ESL Challenge of the Week: The Vocabulary Struggle is Read

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ELL Challenge of the Week:
One of my best students was working through lunch, coloring a Kreb Cycle poster for his biology class this week. He had created a beautiful, detailed drawing of the Kreb Cycle and had stayed in my classroom during lunch to work on coloring it to turn in later in the day. In the middle of this he looks up, and interrupts my helping another student with the question, “Ms. K do you have dark chocolate.” I just look at him blankly for a second before replying, “Huh? No, I don’t have any dark chocolate.”
He looks frustrated. “Dark chocolate. You don’t have any?”
“Still nope.”
“The color,” he says.
“Dark chocolate the color?”
He holds up one of the colored pencils he is using to indicate.
“You mean do I have more colored pencils? They are in the back.” I gesture to the student supplies table.
“The color: dark chocolate,” he says clearly not understanding why I’m not understanding.
“You mean dark brown?” I ask.
“Yes!” He looks relieved.
“You know, it’s called ‘dark brown,’ not ‘dark chocolate’ when it is a color.”
His brows furrow. “Oh.”
“So I thought you were asking me for some actual chocolate, in the middle of doing your work and me helping another student. I was like, why is he asking if I have candy right now, clearly I don’t?”
“By the way, there is a dark brown pencil in the student supplies, go and look.”
Not even five minutes later…same student…
“Ms. K, do you have a rubber?”
My eyes widen and I burst into laughter.  Really?!
“A what?!” I sputter.
“A rubber,” now indicating what he wants to put around his rolled-up poster.
“You mean an elastic band? A rubber band?” I say.
“Yes! That’s what I said. A rubber.”
“No dear, not a rubber.”
“Rubber, rubber band, it’s the same.” He’s really exasperated now having just messed up the dark chocolate thing and now this. He is looking at me like, why is this funny?
“E, a ‘rubber’ is a condom.”
Abject horror on his face. He goes beet red.
The rest of the kids in the class, all his good friends, erupt in laughter.
I’m dying.
“This is why I like teaching ESL I tell him.”
What to do? Check out my post on teaching vocabulary!

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