Kids get extra help in English program
The Arizona Republic
Jun. 25, 2003 12:00 AM
Teacher Tammy Storck listened to students read their essays about family, as
aide Patricia Ortiz helped them translate during a four-hour summer lesson at El
Mirage Elementary School.
Storck's second- and third-graders are in the Dysart Unified School District's
six-week program for students learning English.
This year, students were carefully organized into classes in which children have
a range of English ability. The program is two weeks
longer than last year. After four hours of study in the morning, students attend
a two-hour recreation program.
For students struggling with English, summer is a time for an extra dose of the
Many Valley districts offer free programs to give English language learners in
elementary and middle schools a head start so when
school reconvenes, they are better able to speak and understand.
Thousands of students are enrolled in English programs. Tempe Elementary School
District has 300 in its program. Balsz Elementary
School District has 485 in its program and Scottsdale Unified School District
has 400 students. Seventy students are in the Dysart Unified School District
"It's a time for them to get a shot in the arm of English for the school year,"
said Beverly Koniar, Dysart language acquisition specialist.
Summer English classes provide some perks for students. There's a singular focus
on the language.
"It's much more intensive," Storck said. "During the school year, we have many
more interruptions," such as art class and other lessons.
Summer classes are also "lighter and more fun" than the school year, teacher
Linda Veen said.
On a Wednesday morning, she led first-graders at El Mirage in a game where they
stuck out their tongues and bent their knees, singing the names of the body
Classes are smaller. Veen's is 15 students, as are summer classes around the
"Teachers get to have a lot of one on one time," with students, said Maria
Paredes, community education manager at Creighton Elementary School District in
Some districts group students with others on the same English level, but at
Dysart, students are mixed.
Veen said she has some students who don't speak a word of English while others
can say several sentences. The idea is for students to
learn from each other.
Storck said, "Some students are from Mexico and this is their first school
experience. It's a very nice welcoming."
Ortiz said she encourages students to speak English, but uses Spanish to help
them understand what is going on in the classroom.
"It makes them feel more comfortable," Ortiz said.
The classes focus on reading and writing, but also on pronunciation.
Veen's and Storck's students are some of the 70 children in Dysart's
kindergarten through eighth-grade program. The students were
identified during the year as struggling with the language.
Dysart isn't the only district with a new summer English program.
Osborn Elementary School District in Phoenix is targeting incoming
kindergartners in a two-week program before school starts.
"Children who were coming into kindergarten were just baffled by everything, the
culture, the language, the classroom," said Anita Riehm, director of language
acquisition at Osborn.
Tempe started a new program, and Balsz, in Phoenix, restarted the English
program it abandoned four years ago.
Regardless of the program, the idea is to raise student's academics. Some
districts test students. Others, such as Dysart, rely on teachers to report how
"We're taking a more informal look at the program," Koniar said. "Each teacher
will fill out forms for students, what they worked on."
One of the biggest advances students may make is increased confidence said
Melissa Arnold, directing the English program at
Madison Elementary School District in Phoenix.
"We may see a little bit of a jump in their reading and writing," Arnold said.
Progress may also be a student feeling comfortable enough to ask a teacher for a
bathroom pass, she said.