Tutoring-Boys Home

Once a week on Wednesdays, I have the privilege of tutoring two of my students who live in a boys home near Huehuetenango. These boys travel about an hour to our school each day in order to attend a bilingual school. The purpose of my time with them is to provide them with further support for acquiring their new language. For one of them English is his third language, with his first being one of the indigenous languages of Guatemala and his second being Spanish. My time with them is only an hour once a week, but I like to think we have some fun together.

The boys working on writing.

Here is a typical day of tutoring:

Pictionary – 10 minutes – Through this game I teach and review new vocabulary the student has encountered in either class or in day-to-day life. Vocabulary words are written down on the whiteboard to be used during the class period. Often they will draw what they have previously learned. In rare cases they will draw something for which they do not know the English name. If this happens I will write down the new word on the board and incorporate it into our conversation and writing for the day.

Conversation – 15 minutes – Throughout these short four months I have been very impressed with their acquired language. They know many vocabulary words, but they struggle with speaking in complete sentences. Many times they will do a little “Spanglish.” For example, Teacher “can I use el bano,” is a question they asked me earlier this year. Conversations are not just limited to the classroom. Sometimes we go to a local restaurant to buy lunch. At the restaurant the boys are only allowed to speak in English and discuss different vocabulary that would be said at a restaurant. For example some words would include: order, drink, lunch, or dinner. The list is endless. Consequently, we will always have a topic of discussing. Recently we have been working on describing different teachers in the school.

Brain Break – After a half day of instruction in which students can only speak in English, these kids need a break. Breaks can consist of a five minute game of soccer outside to watching a music video of their choosing. Either way it is to take their mind off English for a short time and recharge in order to keep working.

The result when I asked them both to describe me. I found it to be very accurate!

Writing – 20 Minutes – After having a conversation, we switch to a time of writing. Typically, we continue discussing the topic of the day. I will provide a question that fits the topic and a sample answer for the students. I will then scaffold it further by providing a sentence frame. This gives me opportunities to introduce new vocabulary, strengthen vocabulary they have learned in their English classes, or reinforce different language structures, which they are going over in their English Classes.

Currently, the boys are working on describing different people. Last week, we made a Venn Diagram to compare myself with one of the other teachers in the school. They first wrote sentences comparing the teachers and from there we had an oral discussion. I had students write their opinions of each teacher on the class Venn Diagram. For their next topic, I want them to describe their personalities. We will be making an “About Me” book. The cover will feature a self portrait that they will draw (they are some of the best young artists I have seen!) and the inside will feature a paragraph of their writing.

These times with the boys have been some of my favorite during the week. They are very eager to learn English and put in their full effort in order to fully understand the language. While my short class is only a supplemental course, I love my time with these boys. The fact they are choosing to stay after school for further support speaks volumes about their dedication.



Recorders: a staple in most American elementary music curriculums. I have fond memories of sitting on my elementary school stage learning how to play Mary Had a Little Lamb, so bringing something like this to Guatemala was special to me. When I accepted the position at The School of Hope, I told myself that this was something I had to implement.

One of my 6th grade students practicing.

For the past month my students from 3rd grade to 6th grade have been learning how to play the recorders. Since I only teach Music twice a week, I have only had 8 lessons with them. So far, I have been impressed with the progress they have made in such a short amount of time. In the previous quarter, we learned how to read the treble clef using bells and floor activities. Before the introduction of the treble clef, they learned how to analyze different rhythms. Now, students are applying prior knowledge in order to read new sheet music. I have been impressed with my 3rd grade and 6th grade classes. In both of those classes, when they get new sheet music, the first thing they do is attempt to sight read it. While the tempo and rhythm may be a little off, the notes they play are spot on. I am very proud of their progress so far, and I’m looking forward to teaching/playing more advanced music.

As for curriculum, we are following “Recorder Karate,” a program that uses colored “belts” to gain experience. Each belt features one song and a new skill to further comprehend sheet music. For example, for the Purple Belt (which is what my 6th graders are working on), they are learning the new note “E” and practicing how to play eighth notes, to the tune of “Mary Had a Little Lamb.” The 3rd graders are working towards their orange belts, which introduces the note “C” as well as eighth notes for the first time using the song, “Cobbler, Cobbler.” Differentiation for each student is encouraged with this program. Students move at their own pace in order to receive the next belt. For students who need a further challenge I can push them to work on a different song with a higher difficulty while I work individually with students who are struggling.

3rd grade students gearing up to perform.

I have also used the program to develop performance skills with the students. In order for a student to advance to a new belt color, the student must perform for the class. We have had conversations about what performing means, how one acts when performing for an audience, and appropriate behavior as a member of an audience. So far, the students have learned and informed me that they should not laugh while they are on stage or at other students on stage, they should listen to the conductor and the other students around them, and finally that they should clap when a group of students is done performing.

Recently, I’ve noticed that many of my fourth grade students take home their recorders in order to practice more! I have a couple of rules with home practicing: first, they have to bring back the recorder the next day, and second, I am not going to replace lost/broken/stolen recorders if it happens outside of my classroom. I love using this program in order to teach personal responsibility, and I have been impressed with their diligence. Every student who has taken one home has brought it back the next day in prime condition. I am thankful that they are taking this portion of the class seriously.

So far, I am pleased with the students progress and their eagerness to learn. I am looking forward to giving the students more challenging music as well as listening to them play more challenging songs. Be on the look out for a video of them playing the Star Wars Theme. It’s going to be great!