2015-05-29 / Community

English Language Learners Program

Dianne Paton, Assistant Director Instructional Support

This year was a very exciting year for the South Portland English Language LearnerDepartment. Our district has become home to families from all over the globe including students from Angola, Iraq, Sudan, Congo, Burundi, and Rwanda to name a few. On any given day you may hear a symphony of over 30 different languages being spoken. This brought great diversity and energy to our schools, classrooms, students, and teachers. While challenging our resources, our families, teachers, and students feel fortunate to have had this experience. Students have been exploring language through a variety of media including technology, music, movement, art, poetry, and literature. Language acquisition and literacy have been the focus. All of the students in our learning communities have been exchanging thoughts and ideas about each other’s culture and the many characteristics we all have in common. Teachers have participated in Professional Development to address instructional strategies to bridge the educational challenges inherent in diverse populations of students and to learn how to include ELLs in our proficiency work.

Here are some highlights of our work this year:

Slim Peace is an international program, started in Israel, whose mission is to empower women of all ages to improve their eating habits and adopt a healthy lifestyle. A group of both ELL students and mainstream students met weekly with a social worker and nutritionist to learn about nutrition and healthy eating habits. The girls came to understand their cultural differences and similarities and developed new friendships. Each girl came away with a sense of community and well-being. South Portland High School was the site of the first Teen Slim Peace Program in the world. The Telling Room worked in conjunction with our teachers on literacy initiatives with a special emphasis on writing. The culminating events included an “authors” book signing and a community reception. Multicultural Day and Diversity Week celebrated with events including the entire student body at Memorial Middle School and South Portland High School. Pinwheels for Peace students created pinwheels, wrote about what peace means to them, and learned and created songs about peace around the world. We look forward to a summer where many of our ELLs will join other students in Camp Jump start focusing on literacy and math.

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