Local ESL Students Work to Overcome the English Language

By: Lauren Forsythe Email
By: Lauren Forsythe Email

About 9 percent of the students in the Warren County School system don't speak English.

Warren County has the third largest English as a Second Language program in the state, behind Fayette and Jefferson Counties, providing the school system with more tools to help teach English.

One Moss Middle School ESL class is working every day with their teacher to overcome the English Language.

"I like to play with them soccer and volleyball," says a Kirundi phone translator representing Paulo.

Paulo is a student at Henry Moss Middle School, but he was born in Tanzania.

"I like to play basketball and soccer," says an Arabic translator, representing Ahmed.

Ahmed grew up in a refugee camp in Iraq.

He later moved to another camp in Syria, and he eventually ended up in America.

"My country, it's bad, but here, it's good," Ahmed recalled, in English, about his former life in Iraq.

Paulo and Ahmed speak two different languages, and come from two different cultures.

But, it's one Moss Middle School classroom that has bonded twelve non-English speaking students
And, Kim Bowman cannot communicate with her students verbally, but she helps these kids learn a new language.

"The biggest challenge is being patient at the beginning of the year. When we're trying to teach students about ways of being in a school that they've never been in before, and the functioning in English that they've never been in before," Mrs. Bowman says.

Bowman teaches students by showing.

She calls one teaching game "Bowman Says", a version of "Simon Says".

"Eighty percent of communication is body language. So, I can tell when a kid is getting it and when they're not getting it. It just takes a lot of demonstrating, a lot of modeling and hands-on activities in here to make stuff come across," she says.

When learning English interaction between students and teachers plays a key role, but what is most important is technology when learning a new language.

"It extends our class day beyond 3:00 PM. I can record myself reading words from their vocabulary notebooks, and they can listen and repeat. They can practice their vocabulary. They can practice the grammar structure or the sentences that we're studying in class. And come back and still participate," Mrs. Bowman says.

It also helps students learn at their own pace.

"Just a little bit I can understand, but talking, It's hard," says the Kirundi translator for Paulo.

Paulo joined Mrs. Bowman's class two weeks before school ended last year, and he can already understand several English words.

Bowman says it's speaking a new language that is hardest.

But, those students who have lived in America longer have started speaking English.

"I like chicken, and I like burritos, and milk," Ahmed says in English.

Ahmed had lived in Bowling Green for nearly a year, and he can speak English is most social situations, but, Bowman says it's academic vocabulary that he is still working on.

"The academic English is what is going to give these kids success when they go on to higher education which is my hope for all the kids in this class," Mrs. Bowman says.

For now, Bowman says it's a lot of repetition, one on one attention, and iPod, helping Non-English speaking students become fluent English speakers.

Warren County Schools received a $25,000 federal technology grant to help teach non-English speakers.

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