At Lerner, we consider ourselves incredibly fortunate to have the opportunity to work with students from countries throughout the world. Students who speak English as a second (or third) language face challenges adjusting socially, academically, and logistically to school, and we endeavor to make Lerner a welcoming, supportive environment for these children in all of these areas.
In concert with our “one child at a time” mission, our ESL program is individualized for each student. The first step in our process of determining how to design a student’s program is to meet with the child’s family. We want to understand the family’s hopes and expectations for the English Language program for their child, and the initial meeting mostly involves me listening and taking notes. After the conferences, we have a picture of the spectrum of interests and language learning needs for each child, as well as a clearer understanding of appropriate learning goals. In response to these initial discussions, we put together a team of teachers and a collection of curricular materials to support each individual English Language Learner. Major areas of focus for the children, regardless of age or background, are social integration coupled with carefully scaffolded English language immersion and instruction.
The core components of our ESL program include:
For our preschool students, English Language Learning is primarily done through full immersion. Our preschool teachers already communicate using images to explain daily schedules, routines, and classroom materials, which helps children connect concepts, objects, and their environment to words and phrases. The children who speak English as a second or third language learn how to express themselves in similar manner to our native English speakers.
For our kindergarten and first grade English Language Learners, the students participate fully in language arts class, as the emphasis is on phonics and decoding along with improving oral communication skills. These children also receive formal ESL instruction during their Hebrew class time. The learning goals for kindergarten and first grade ESL include reinforcing phonics and decoding from language arts, practicing conversations and social interactions, and role playing common scenarios that they will encounter in school and life.
For second through fifth grade English Language Learners, ESL instruction is carefully tailored to meet their skill level, needs, and interests. After an initial assessment to determine vocabulary comprehension, letter and sight word recognition, and oral communication skills, the teachers design a curriculum that is unique to each child. Depending on learning needs, the students may be pulled from language arts for one-on-one or small group ESL instruction. Instead of taking Hebrew, the students have additional individualized ESL instruction during that class time that incorporates reading, writing, oral communication, and vocabulary in multiple contexts. To supplement their learning, Sam Lazar teaches an after school ESL course for second through fifth grade students that meets from 3-4pm twice a week (at no charge to our families). Finally, our second through fifth grade students have classroom environments that are saturated with Hebrew text. For example, at the beginning of the school year, Ronit made signs in Hebrew for the second grade classroom so that the students (both English and Hebrew speakers) could benefit from seeing the schedules and classroom supplies written in both languages. Due to the cooperative efforts of Sam Lazar, Carlyn, and Gisel, there are Hebrew signs and text throughout the fourth and fifth grade classrooms.
Our English Language Learners enrich the Lerner School in countless ways. They share their diverse perspectives on school and play with their classmates. These students also exemplify character traits like patience, perseverance, and openness to novel experiences. We see our ESL program as an invitation to our international families: welcome to our community, where we embrace the opportunity to help you and your children acclimate to the United States!