Morn­ing pro­gram part­ners ele­men­tary, col­lege stu­dents

North Penn Life - - Opinion - By Jen­nifer Law­son jlaw­son@jour­nalregis­ter.com

Sit­ting across a ta­ble from third-grader Lizabeth Sanchez, Rich Levy asked her to match the state printed on a flDsK FDUG wLWK D PDS RI WKH United States spread out be­tween them.

She looked at the map and lo­cated Ok­la­homa by its shape. Levy had put green tape on the state names.

“You are cor­rect!” Levy said, as he re­moved the tape, and Lizabeth smiled as she wrote “Ok­la­homa” in her note­book.

Levy, a se­nior at Gwynedd-Mercy Col­lege, is part of a group of ed­u­ca­tion ma­jors who work with non-na­tive English speak­ing stu­dents at Knapp Ele­men­tary School as part of As­so­ciate Pro­fes­sor Cather­ine McGee­han’s teach­ing meth­ods course.

Since Oc­to­ber, about 20 Gwynedd-Mercy stu­dents have been spend­ing sev­eral morn­ings per week work­ing one-on-one with about 15 of Nancy Kauf­man’s ESL stu­dents be­fore school.

Their fo­cus is help­ing them un­der­stand words and con­cepts they are learn­ing in their so­cial stud­ies classes in a sup­port­ive, nur­tur­ing en­vi­ron­ment.

“They may be hes­i­tant to par­tic­i­pate in class be­cause they would run the risk of us­ing the words in­cor­rectly and be em­bar­rassed,” McGee­han said. “This way, WKHy’UH FRn­fiGHnW usLnJ th­ese words in the class­room.”

The United Way brought Gwynedd Mercy and Knapp stu­dents to­gether. Knapp was cho­sen be­cause of its di­ver­sity – there are 54 ESL stu­dents out of about 600, and some of their na­tive lan­guages in­clude Korean, Ara­bic, Ben­gali, Span­ish and Ital­ian.

Prin­ci­pal Joe Mazza said that by bring­ing in the chil­dren be­fore school, “we’re not rob­bing Peter to pay Paul by tak­ing them out of a class and putting them in an­other class. We’ve giv­ing the kids an ex­tra 2,000 hours of read­ing through th­ese early bird pro­grams.”

Educators at Gwyned­dMercy and Knapp are try­ing to ex­pand the part­ner­ship, and soon, the col­lege stu­dents will be tu­tor­ing nonESL stu­dents in read­ing, McGee­han said.

When he started work­ing with the Knapp kids, Levy said he thought there would be a lan­guage bar­rier, but he’s able to com- mu­ni­cate well with the stu­dents.

“,W’s EHHn UHDOOy EHnH­fiFLDO to me,” he said. “I’ve never done any­thing like this be­fore and it’s been a really good ex­pe­ri­ence.”

Through­out the class­room, col­lege stu­dents sat at desks with the ele­men­tary stu­dents and pre­sented their so­cial stud­ies lessons in fun ways.

Anna Smith, a ju­nior at Gwynedd-Mercy, used PlayDoh to make models out of vo­cab­u­lary words as she wRUNHG wLWK fiUsW-JUDGHU Uxia Froiz Blanco, who was born in Spain and didn’t know much English be­fore the be­gin­ning of this school year.

On the other side of the room, Ash­ley Reamer played bingo us­ing state names in­stead of num­bers with Frank Nesci, a na­tive Ital­ian speaker.

Still work­ing with Liza­EHWK, LHYy WRRN WKH flDsK cards and told her she’s go­ing to be the teacher.

“You pick one of the states and I’ll guess what it is,” he said. “You show me what you know.”

The big­gest chal­lenge has been get­ting the Knapp stu- dents into the class­room be­fore school starts, Kauf­man said. They need to be dropped off, which isn’t pos­si­ble for ev­ery fam­ily. If a trans­porta­tion so­lu­tion could be worked out, more of the ESL stu­dents could par­tic­i­pate in the tu­tor­ing pro­gram.

She said the Knapp stuGHnWs KDYH EHnH­fiWWHG JUHDWly from work­ing with the Gwynedd stu­dents, and the chil­dren have taught na­tive English speak­ers as well.

“This is English as a sec­ond lan­guage, but that’s not al­ways true, be­cause some of th­ese kids speak three or four lan­guages,” Kauf­man said. “It’s in­cred­i­ble.”

Mazza said he’s proud of his school’s di­ver­sity, point­ing out that the ESL pro­gram helps na­tive English speak­ers un­der­stand the hol­i­days and tra­di­tions in their cul­tures.

“ESL goes past the build­ing block of lan­guage,” he said. “I would think you would want to send your kids to a school where they could get that ex­pe­ri­ence. They’re bet­ter equipped to han­dle life if they are ex­posed to this kind of di­ver­sity this early on.”

Photo by GE­OFF PAT­TON

Gwynedd Mercy Col­lege stu­dent Rich Levy works with Knapp Ele­men­tary School stu­dents Jas­mine Jeon, left, and Liz­beth Sanchez Mon­day.

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