At the Yanapay school there is a deaf girl, Clara. She´s a little older than most of the kids, and no one seems too sure of her situation. Does she go to school still? How much can she hear and understand? How much can she read and write? I´ve been very concerned about her and her future even since I knew her from last year, and so I told Yuri I would like to work with her one on one, maybe start to teach her sign language. He was very enthusiastic about the idea, but since I was needed to lead various rooms (art, reading, etc.) and English classes, I didn´t have the opportunity to start.
I wasn´t sure if he remembered or not, but this week Yuri came into the reading room and and said, “You wanted to work with Clara, right? Here are some books, get started!” He handed me a couple archaic, baby ABC books and a new spiral notebook, and he gestured to Clara indicating that I´d be working with her. She was very pleased with her own new notebook, and we opened it up and got started. I had to think fast to start a lesson and keep her attention, as she has the habit of running off to get another pen, or an eraser, or a scissors if she is idle for a moment. What to do? What to do? Let´s see, what would Anne Sullivan do? I saw the movie once…there was a doll, a water spigot, a bad dinner scene…
I wrote the alphabet down the inside margin of the first page, then made lines for her to copy each letter five times. After we made it through the alphabet, I pointed to drawings from the book and tried to have her write down the words. It became immediately obvious that she didn´t want to use and be seen using the baby books. In fact, she was very self-concious of the other kids seeing what she was doing, and covered up the page whenever other kids came near. So I started doing my own drawings. I began to see that she sort of knew the alphabet, but mostly seemed to be copying the letters and words. If I made an accidental dot or line near the letter, she meticulously copied that too.
For the second lesson, I had to be prepared so that there weren´t any lulls. Since I had no books to use, I spent the afternoon making my own flash cards, with the letters on one side and a picture and word on the other. We went through the cards, copying the letters and the words. She recognized and acted out all of my drawings, even the poor ones that I thought I would have to explain. Then I had her look through magazines to find similar pictures, and cut them out and paste them and write the word again. That was so successful that we went over our time without her noticing. What I´m going to do next week, though, I´m not sure!