Bradley students break language barrier

Dr. Heljä Antola Crowe and students from English Language Learner class visit Glen Oak School.

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September 11, 2013

During ETE 235, Methods of Teaching English Language Learners, Bradley students had various opportunities to learn about teaching ELL students. One of the experiences was a series of visits to Glen Oak School, where they worked with ELL children.

A little shy in the beginning, Glen Oak children were very excited to see Bradley preservice teachers coming to their classroom. The activities that Bradley students brought with them were educational, engaging, creative and enjoyable. Activities included making pumpkin story books, participating in Halloween activities, playing various games, singing, dancing and drawing activities. Children were thrilled when Bradley preservice teachers brought iPads to the classroom for their last visit. Children enjoyed drawing on the iPads and playing alphabet and math games. Overall, one of the activities children liked the most was dancing and singing together in English, Spanish, and Finnish.

Both Bradley students and Glen Oak children enjoyed working together and learned a lot from each other. Below are comments from Bradley students:

  • Glen Oak really opened my eyes to the variety of students that I could potentially have in my future classroom. – Sara Melton
  • I learned that even though you may not speak the same language, you can still communicate easily and learn the other person’s language at the same time. – Laura Steubinger
  • I learned that in today’s world, it is beneficial to know another language, especially as a teacher. – Lizette Vital
  • I learned how to connect with the students at a different level and medium. If I can’t speak their language, I can show them and speak the language of art and activities.  – Nimira Hussain

Catherine Caldwell, a Bradley graduate student who assisted Dr. Heljä Antola Crowe with Glen Oak visits did a professional reflection activity with the Bradley teacher candidates. She had them look at the pictures taken during the time they interacted with Glen Oak children and let them study the nonverbal communication. Catherine asked the students to notice their facial expressions in the pictures, talked with them about self-awareness in teaching and self-growth, and asked them to analyze some important features about how to act professionally. She also asked students to choose one feature they would like to work on during the upcoming Literacy Fiesta event. Students chose to work on time management, multitasking, non-verbal communication, posture and tone of voice, among others. During this process, students were also able to give feedback to each other about their progress.

The ETE 235 course addresses the methods of teaching English Language Learners (ELL). Within a course frame, students learn about the stages of learning a foreign language and literacy learning through active engagement and total physical response. Dr. Antola Crowe, the professor who teaches the course, started the class by speaking Finnish to students, “which allowed them to get the experience of how it feels when you do not understand what’s going on. At first, they didn’t believe we were doing something that drastic, but it was a really good thing to do.”

Dr. Antola Crowe said one of the goals of the course is “for students to grow as teachers, thinking, ‘Who am I as a teacher? Why does it matter?’” Throughout the course, students had many opportunities that helped them to grow as teachers, such as learning an “iceberg idea of a culture,” talking about different aspects of cultures, participating in a required professional development activity, and organizing the Literacy Fiesta for St. Mark School students. This Literacy Fiesta included students creating and engaging students with activities at learning centers. In addition, during one class session, students had a chance to have a video-teleconference with students from Finland. Students from Bradley and Finland talked to each other and conducted activities to learn about each other’s cultures. Lastly, this semester, ETE 235 students were able to engage in a session with ICC international students.

All of the experiences in ETE 235 were designed to address the issues associated with teaching English Language Learners.