Extended day learning helps English Language Learners at elementary schools

Extended day learning helps English Language Learners at elementary schools
Posted on 12/01/2016
For over 30 English language learners, Fisher Elementary School starts around 7:30 a.m., over an hour before the traditional school day. As part of an Imagine Learning-funded opportunity, the three elementary schools within Lynden Schools offer extended day teaching for students to improve English skills without getting pulled from classroom work.

“Teachers certainly appreciate the fact that support is being offered that doesn’t effect the school day and students are not missing anything (from class) to get it,” says Kaela Ruble, the Fisher program’s facilitator.

Students can get to school via parents or by taking the bus route intended for middle or high school students, allowing the additional time to start around 7:30 a.m., October through spring. With over 30 students involved at Fisher this year, Ruble says they now have four para-educators teaching the morning sessions, a substantial growth from previous years.

Staff invites students in grades three through five—the older students can better handle the early morning extras—into the program based on proficiency as determined by academic assessments. Students in kindergarten through second grade receive similar support, but during the school day.

Based off the Imagine Learning program, Ruble says Fisher staff has evolved the program to fit the needs of the local students, adding in writing, small-group reading, one-on-one help and sharing. Staff also pre-teaches concepts and provides homework help for those who struggled with understanding the work from the day before.

“We are setting them on their way and making sure they are prepared for class,” she says. “As you work with something you figure out how to enhance it. We are doing more small groups than we used to, more interventions and reinforcing writing more.”

Along with offering needed support outside of regular class time, Ruble says teachers report, hands-down, the greatest benefit for students as an increased confidence during the school day. “You want academic growth, but the confidence to participate in class, it gives them an access point in the classroom where they may not have had one before,” she says. “They are practicing speaking in front of a group and with each other and teachers see the confidence they have in expressing their thoughts and ideas.”

And the students see the support too, from encouraging one another to working together on schoolwide projects. “The kids are excited,” Ruble says about the opportunity. “It has become more of a family atmosphere.”