A peek at the day of a Woodson English learner

Published 8:56 am Saturday, April 28, 2018

By Deb Nelson, Tricia Poindexter, and Annie Tomschin

English Learner Kindergarten Teachers

Within the Austin Public School District, there is a unique group of learners.  These students, who come from different backgrounds, each bring a unique opportunity and perspective to their classroom. This group of diverse learners represent numerous languages, cultures, nationalities and backgrounds that enrich our classrooms. English Learner (EL) students at Woodson Kindergarten Center have an incredible gift, and this gift is being shared across classrooms each day.

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Each EL student comes with their own language, customs, and culture. Some EL students start the year entirely unfamiliar with the English language, while others start with more advanced English knowledge. Some students may need support with academic language, while others need support with basic interpersonal communication skills.

At the start of Kindergarten, many beginning EL students are in a silent period. Teachers use different strategies to help these students learn vocabulary and become more comfortable within their environment. Some of the tools our teachers use include SMART Boards, iPads, and manipulatives. These tools help to increase EL student interest as well as build up the level of motivation and engagement. Student understanding can be strengthened by showing a picture of an object or even a short clip with visuals explaining a concept.

Within each classroom, there is a daily routine. Routines help EL students to understand the structure of the school day and the responsibilities they have as students. Teachers use visuals to support EL students throughout their day. Tools such as pictures are used to help the students when making decisions such as lunch choices, navigating through the building, or when a change in their daily routine is about to occur.

At Woodson, students participate in activity centers such as Play Centers and Boost-Up daily. The activities within these centers change monthly to correlate with the Kindergarten curriculum. Teachers help EL students to understand the new materials by visually demonstrating how to properly care for and use each object. The vocabulary that is used within Play Centers and Boost-Up is introduced to the students at the beginning of every month. Play Centers and Boost-Up allow for the EL students to practice their social communication skills through play and movement in these areas. For example, students can interact with one another while bowling in Boost-Up or while role playing as community helpers in the Play Centers.

EL students are supported by many different adults throughout their day. Classroom teachers, EL teachers, paraprofessionals, administration, success coaches and other support staff work with students. They work in small groups to help EL students grow academically, build relationships between school and home, practice conversation skills and create a solid foundation on their way to becoming a contributing member of the Austin community.