Family participation plays an integral role in the success of Hillcrest Professional Development School’s ESL students. Mrs. Johnston, one of the first grade ESL teachers, states that they do a lot of vocabulary and differentiation like all ESL teachers. However, one of the most exciting strategies she uses with her ESL students is sending English books home for the parents to read with their children. Some of these children come from Spanish speaking homes. At first, this posed a challenge. However, the parents loved the idea of the children reading English with them. When they came across a word they did not know, they sent the book back with the words highlighted and Mrs. Johnston translated it for them using a translation program. It has not only helped the children read, it helps the parents to become more exposed to the English language and gives them a feeling of empowerment since they can now help and participate with their children’s education.
“I’ve noticed they visit more now and ask more questions,” Mrs. Johnston says. “We are always careful to talk to all of our students about how wonderful and important it is to speak two languages. We encourage our students to speak both. In fact, I often hear the students discussing new vocabulary words in Spanish first and then I ask them to discuss it with me in English. They help each other develop the language skills by using both Spanish and English.”
ESL strategies are so important to the teaching at Hillcrest, they felt it was important to teach these strategies to their Baylor Interns. Mrs. Johnston has presented several ESL strategy seminars to the interns who have been using them with the students in class.
“We work really hard to see that the children are successful in English and yet keep their own language too,” Mrs. Johnston says. “It also helps with the parents. When they see we want to be part of the culture and language, they are more apt to come up here and participate, learning along side their daughter or son.”