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School Argues for Theater as a Good Practice to Help ELLs Learn Common Core

School Argues for Theater as a Good Practice to Help ELL Learn Common Core

Tougher Common Core-aligned tests can pose especially difficult new challenges for English Language Learners, but one Port Chester, N.Y., elementary school believes theatre instruction can help.

Kelly Budde's language arts class in Thomas A. Edison Elementary School is "filled with budding thespians and English language learners (ELL)," and lively theater exercises are an integral part of the class to "teach literacy, boost vocabulary and help students master the new Common Core language arts curriculum," according to The Hechinger Report.

In this elementary school, 40 percent of the schools' 430 students are English Language Learners, and 95 percent speak more than one language, the article said.

Here, making sure the ELL students are getting the same benefits of a good education as their English-speaking peers is a priority. And since ELL traditionally have difficulty with standardized tests, Edison is looking for ways to reverse the trend.

“'Our number-one issue is use of language because they’re not exposed to it at home in their native language or in English. The academic language isn’t there,' said the school's principal Ivan Tolentino to The Hechinger Report.

Kelly Budde has been working with integrating theater into English classrooms since the beginning of the 2013-2014 school year and has used her background as an English as a Second Language (ESL) teacher as well as her background in theater "to create scripts and lessons aligned with the Common Core-EngageNY ELA curriculum."

Soon after she began the endeavor, the school partnered with The Performing Arts Center at Purchase College, which manages the Neighborhood Bridges program that sends teachers to schools in need to bring theater into ELA classrooms.

"Budde, who has taught at Edison Elementary for 13 years, said English learners require more creative strategies to master language and literacy. So far, Budde said, the use of theater has proved effective in helping students tackle more rigorous reading passages and texts," the article said.

Despite not being sure on how the school's students will perform on test scores, Budde told the Hechinger Report that the difference that theater makes for learning for ELL is tangible.

"Echoing sentiments of ELA teachers across the nation, Budde said she is aware that state assessments will likely not reflect how much her students have advanced this year. Yet, she measures advancement in other ways."

But Budde says its rewarding enough to see her ELL students going from not being to talk or read to immersing themselves plays and performing them with confidence.

Read the full article here and comment below.

Article by Nicole Gorman, Education World Contributor


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