ROCK VALLEY â The newly redesigned English Language Learning Program for Newcomers at Rock Valley High School is off to a good start, according to Janice Luevano.
The Newcomer ELL program, which serves 12 students, was upgraded at the end of September to become a more holistic class for students with limited English skills.
Luevano co-directs the ELL program with Ria Elgersma.
âWe’ve always had a sort of newcomer class that newcomers go into, but that, they’re there for a longer time,â Luevano said. âThey are not going to general education classes at the moment. It’s just mainly focused on learning English.
The ELL program for newcomers aims to expand students’ English vocabulary and strengthen their use of the language; all the while, it incorporates content from other fields such as math, science, and social studies.
This last point is important because Luevano said that many ELL students enter the school year with inconsistent formal education in the past. Some may have been out of school for a while.
âIt’s positive just because we can really target language acquisition for these kids all day long,â Luevano said.
The ELL program’s modified approach for newcomers also means that students enrolled in it do not have the stress of attending a general education course in which they cannot understand the material being taught.
âThey not only grow in their content, but continue to increase their language skills and abilities without feeling the pressure of, ‘I don’t speak as well as everyone else’. I can’t write that much, âLuevano said.
Students follow the ELL program for most of the school day, outside of physical education classes. However, a number of students also take “protected” courses in mathematics, science and geography.
Protected courses are intended for ELL students who have a basic English vocabulary or a more solid academic background but who are not yet ready to participate in regular general education courses for these subjects.
âThey still receive the same content, but much easier and the language load is much lower than what general education would be,â Luevano said.
Rock Valley Middle School has a similar curriculum, however, ELL students in these grade levels attend more general education classes than their high school counterparts. This is partly due to the fact that there are more ELL students at the secondary level and therefore easier to manage their educational progress in a separate setting.
The ELL course for newcomers is meant to be a temporary course for students who improve their English proficiency. Luevano said she and Elgersma discussed the appearance of the course next semester.
This question will depend on where each ELL student individually fits in their English abilities. Luevano stressed that mastering a new language does not happen all at once, but rather is a process that takes time.
âI can’t press a button and they speak the language. They have to work on it every day, âLuevano said.
Nonetheless, she is delighted to see how far she and the students at Elgersma are going in their educational journey. She noted that many of them have a strong desire to leave the ELL program for newcomers.
âIt will be fun to see how these kids progress. “