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Lake Washington School District aims to connect cultures

Kaytal Keo works on a penmanship lesson in Mrs. Luthra’s class at John Muir Elementary. Keo was one of several students who attended an ELL Jump Start program for incoming kindergarten students who speak English as a second language. - Katherine Ganter/Reporter Newspapers
Kaytal Keo works on a penmanship lesson in Mrs. Luthra’s class at John Muir Elementary. Keo was one of several students who attended an ELL Jump Start program for incoming kindergarten students who speak English as a second language.
— image credit: Katherine Ganter/Reporter Newspapers

Seventy four language groups are spoken among students in the Lake Washington School District (LWSD).

The district’s ELL (English Language Learner) programs aim to help students gain English competency and success in all academic subjects while also honoring their native cultures.

Over the summer, the LWSD piloted an ELL Jump Start program for incoming kindergarten students who speak English as a second language. Qualified students were identified through registration forms and invited to attend the orientation sessions held at several Eastside elementary schools.

Participation wasn’t mandatory but the children very much wanted to be there, according to Kristen Broadie, who is an ELL teacher at Redmond Elementary but worked with ELL Jump Start kids at Muir in late August.

Most of the kids in her group spoke the Hmong (also known as Mong) language.

Isn’t it hard, as an ELL teacher in such a diverse school district, to know how to communicate with students?

“Not at all,” said Broadie. “When kids are that young, they have eyes on the teacher and they’re so interested in trying to do what the teacher would like. You mostly model for them, show a lot of examples. There’s lots of repetition.”

That’s really no different than when any kids start kindergarten, she added.

“They really didn’t come in, aware of their lack of English. Like any other kids, they were excited,” she added.

The ELL Jump Start students learned how to put jackets away, how to sit quietly on the carpet and listen, how to wash their hands, share crayons and playground etiquette.

Muir principal Jeff DeGallier praised Broadie’s efforts and the willingness of the LWSD to introduce the program and put youngsters at ease.

“Instead of shy, reluctant learners, they were ready to engage in school and access the curriculum,” he said. “These kids have as much cognitive readiness as any others. This was just a way to bridge that (language) hurdle.”

DeGallier also commented on the ELL students’ “work ethic that is wonderful for adults to see.”

Unlike some of their more privileged peers, they take nothing for granted.

“They truly want to learn,” he said.

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