Prac­ti­cal pi­lot pro­gram

Im­mi­grant stu­dents get­ting help ad­just­ing to Is­land schools

Journal Pioneer - - NEWS - BY JIM DAY

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.’’

JIM DAY/THE GUARDIAN

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.

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