“In more than 700 communities across the country, teachers are supporting students of all ages — and their parents — outside the classroom. Even for the youngest children, the benefits can be profound.” C. Caron & K. Zoepf, The New York Times
ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post with Answer Key
“Yumna al-Kashto is only 4, but she’s already had to adapt to lots of changes in her life. She was born in Antakya, Turkey, after intense fighting forced her parents and four older siblings to flee their home in Idlib, the Syrian opposition stronghold.
In December 2015, when Yumna was only 4 months old, her family resettled in Baltimore. And in July, on the day before her fourth birthday, her mother gave birth to her newest sibling.
On the day the baby came home, Zoe Hardy and Latanya Scott, Yumna’s assigned pre-K teachers at Moravia Park Elementary School, were there, too. Their goal? To develop a rapport with Yumna and her family before the school year officially began.
‘This is for you,’ Ms. Hardy told Yumna with a smile, placing a large box decorated with pictures of teddy bears onto the table. The box, provided by a local nonprofit, contained children’s books, pajamas and other items aimed at supporting a back-to-school evening routine.
‘We like to get to know the family, let the family get to know us,’ Ms. Hardy told Yumna’s parents. ‘That way we can all make sure Yumna is safe and she’s getting what she needs.’
The Moravia Judy Center, which runs early childhood programs at Moravia Park Elementary School, started its home visiting program for pre-K and kindergarten students in 2016, sending pairs of teachers into students’ homes in an effort to build mutually supportive relationships with their families, most of whom are poor enough to qualify for public assistance…
The overall concept of home visits isn’t new — they are a requirement of Head Start, a free pre-K program for disadvantaged children, and are also common at Montessori schools and various community programs. But the Parent-Teacher nonprofit’s model takes a unique approach.
With its method, teachers and school staff travel in pairs to visit a family at least once — either at home or in a neutral public setting like a park — usually ahead of the school year. The teachers arrive prepared to listen: They do not take notes, fill out paperwork or lecture. Instead, they want to know about the family’s hopes and dreams for their child, and connect with their soon-to-be student in a nonschool setting.
The visits, which typically last about 30 minutes, are not mandatory for the teachers or the parents. The teachers, who are paid for their visits, are encouraged to meet all their incoming students or a cross-section of their class: Targeting certain families is discouraged because it can lead to stigma.
Studies have found that these types of home visits can have numerous benefits for students, including improvements in attendance and reading assessments. Families who participate also tend to become more involved in their children’s education.
‘If a family feels secure when their children come into prekindergarten or kindergarten,’ Ms. Matthews said, these conversations can help shape positive attitudes toward school for years to come…While the home visit model appears to be a straightforward way to build engagement, reduce absenteeism and improve certain academic measures, the simplicity of the program means it can sometimes be overlooked by decision-makers, said Ms. Vanhoy, whose organization trains Dallas I.S.D. teachers to perform home visits.
Some school district leaders and policymakers assume ‘that can’t be the answer because that’s too simple,’Ms. Vanhoy said. ‘So you go after the more complicated research, or new curriculum, or new this or new that.’
Teachers are usually paid for each visit, but the amount they receive and the way those payments are funded varies considerably…Without Title I funding, schools sometimes must rely on a patchwork of grants, state funding or other types of federal funding to pay for the visits…Sometimes parents are wary of home visits, especially if they’ve had negative experiences with schools in the past…It’s effective to introduce home visits during early childhood, she added, as a child’s formal education begins…At the Kashto home in Baltimore, Yumna, who had hidden her face in her 8-year-old sister’s arm upon her teachers’ arrival, became less reserved as the visit progressed.”
“The first time I walked into a Montessori preschool classroom six years ago, I thought to myself, what is this sorcery? The materials were beautiful but unfamiliar; the room seemed eerily calm considering it held so many 3-year-olds; and the terms the teachers used were new and confusing to me. They’re not lessons or activities, they’re “work”; and what, pray tell, was that pink tower thing everyone kept talking about?” M. Wenner Moyer
“We will send our younger gal off to school for the first time in a few weeks, and I’m bracing myself for another common issue during school transitions — rough drop-offs. I remember leaving her older sister at preschool for the first time and feeling smugly confident about the fact that she didn’t cry when we left…Turns out, she didn’t cry because she thought preschool was a one-time thing.”J. Grose
NOTE: Lessons can also be used with native English speakers.
