Mastering the Language in Creative Fashion

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Since the end of January, pre-registered English as Second Language (ESL) students enrolled in grades 3-8 in the Glen Cove School District have been attending class for three hours on Saturday mornings in preparation for the New York State English Language Arts and Mathematics Assessments. Conducted in five classrooms at Finley Middle School, the Glen Cove Saturday ESL Academy has not only been getting students ready for the exams but providing additional support for these learners to become more comfortable with the language overall through some creative activities.

Reading comprehension, writing, math, time on task reinforcement and study and test-taking skills through the use of the Kaplan Advantage series were all a part of the academy’s exam preparation activities. Instruction was enhanced through the use of math manipulatives, technology, real-life application of concepts, an essay contest and exposure to and writing of poetry.  

Alexandra Rivera’s students took advantage of their teacher’s expertise and familiarity with the SmartBoard through many interactive lessons in both ELA and math that provided visual support through illustrations and video clips as well as utilized specific math tools such as the virtual protractor.  Ms. Rivera also emphasized the reading of non-fiction by having students select newspaper articles on current events in order to practice reading comprehension skills, as well as stay up-to-date on what is happening in the world.  

Many of the ESL Saturday Academy classes presented year-end poetry projects to each other, which they worked on following the completion of their exam prep activities. Students in Morgan Becht’s class used John Lennon’s classic song Imagine as the basis for their individually authored poems that incorporated various styles, using the message of the song as the basis for content. Bianca Marcedo’s students “unlocked the doors of poetry,” presenting their own original poems on the library Smartboard that opened their eyes to various ideas and topics including environmental issues, homelessness, relocation and acclimation to a new country and occupations. One student even wrote about her favorite ice cream.

Chris Johnson’s “A Team” created their own computer-animated characters called “Vokis” to express themselves on the web, incorporating audio of their own voice to read their poems through their respective characters. Briana Fazio’s students participated in a New York State essay contest on dreams and also wrote an acrostic poem on the same topic whereby different students were assigned a different letter of the word to generate meaningful and related terms for the basis of their poem in which they described their own dreams.  

In addition to the five classes, the ESL Saturday Academy offered one parent workshop a month in a language that the parents could understand on a variety of topics which included parent involvement in their children’s education, financial literacy and taking advantage of community resources.  Guest speakers included Alberto Munera and Carmen Roncal from La Fuerza Unida, Inc.  Breacis Rodriguez, an ESL teacher at the Deasy School, conducted one of the parent workshops that dealt with substance abuse using materials from S.A.F.E., Inc.

The district’s Foreign Language and ESL Coordinator and supervisor of the ESL Saturday Academy, Monica Chavez, stated “I am elated with the level of dedication and creativity of the teachers, the response of the students to the program and the cooperation of the parents.  It is my hope and expectation that we will continue to offer our ESL students weekend instructional programs like this one in the future.”