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English Language Learners

rows of desks in classroom facing chalkboard
User neoproton / Flickr CC / http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

There are more than 90,000 kids in Michigan schools whose primary language is not English.

The number of these English language learners has grown 45 % in the past 5 years, according to data from the state of Michigan.

That has districts, and the state, scrambling to train teachers to help these kids learn.

University of Michigan

The federal government is still trying to find temporary shelter for the thousands of children who have fled from Central America, often by themselves. Some of them are met by protesters shouting the children are not welcome in this country.

But in Ann Arbor, a summer school program for English Language Learners is trying to give immigrant kids the opposite message; that they are valuable members of the community with something to teach. 

Unfortunately for the kids, they have to go to summer school to get this message. For many kids, possibly these 10 kids included, summer school is the worst. These students, who range in age from 10 to 14 years-old, are stuck inside a classroom at Scarlett Middle School while the sun shines through the windows.

But this summer program is just one of many things these young people willing to do to succeed in school, and in this country. They’re all here because English is not their first language and they want to improve. They all have different goals. Some want to work on spoken language, others are working on writing English, still others on reading it.

All of these students bring different skills and life experiences into the classroom. Some are recent immigrants or refugees, others have been here a while. They are from places as different as Syria, China and Costa Rica. 

Public schools are required to offer educational opportunities for students who don’t speak English as a first language. This summer class is one offering and the school district, in partnership with the University of Michigan, is trying to inspire these young people. Debi Khasnabis helped design this curriculum. She says she’s trying to make summer school better- through being a place where students can find some value in whatever it was that brought them to this class and what also led to them needing to learn English.

Khasnabis wants them to realize that their experience as immigrants means they bring resilience and skills to the table.