Level: Intermediate – Advanced
Language Skills: Reading, writing, and speaking. Vocabulary and grammar activities are included.
Time: Approximately 2 hours.
Materials: Student handout (from this lesson) and access to news article.
Objective: Students will read and discuss the article with a focus on improving reading comprehension and improving oral skills. At the end of the lesson students will express their personal views on the topic through group work and writing.
I. Pre-Reading Exercise
Predictions: Using a Pre-reading Organizer
Directions: Ask students to examine the title of the post and of the actual article they are about to read. Then, have them examine the photos. Ask students to write a paragraph describing what they think this article will discuss. Students can use a Pre-reading organizer for assistance.
II. While Reading Activities
Directions: Students are to infer the meanings of the words in bold taken from the article. They may use a dictionary, thesaurus, and Word Chart for assistance.
- Yumna al-Kashto has four older siblings.
- She’s already had to adapt to lots of changes in her life.
- The teachers wanted o develop a rapport with Yumna and her family.
- The school box was provided by a local nonprofit.
- Schools want to build mutually supportive relationships with the families.
- The visits are modeled after a method that was devised more than two decades ago.
- The Parent-Teacher nonprofit’s model takes a unique approach.
- The visits are not mandatory for the teachers or the parents.
- Targeting certain families is discouraged because it can lead to stigma.
- The program can be implemented for students through grade 12.
Structure and Usage
Directions: The following groups of sentences are from the article. One of the sentences in each group contains a grammatical error. Students are to identify the sentence (1, 2, or 3 ) from each group that contains the grammatical error.
- We like to get to know the family.
- The box contain children’s books.
- We can all make sure children are safe.
- Many schools have early childhood programs.
- The idea is to build trust between teachers and students.
- Most of the families are poor enough to qualify for public assistance.
- Studies have found that these home visits have numerous benefits for students.
- Teachers are usually pay for each visit.
- Some parents are wary of home visits, especially if they’ve had negative experiences.
Directions: Place students in groups and after they have read the entire article, have them complete the following sentences taken from the article. They can use the words and terms from the list provided, or provide their own terms. They are to find the meanings of any new vocabulary.
Most of the home___across the ___are funded by Title I, a federal ___program for the country’s ___schools, she said. Without Title I funding, schools sometimes must rely on a ___of grants, state ___or other types of federal funding to pay for the visits.
WORD LIST: funding, patchwork, poorest, antipoverty, visits, nation,
III Post Reading
Discussion Questions for Comprehension /Writing
Directions: Place students in groups and have them discuss the following questions/statements. Afterwards, have the groups share their thoughts as a class. To reinforce the ideas, students can write an essay on one of the topics mentioned.
- Are there pre-schools in your country?
- Have you ever taught pre-school? If yes, for how long?
- Did you ever visit any of your students at their homes? Why? Describe the visits.
- Where did the overall concept of home visits actually begin?
- According to the article what are the benefits of home visits by pre-school teachers?
- What are some of the problems the program faces?
- In your own words explain why this is (or is not) a good program. Especially from the view of new children in the U.S. for the first time.
Additional Activity: Identify Speakers from the Article
Directions: Place students in groups. Hand out the following quotes from speakers in the article. Members are to identify the speakers from the article. The first group to correctlyidentify all of the speakers wins.
“We like to get to know the family, let the family get to know us…”
“…home visits have built trust among the school’s large population of refugee families…”
“… 72 percent reported that attendance had increased either somewhat or greatly as a result of the home visits…”
“Typically that is one of the first questions that we get: How do we pay for this?”
“Too often the communication that happens face-to-face, on the phone, in a visit is to talk about something that’s wrong. Your child’s not making progress, or your child has a behavior problem…”
1-Minute Free Writing Exercise
Directions: Allow students 1 minute to write down one new idea they’ve learned from the reading. Ask them to write down one thing they did not understand in the reading. Review the responses as a class. Note: For the lower levels allow more time for this writing activity.