Monday, April 9, 2012

Student Reflection

by Haily Pribyl-Shay

This semester I am volunteering at Leal Elementary School. I have worked there in past semesters and I was very excited to find out that I would be able to volunteer there again. Being a Spanish student, I was always very curious about the bilingual classrooms and how they worked. I would hear snippets of Spanish coming from their classrooms and I would try to see if I could understand what the teacher and students were saying. Volunteering there this semester has given me a greater understanding as to what a bilingual classroom is and how it can benefit students. Spanish 232 has also given me the opportunity to find out more about the Spanish-speakers in our local Champaign-Urbana area.

I work in two different classrooms, both containing Spanish speakers. The fifth grade class is considered mainstream, while the first grade classroom is bilingual. There are several ESL (English as a second language) students in the fifth grade class. I often work with them one-on-one on their language arts/reading assignments, such as spelling or vocabulary. The first grade class that I work with is a self-contained bilingual classroom with only native Spanish-speaking students who are learning English. I was surprised as to how well some students were able to speak English over others. Some of the children in the first grade class speak mostly English to me because they know that is the better of my two languages. Other children have more difficulty stepping out of their comfort zones and using their English with me, especially when they are used to speaking Spanish with teachers, family, and friends.  lowly incorporating English into the curriculum starts in classes and subject areas such as gym, science, fine arts, and social studies. Slowly but surely these ESL students will enter a mainstream classroom taught only in English. Due to their language background, these students are then pulled out of the classrooms for help with language arts and reading. This is considered “Transitional Program of Instruction” because it slowly incorporates more English-taught lessons as the children grow and develop their language skills. Bilingual classrooms are created based on the population of LEP (Limited English Proficient) students. There have to be twenty or more LEP students in order to create a bilingual classroom, and Urbana School District contains 384 English Language Learners. Schools, such as Leal, try to promote bilingualism through subjects such as “Bilingual Heritage language,” hoping to teach children the importance of being bilingual and having their Hispanic or Latin American roots (“Bilingual…”).

Mrs. Sacco is the teacher of my first grade class, and she incorporates English when giving directions for certain activities. Usually when I am in the classroom the students are doing activity stations focusing on independent reading, spelling games with classmates, or rhyming worksheets for language arts development. Then the students will usually go to recess and finally spend time practicing their writing skills with personal narratives. During station time, I will usually pick a spot in the classroom and try to help the children stay on task or complete the assignment. Other times, I will work one-on-one with a child that has trouble with counting or reading. I have really loved working one-on-one with the students because it gives me the opportunity to practice my Spanish while also developing my teaching skills.

"Bilingual and Multicultural Programs." Bilingual and Dual Language Programs. Web.     08 Apr. 2012.

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