This July, 45 newcomers to the Arlington Public Schools elementary English Language Learners (ELL) program came together in a school-year extension that provided structure to the complex language learning process through additional direct instruction in breaking down content concepts and language skills. The month-long Summer English Language Learner (SELL) program is a fun, engaging, low-risk environment where students whose proficiency is either some or no English at all can feel safe to use the language.
The young participants worked together by grade level.and the SELL team of classroom teachers enjoyed the flexibility of being able to creatively teach their students through hands-on activities that enabled them to learn language and content. This summer’s themes included animals, All About Me, and sports. As they have in other years, Curious Creatures, an educational live animal program based in Groveland, Massachusetts, brought a range of animals to visit. This delighted the students, who were allowed to hold many of them.
Targeting language and literacy development for APS newcomer students, SELL provides these children with a preview of what school is like in the United States. English Language Learners Director Carla Bruzzese reports that this is appreciated by parents. Families also like the fact that their children are able to make new friends and connections in a small, supportive environment before the full school year begins, reducing some of the fear associated with this process.
Ms. Bruzzese was able to share information about SELL with educators from across the state this past summer when the program was selected to be included in a Title IIIA Best Practices webinar held by the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE). The webinar focused on three parts of the Title III grant requirements: high quality English language instruction, high quality professional development, and a parental program.
Ms. Bruzzese’s brief presentation highlighted the various ways that APS programming has been designed. SELL is funded by a federal Title III grant, and the presentation described how the funds received for summer enrichment activities that involve hands-on activities are allocated to SELL for the benefit of our newcomer students. This creative use of funds was also discussed during a question and answer session with a select panel that APS SELL took part in.
This year marked a return to in-person SELL at the Bishop School after the pandemic and remote summer programming. All ELL newcomer students entering grades one through five in September of the new school year are invited to attend the program free of charge.