Wednesday, August 15, 2007

ELL classes help more students learn English

A group of children enrolled in the English Language Learner class at Saks Elementary School share a laugh Tuesday. Photo: Bill Wilson/The Anniston Star

The number of K-12 students in Alabama grew 1.5 percent from 1994-1995 to 2004-2005; the number of students in Alabama speaking little or no English grew in the same period by 336.8 percent.

The little boy's parents put him on the school bus the first day of school, trusting he would get to his classroom. After all, they had enrolled him a few days before.

But when he arrived at a Calhoun County elementary school, nobody could understand his name. Like many kindergarteners, he was a bit overwhelmed. The words the teachers used to ask him questions didn't sound like the words his family used at home.

That's because his family's first language isn't English.

So the office workers called April Blakeney, one of three Calhoun County School System teachers for English Language Learner (ELL) students.

Blakeney, who taught Spanish at Saks High School before becoming an ELL teacher, got the child settled into his classroom.

"I reassured him as much as possible that we would help him," Blakeney said.

But Blakeney couldn't stay with him. It was also the first day of school for a fourth-grade girl who had arrived in the United States just two weeks before and Blakeney needed to help her.

The students come from all over the world and from a variety of socioeconomic and previous learning backgrounds.

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