Students taking a new Spanish class at Glasgow High School have been working with English-language learners in local elementary schools to help them complete coursework, a task often hindered by their lack of experience with English.
Elizabeth Woosley, a GHS Spanish teacher, started the class at the beginning of the school year after speaking with Keith Hale, the superintendent of Glasgow Independent Schools who was GHS principal at the time of the discussion.
“We felt like that was a gap group that was being left behind, so we thought we needed a way to target them,” she said. “I proposed a class where our advanced Spanish students could mentor those students.”
Students who can’t speak English frequently struggle in the classroom, stemming from their unfamiliarity with the language their teachers use, according to Lee Ann Yonker, who teaches fifth-grade social studies at South Green Elementary School. Additionally, teachers aren’t always able to provide these students the extra help they need because they have other students to consider, Yonker said.
“You would just have to try to individualize their learning experience, but of course that makes it hard because you’re pulling yourself away from all the others,” she said.
In Yonker’s classroom, the program has been effective so far, she said.
“In-classroom performance has increased with that extra layer of support,” she said.
Every day, students from Woosley’s class attend a language arts class in the morning and help English language learners understand what they’re reading and the assignments they need to complete, Yonker said, adding this additional attention has lent the students a greater understanding of the curriculum and enabled them to turn in better work.
“They attend their language arts class with them and give them one-on-one support,” she said.
Woosley’s class, called Spanish III-ELL Tutoring, with ELL standing for English Language Learners, has eight students who attend classes with Spanish-speaking students struggling to learn in English at South Green and Highland elementary schools, the two elementary schools in the district, Woosley said.
Antonio Hernandez, a junior at GHS who speaks Spanish fluently, decided to take the class because he remembers what it was like to struggle in an American elementary school when he was unfamiliar with English.
“They are the ones in need because they have a language barrier,” he said. “If they’re having trouble with homework, the teacher isn’t always there to help them 100 percent.”
Every day, Hernandez goes to South Green and helps English language learners in fifth grade as well as kindergarten through second grade, he said.
Most of his time at South Green is spent helping students read English material, Hernandez said.
“You make them learn that basic stuff so that later material isn’t as hard for them,” he said.
Helping younger students get a firmer grip on English has been beneficial for Hernandez as well, because it has improved his speaking and social skills, he said.
“It helps you with your social skills and how to interact with students,” he said. “It kind of teaches you how to be a teacher.”
While teachers at Highland and South Green have praised the program for helping their students, the class is also beneficial for the high school mentors, who learn to navigate different Spanish dialects and how to teach children the reading and speaking skills they need, Woosley said.
“My students, in their reflective pieces, I’m amazed how much they’ve learned and grown as educators,” she said.