

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