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2 New Students from the Congo

2 New Students from the Congo

October 23, 2015

Dear WinkWorld Readers, I need  your help.

Last night I received a question from a teacher in Wyoming, who had just learned that she will have 2 new students from the Congo; the boys have only been in the US about a week.  I do not know the grade, nor the age of the students…yet.  I suspect that we may learn that she teaches 4th, 5th, or 6th.  She has access to some ESL materials, but basically there are very few students who speak other languages in the school.

Where in the world is the Democratic Republic of the Congo?

Where in the world is the Republic of the Congo?

What are the languages used in the Republic and the Democratic Republic?

French and about 200 others. Apparently, the 2 boys speak one of the other languages.

Her question: What materials can I buy to help the students learn English?

Here is what I told her:

Today is Friday.  Study the Congo with the class.  Learn the languages spoken in that country.  Talk about refugees and immigrants with the class today.  Draw a big map as a welcome to the boys when they come on Monday.  How does one get from the Congo to Wyoming? Find out the names of the boys and practice the names with the class today.  Plan a class welcome: music? art? games?

Apparently, the boys have not had much schooling. In addition, it is doubtful that anyone in the community will speak their language.  I am not sure if the school has an ESL support teacher.  However, I do know the community, and the teachers tend to love working there, and the district tends to always try to do its very best. It is a great community.

Monday: When the boys arrive, have desks ready for them; close to each other; close to the teacher; and surrounded by caring kids.  Create a one-on-one buddy system; this could be rotated weekly, so that the boys soon know all of the kids in class.

On their desks daily, be sure to have:

a) a colorful book with lots of pictures–change this book daily.  By the end of the week, the boys should know where the classroom library is and when/how to choose their own book.

b) one blank sheet of paper for doodling–at the end of the day, the teacher dates the paper and sticks it in a file.  Soon, some type of information about the boys will emerge.

c) a blank writing journal

d) 6-10 blank index cards daily, where the boys can capture new words while the class is learning them.  When the boys are able, copy these words into their journals. A student can model/demonstrate how to do this.

e) a couple of pencils; a couple of pens; colored pencils

f) Responsibility of the student buddy: Help with lunch lines; be with the 2 boys during lunch; bathroom privileges; lining up for bus; being a friend on the playground, etc.

I know the teacher well enough to know that she is the best thing in the world for these boys. Our task, WinkWorld Readers, is to simply support the teacher this week.  I am confident that the district will soon be providing support for her and the boys.

We look forward to your responses. Thank you.



  • Debra

    Such a great list of wonderful, caring suggestions. I would add to have a (large, color) picture of some scene of daily school life and have kids talk about it (this is a playground, these people are running with a ball) with the new students and then label key info (ball, playground). Later this strategy can be used to teach content (history, science).

    • Joan Wink

      Deb, large, color picture of some scene of daily school life for conversation! Excellent idea. Label key info ball, playground. Super.
      Thanks, Deb.

  • I love this!! I was looking for children’s books that take place in Congo. There aren’t any really. But to have books of children who look like them is always important. I’d be happy to mail her some if we can find some good ones.

    • Barbara Skalina

      Hi joan…this is your tucson neighbor with a suggestion. . (I really enjoy reading your website).Food is always an easy way to welcome new people from other cultures,maybe there can be a segment on their meals and foods..with all the children and teachers tastingsome of the foods they eat.There is an easy recipe on the site eating the congolese way for Mawamba a chicken dish which can be accompanied with rice and even a teacher can visit the local african market in town to pick up their bread…kids love to eat and the new kids would be very suprised!! Just a thought…i learn a lot from your site thanks joan.

      • Joan Wink

        Thank you, Barbara, good to hear from you. The teacher and her colleagues in the school are reading your post. I’m sure they appreciate the idea.

  • Levi Evans

    Great suggestions! I have many Congolese students, and I just got two more this week. Most speak Swahili and or French and or Kirwanda or Kirundi (sp?) depending on where they’re from.

    Congo is HUGE, and the lines on the map were drawn by European colonizers, so there are many different tribes or nations within its borders. Try to find out if they are from Kinshasa. If so, they are city kids and may have had more schooling. Most of mine are from the east and made it into camps in Rwanda or Burundi. I have one that made it to Kenya and speaks English like Sydney Poitier. The quality of life and schooling they may have had in the refugee camps can vary. Interestingly, I have a kid who is 15 on paper, but he can’t be over 11.

    Congo has gone through many years of conflict. Belgium colonized it brutally. When they pulled out Cold War machinations led to the cia probably assassinating a democratically elected prime minister which led to the brutal Mobutu dictatorship, which descended into a horrific civil war that was hot for at least 10 years and has abated somewhat in the last two or three years.

    Some of the kids we’re getting were born in the camps, so they haven’t actually lived through war. In the past, I’ve had some kids that had been through hell, though.

    I had one that had been forced to run for his life from a burning village and live in the jungle for a year. His father had been forced to flee to Paris by Mobutu years earlier. He was very difficult initially, but after a year or so of working with him he came around, his English got better, we started talking, and he went on to graduate and do well.

    100% of my Congolese students are amazing people. 95% of them are an absolute joy to teach. The other 5% can be very challenging, but stick with them; one of my most defiant students is also one of the students I have the closest relationship with.

    Best of luck. My number is 606.425.9102 if you want to get in touch.

    • Joan Wink

      Levi, fabulous! Just look at all of the knowledge you have shared with us! The teachers and her colleagues at the school are reading this. Thank you so, so much! I suspect on Monday, we will know where in the Congo they came from; and what their language is. Thanks!

    • Nansie

      Thank you for these sensitive and informational comments on these incredible students!!

  • Janet Towell

    Joan, I love your ideas for Friday and Monday :). Wordless picture books are the best! Here is a list of some of my favorites:
    Journey by Aaron Becker; The Red Book by Barbara Lehman; Tuesday, Flotsam, and Mr. Wuffles by David Wiesner; Zoom by Istvan Banyai; A Ball for Daisy by Chris Raschka; Unspoken: A Story from the Underground Railroad by Henry Cole; Flora and the Flamingo by Molly Idle; The Lion and the Mouse/The Tortoise and the Hare by Jerry Pinkney. I’m sure the boys will enjoy some of these more than others!

  • Nansie
    I love all the ideas! So welcoming!
    Here are some books for kids on Amazon from Africa. I would definitely suggest having some of these in the classroom. As well, it’s important to remember that these boys have lived through some difficult and probably violent days. There were times when I taught in Africa when I just stopped the lessons and listened to their stories and had them write/draw their stories. They will need to know people listen and care.

    • Joan Wink

      Thank you, Nansie, for that list of books. These boys have been in school for one week, and I am happy to assure everyone that they are surrounded by a team of people with lots of expertise and with a profound sense of caring. They even have a staff member who speaks Lingala, their primary language. Last week was exhausting for the boys and the teachers, but I know the boys are feeling cared for and safe. One teacher, in particular, is keeping notes on all. Hopefully, I will be able to get her to share in a week or two. Thanks so much for jumping in and sharing with all of us.

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