Clarion-Goldfield-Dows creates new orientation for ELL students

Jenny Smith talks to a group of second grade ELL students who are working on vocabulary comprehension. Photo by Kacey Ginn

If your family ever moved when you were a child, you probably know what it’s like to transfer to a new school. In addition to a new home, you had to acclimate to new classes, new classmates, and maybe even a new school culture. You may have suddenly become the center of attention, or simply felt lost in a sea of new people. You probably missed your old friends.

Now imagine what that would be like if everyone around you was also speaking a completely unfamiliar language. This is the reality for many kids who become English language learner, or ELL, students. But new students aren’t the only ones who may feel disoriented. School administrators and teachers may be hardly less so.

Steve Haberman, principal of Clarion-Goldfield-Dows Middle School, said his school might get somewhere between one and three new students a year who don’t speak much English at all. If an ELL student came in the middle of the year, it was a scramble to find information like student records and determine their proficiency in different subjects.

“We didn’t think we were doing a very good job of being prepared. We were always playing catch up,” Haberman said.

But with this year’s Wednesday early outs, it was possible for district ELL instructors Jenny Smith and Megan Fiscus to take time to work on developing a method to assess and welcome incoming ELL students. This fall, they started coming up with strategies, and with support from school administration, the two completed a first draft of the welcome/orientation program early this semester.


For the full story, see the April 12 edition of the Monitor.