Practical pilot program
Immigrant students getting help adjusting to Island schools
Ten-year-old Allan Luo could not speak a lick of English when he moved from China to Prince Edward Island in early July. A little more than three months later, the youngster is stringing together wellconstructed sentences in his adopted language.
“I can speak, but I can’t write English,’’ says Allan.
A new practical English language program has greatly helped Allan, and many other immigrant students, integrate more easily into their school classrooms and interact with their peers.
Allan says he is more comfortable in class now after six weeks in the program. He even stood confidently in front of a camera Thursday answering a reporter’s questions.
The pilot program, launched at the start of this school year, offers beginner English to newcomer students. Students are in the program for six to eight weeks, spending their mornings on functional English such as basic conversations like ‘I don’t understand’ or ‘Can you help me?’
They also learn about school routines, such as lining up, and playground etiquette, including playing safe and returning inside when the bell rings. Education, Early Learning and Culture Minister Doug Currie says his department is paying very close attention to the changing needs in classrooms with more than 300 new immigrant students registered for Island schools between May and
September 2017 – the largest increase to date.
“We were looking at a lot of different models about how we support immigrant students into our school system and we are very, very pleased that this program is getting a lot of positive feedback,’’ he says.
“Most importantly, it is responding to the needs of children and allowing them to settle in to the day-to-day life of public school here in our province.’’
The program leans heavily on interactive play, drawing on everything from puppets to Playdough to engage the students to become more functional in English.
“The kids in this program are spending two-and-a-half hours in here every day in an environment that really is free to take risks,’’ says program co-ordinator Janet Perry-Payne. “We want these children to be able to feel that they can ask questions, they can ask for help if they need it, and they can understand much of what is coming to them when they are out on the playground when they hear an announcement.’’
Valentina Malysheva, one of the teachers in the Functional Language Program, says the students are picking up English quickly by learning in a relaxed manner.
“If they feel comfortable, they feel happy,’’ she says.
“If they feel happy, they can go and listen to their teacher and achieve more goals.’’ Perry-Payne says classroom teachers are seeing quick progress in immigrant students taking the Functional Language Program.
“So they are starting to see that advancement happening almost instantaneously,’’ she says.
“So the response to the program has been phenomenal – very positive feedback.’’
Valentina Malysheva, a teacher in the new Functional Language Program, engages newcomers Thomas Pan, left, and Sam Bourassi in fun, but constructive, conversation. Thomas, who is from China, and Sam, who is from France, are among more than 300 new immigrant students registered for Island schools this year.