Morning program partners elementary, college students
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.”
Gwynedd Mercy College student Rich Levy works with Knapp Elementary School students Jasmine Jeon, left, and Lizbeth Sanchez Monday.