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Evans 1 Jennifer Evans Dr.

Rebecca Stevens Education 215-02 17 November, 2011 Students Who Speak English as a Second Language: Smithland Elementary School Throughout the United States, there exist thousands of schools that have a mission to educate students and help them understand the importance of a good education. To promote learning in the best way possible, individuals throughout the system must take into account the diverse group of children that step through their doors every day. Each child comes with their own sense of culture and norms, representing a different facet of life that is unique to their situation. One of the main factors that contributes to a childs experience during their lifetime is the language they speak. At Smithland Elementary School, a PK-4 institution located in Harrisonburg, VA, the concept of language diversity had to be tackled swiftly. Built in 2008, the school has a population of 435 students, breaking down to 41.7% Latino, 32.7% White, 14% African American, 1.9% Asian, 0.9% Native American, and 8.8% claiming two or more races. Due to the high number of Hispanic students, it is classified as a minority school. To accommodate the language diversity at Smithland, two programs were implemented throughout the school system in 2010. The first program to be placed at Smithland is known as Foreign Language in the Elementary Schools (FLES), which, according to the Harrisonburg City Public Schools website, is defined as a proficiency-based, content-enriched program that is designed to serve the needs of students learning Spanish for the first time as well as those who have Spanish as a home language. The second program offered is called the Dual Language

Evans 2 Immersion Program, which involves students spending half of their school day learning in English and the other half learning in Spanish. This program is offered to Kindergarten and first grade students, with my classroom being one of those groups of students who get to participate in this enriching experience. Mrs. Lays class, in which Mrs. Marsh, a reading specialist and my field experience teacher, instructs, has quite a diverse group of students. After emailing Mrs. Marsh about the demographics of the class, she provided some interesting information about this particular group of twenty-three students. Twenty students were born in the United States, with eleven of them being natives of Harrisonburg. Three students were born outside of the U.S.: Puerto Rico, Mexico, and Saudi Arabia. In terms of language spoken at home, nine reported speaking only English, nine reported speaking only Spanish, four reported speaking both English and Spanish, and one reported speaking Arabic and English. According to Mrs. Marsh, At least five students use Spanish more frequently, because they do not have or al proficiency in English. Thankfully, Mrs. Marsh and the teacher proficient in Spanish in the Dual Language Immersion Program have the ability to speak the language fluently to accommodate these students. Furthermore, Mrs. Marsh also reported, The great majority of these students know their alphabet and letter sounds in English and in Spanish. Probably a third of the class is already reading or close to being ready to sound out words. Most are able to write the sounds they hear in English and Spanish when writing sentences on their own. This displays an amazing progress for all of the students, specifically those students who speak only one language at home. Any time a culture is attacked or risks being brought down, it automatically causes its members a large amount of distress. Latinos currently have to worry about such an occurrence through the possible devaluation of the Spanish language. The Spanish language plays a huge role in the way a Latino defines their ethnic and cultural identity, as well as how they relate to

Evans 3 other Latinos and communities. Conforming to the dominant cultures language, English in this case, could be seen as a negative action to some Latinos throughout the country. The problem is, if one wishes strive in school in America rather than just get, they have to have a strong understanding of the English language. It is remarkably more difficult for students to become fluent enough in English to learn math, science, social studies, and the language arts, correlating to a drop in academics. Though the native language does not need to be completely lost, some Latinos may find themselves nearly abandoning Spanish except in a small number of instances in order to thrive in society. ESL programs only teach the English language, though studies prove one must first obtain proficiency in their native language before taking on a second. Today, ESL programs are called English Language Learners (ELL) in response to the fact that many immigrants to the United States already speak at least two languages. Due to all of this confusion, many Latinos are fearful that their culture will face a harsh downfall if their native language is shoved to the side. As a future educator, this is all very distressing to me as well. I am currently obtaining a Bachelor of Science degree, because I placed out of Spanish, having taken four years of the language throughout middle school and high school. Though I know how to speak the language to an extent, I am not nearly as proficient in it as I should be, specifically if I wanted to teach in a school such as Smithland. However, there are teachers employed due to programs such as Dual Immersion to step in and help the English speaking teachers teach the Spanish portion of the course. Even if such a program wasnt implemented in the school I teach in, there are small things I can do to help progress the Spanish speaking abilities of my students. A simple incorporation would be to choose a key word from the lesson to teach to them in Spanish. For example, if we are learning about weather, I could teach them that the word for cloud in Spanish

Evans 4 is nube. It would remain posted on the whiteboard for the entirety of that unit, then it would be added to a bulletin board located somewhere in the classroom that displays all of the words we learned that year in Spanish. Also, rather than assuming that one of my Latino students must be fluent in Spanish, I will assess their language abilities at the beginning of the year to see what level they are at. Maybe I could have them give a lesson on some aspect of the culture to help them become more proud of who they are and where they came from rather than attempt to conform them to the ways of the dominant culture. With the concept of marginalization becoming more common as society puts a focus on the importance of conformity, many people are steadily facing the harsh reality of their culture dwindling away from their everyday lives. In most instances, it is merely simpler to follow the mainstreams ways rather than stick out as different, especially in a school setting where peers can be cruel about anything that seems off if they havent been confronted with it before. Children are fairly understanding about various matters, but parents and teachers must be open with them about the topic at hand to ensure that they feel comfortable with it. Such a topic can definitely include culture, which has a various amount of facets and complex customs that can seem fascinating to anyone. Allowing students to express themselves is vital to ensuring they have a positive self-image and feel comfortable in their own skin. Teaching students about how we are all different will give them a great lesson on how to approach issues where they have to deal with people different from them or where they have differing opinions about a sensitive matter. Acceptance is a term that people need to learn more about to help our world become a more loving and caring place where we can embrace people of all heritages and backgrounds.