Currently, when students come to Burlington High School midway through the year, as they always do, guidance counselors don’t always have a place to put them. Classes that might help to meet students’ educational needs tend to be full at the beginning of the year, causing them to be misplaced in classes that may be too high for their current English proficiency.
Some students with interrupted schooling do not have classes that address their most basic needs, such as learning about money and time; reading calendars, maps, timetables and charts; as well as creating basic foundations in literacy and math, which for some means teaching them what we consider to be primary-school skills.
Until now, there has been no course that addresses these needs.
As a department, The ELL teachers @ BHS feel we are failing these students, but we lack the time to be able to address such disparate needs. This course would be a natural place for all newcomers to start, to begin a more scaffolded journey into the American educational system.
This is not an intervention course, but rather a foundational course to provide students with a skill set that will help them in their journey.
Excell (Excellence for English Language Learners) is a language development program for high-school aged students. The idea is to provide a “soft landing” orientation course for students to show what they know and for ELL teachers to help prepare students to enter the U.S. educational system, which may be vastly different from their own. It will give students a safe place to become acclimated. If there has been interrupted formal education, teachers will be better equipped to provide foundational instruction to support success. Teachers will work on survival skills, interspersed with skills and language needed in U.S. classrooms.
Our original conception is that this would be a half-day course, in which foundational instruction would be given in math, science, social studies and language arts.
This year, we have half of that. We do get to see our students daily, which is rare in a block schedule, but we are only focusing on Basic Interpersonal Communication Skills (BICS).
And thus, the journey begins.