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ESL endorsement program offers hands-on experience

Friday, July 21, 2006
ESL endorsement program offers hands-on experience
The ESL summer camp teaches non-native English speaking children about the language through games, crafts, songs and other interactive activities.

By Rebecca Wyatt, OU Web Writer

For teachers, summers can be a quiet and slow time. But 17 teachers who are part of Oakland University’s English as a Second Language endorsement program are spending four weeks out of their summer educating non-native English-speaking students about the English language — while earning credit toward the endorsement and possibly a master’s degree in the process.

Teachers in the State of Michigan public school system who want a professional certification have to take a planned program after completing their bachelor’s degrees. Oakland University offers an English as a Second Language endorsement through the Department of Linguistics. In addition, all 20 credits earned through the endorsement program can be applied to a Master of Arts in Linguistics degree.

“I enrolled in the program because I have four or five students in my class every year who are new to the United States,” said Dianne Marshall, a fifth grade teacher. “I wanted to help them and I wanted to help other staff members serve the students better.”

Through a number of activities, the teachers teach the English language to the 85 students from around the Metro Detroit area. The students are divided into classrooms based on age and then subdivided based on levels within the age group. The students come from diverse backgrounds and speak a number of languages including Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Hmong and four Indo-European languages.

The 2000 census shows 18.4 percent of school-age children speak a language other than English at home. Oakland Schools’ data indicates more than 100 languages are spoken by residents in Oakland County, including school children.

“The program was designed to help teachers in the school systems deal with the increasing number of non-native English-speaking students,” said Peter Binkert, OU professor of linguistics and director of the ESL Center. “We want to help teachers understand their students’ needs.”

Creative play, fairy tales, songs, reading, computer work, board games and even sports help the students improve reading, writing and cultural skills essential for success in the classroom.

The children are divided into groups based on grade school classes and also based on familiarity with the language.
Judy Lau, a high school French teacher, said her school doesn’t have an English as a Second Language program, but does sponsor exchange students. She hopes to help establish an ESL program now that she has completed the endorsement program.

“The camp has been challenging. We have to work with students from different levels and keep everyone interested and involved,” said Lau.

Rachna Bardaiyar, who teaches seventh and eighth grade students with Lau, is an ESL paraprofessional and hopes the endorsement will help her become an ESL teacher. Bardaiyar said they spent the last semester planning activities for the summer camp, and she feels it is difficult to teach the students everything in just four weeks.

The summer camp is one of the final courses for the ESL endorsement candidates, which was Oakland’s second cohort. The third cohort will begin in the fall.

Admission to the ESL program is limited to 25 students and takes one year to complete. Classes are held in the evening during the fall and winter semesters, and the spring classes can be taken online. The classes are scheduled at the Arts and Technology Academy of Pontiac. The application deadline for the fall cohort is Aug. 15.

For more information about the ESL program, visit the Department of Linguistics Web site. To apply to the ESL program, apply online at the Graduate Study and Lifelong Learning Web site or call (248) 370-2175.