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Benjamin Chambers ESL Class Publishes Book to Showcase English Learning

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At Benjamin Chambers Elementary School, the English as a second language (ESL) newcomer class recently published a class book entitled “Who We Are.” The book was created to highlight each student’s native country and to display their English language development growth over the course of the school year.

The first page in the book is a writing sample taken from each student on their first day of school in the United States. Students were asked to write in their native language and then to try to write in English. The second page is a writing sample from later in the year to contrast how students’ English language learning has developed.

“The writing is my favorite part,” said Abdalrahman Mohyeldeen, second grader.  “There’s a lot of writing in it because we learned a lot. My parents said, ‘You learned a lot and [did a] good job!’”

The book features 20 students from the newcomer classroom, representing seven different countries and three languages.

“It [the book] is very good. I like what the other students say,” said Yoselin Villalobos Gomar, second grader. “It was fun to make the book and now I know a lot of English.”

Students were able to use resources in the classroom to help them with their writing, including a word wall in the classroom with sight words for correct spelling. Students also have a writing folder with various vocabulary words they referenced to come up with writing ideas for the book.

“This is my second year doing the class book project with the newcomer students,” explained Katie Boyer, ESL teacher at Benjamin Chambers Elementary School. “It is so rewarding to see how much English the students learn in a course of one school year with the newcomer program. By March and April, the students often forget they had very limited English skills when they started school back in August because now they are reading, writing, and speaking English all day. The students are motivated to write because they want to show what they have learned.”

When creating the class book, Boyer asked her students what school was like in their native country and how it is different from school in the United States. Many students said there were no buses to get to school; students either walked or rode a motorcycle. Students also commented that schools and classrooms in the other countries were much smaller and that it was common for two or more grades to be in the same room.

Students in the newcomer classroom come to the United States with varying levels of educational background. Often this is due to compulsory school ages differing from country to county. In Guatemala for instance, school is required for students between the ages of seven and 14, while in Sudan school is required for students between the ages of six and 13. Also, public schools are located sparsely in rural areas and an absence of funding in these countries results in limited resources for both teachers and students.

Despite the many challenges the ESL newcomer students face coming into the class, Boyer believes the project will leave a lasting, positive mark.

“They couldn’t wait to share the book with their other teachers, students, and families,” shared Boyer. “The class book is something they can cherish for years to come. They can look back at the book and remember their first year of school in the United States and how they were able to learn English.”

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