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Written by Belle Sherman Webmaster   

Belle Sherman is a diverse elementary school that serves students from pre-K through 5th grade. Approximately 30 % of the population are bilingual ESOL families. Newly arriving students are screened before entering school and placed according to their level of proficiency in English (beginner, intermediate, advanced). Throughout the school year students are reviewed and assessed to ensure that they receive appropriate instruction and services. Certified ESOL teachers provide ESL support for all ESOL students.

All classes are taught in English. According to their level of proficiency and their academic needs, students work individually, in small groups, or in a classroom setting with and ESOL instructor for a prescribed number of minutes each day. ESOL and classroom teachers collaborate to discuss and plan appropriate materials and strategies to include ESOL students in class lessons and activities. Strategies may include pre-teaching, reviewing, and providing content area support. All ESOL students are integrated into regular Art, Music, and Physical Education classes. Our library has a small collection of children’s books in foreign languages to encourage native language literacy. Families have access to the library collection for use at home.

ESOL families are involved in the Belle Sherman community in many ways. During their child’s initial English language screening, parents meet some of the staff and learn about school services such as transportation, food programs, scheduled activities, and PTA events. Belle Sherman has a Family Liaison who helps acclimate students and their families to their new community and provides ongoing support in understanding school culture and the resources that are available to families. All families are encouraged to attend open houses, class visits, two family conferences a year, and evening events. The PTA provides transportation as necessary. Most teachers send home weekly newsletters describing class activities and upcoming events as well as stating what units are being taught. ESOL teachers support this home school communication by highlighting pertinent information and reviewing this information with the ESOL students. The Family Liaison may make home visits with a translator or family sponsor to inform families about school services such as after school enrichment activities, homework club, summer school, and summer camps. All teachers encourage parent involvement for field trips, class dinners, school wide events, and volunteering in the classrooms.

We have recently created two new partnerships with our ESOL students and our community. Our SIFE Program, part of our extended day program, meets 4 afternoons a week after school. SIFE stands for “Students with Interrupted Formal Education.” Cornell Cooperative Extension supplies staff and supplies for this program which reaches 18 students. The goal of this program is to provide language enrichment activities so that students can better understand concepts as well as receive homework support. Another partnership is through Ithaca College. Students from IC work with our Karen-Burmese ESOL students during the summer. This has now extended into a pairing of literacy buddies throughout the school year. This e-pals electronic pen pal program is growing.

Mentoring and staff development for our ESOL teachers is accomplished in several ways. Veteran teachers assist new teaching staff by sharing language learning strategies and cultural information that can be used to ease students’ transition and support their academic progress. OCM BOCES and BETAC offer workshops for ongoing training for ESOL staff and classroom teachers throughout the school year. Teachers also have the opportunity to attend state and national conferences. ESOL teachers attend district meetings to focus on assessment, practice, and curriculum. Weekly meetings are held at the building level with ESOL teachers and the Family Liaison. Staff also participate in programs offered by Cornell University such as the Southeast Asia Program and Latin American Studies seminars.

Last Updated ( Thursday, 04 March 2010 )
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