ESL & Spanish IV Students Build Bridges While Helping
Each Other Learn a Second Language
There's an interesting program going on at Community High School in West Chicago, where students are learning more than language from each other. Students from Susan Junkroski's Spanish IV classes have been meeting every other week with students in the English as a Second Language program. Those classes include ESL Newcomer taught by Mark Poulterer, ESL 1 taught by Brent Arndt and ESL 2 taught by Ina Kalnajs.
Students meet in small groups and work on group assignments that strengthen the English skills of the ESL students and the Spanish skills of the Spanish IV students. More than language is being shared, however. Students are breaking down barriers between cultures.
"The ESL Newcomer students are spending time in acclimating to the culture," said Poulterer. "They have learned about school culture, (Pep assemblies, Homecoming week); American students' goals, and their values in relationships to friends and family. My students have taught the American students about Mexican slang and The Day of the Dead Celebration.
"Before we met for the first time, I told my students we were going to get together with a bunch of American students," he added. "They were horrified! My students were truly afraid of the American students in the school. We began to talk about their views of Americans. The answers were not surprising. They thought all Americans were racist and didn't want to have anything to relate to my students at all. Their eyes are being opened, and I think it is quite possibly the best thing we could do for these kids as they begin their new lives here in The United States.
"I also had the opportunity to prep Susan Junkroski's class for what they could expect from the first meeting. They were scared too! I found out they believed my students would think they were dumb because they couldn't speak Spanish. One student actually approached me after class and asked what we would be doing and admitted that she was very apprehensive about the meeting on the following day.
"The next day the walls came down so quickly, my students were asking me when we would get together with the other class again. When I informed them it would be two weeks later, they responded in unison with a very displeased groan," said Poulterer.
Each class is divided in half. Half meet in the "English" room and half in the "Spanish" room. The English teacher has an activity planned, and teaches that twice, as does the Spanish teacher. The kids switch rooms at the halfway mark, in order to give a physical signal that there is a language change, and also to allow them to take a break from the work.
Susan Junkroski has her students write a journal entry about the experience. "The comments have been wonderful," she said. "One student wrote, 'I had always thought that Mexicans were lazy, but now I see that they're just like me.' That was one of my favorites," said Junkroski. "After I read that, I told Mark (Poulterer) that we didn't have to work for the rest of the year, that we'd already done our jobs.
"I think that one of the best parts is that both sets of kids get to see others struggling to learn a language that they take for granted," she added. "That frees them all from the 'fear of being a fool' factor: the person that they're talking to has the same problems, and understands exactly how difficult it is to learn a language."
The next joint classes will take place on Wednesday, November 17 at 8:52 a.m. in the Welcome Center, at 10:51 in room 141 and at 12:18 in room 140, or at any of those times in room 305.