Multiliteracy Project Helps ENL Students Maintain Heritage Language

     Published on 10/3/18   Tagged under:    District News   

This is a photo of eight people standing outside the Northside Learning Center building.Students in the Syracuse City School District are diverse: more than 80 languages are spoken by students across the district! In an effort to celebrate this diversity, English as a New Language (ENL) Instructional Coaches Erica Daniels and Emily Voegler recently developed a program to help encourage students to maintain and develop their bilingualism – and to assist them in doing so.
Called the Multiliteracy Project, the program was first implemented over the summer of 2018, with more than 100 students from Pre-K to grade 12 taking part. Students were broken up into classrooms by heritage language: Nepali, Karen, Somali, Swahili and Arabic. There, bilingual instructors, with the support of an ENL teacher and Nationality Worker, taught courses twice a week to help students develop their heritage literacy skills. The younger students (Pre-K-5) created a personal memoir with their families in their native language. The older students (grades 6-12) completed work to help them achieve Seal of Biliteracy requirements.
“The Multiliteracy Project stems from a desire to promote bilingualism and biliteracy in the SCSD,” Ms. Daniels explained. “As ENL teachers, we often see that as our students are assimilating into US culture and acquiring English, they are losing their heritage language. Understanding the cognitive and social benefits of bilingualism, I felt a personal responsibility to give students an opportunity to reconnect with their home culture and language. Because of the project, we saw that students felt a significant sense of pride sharing their memoirs with the community and a deeper connection to their own culture and language.”
“We found that in our Nepali class, the parents even started to supplement the course materials with Nepali-language worksheets that they created themselves,” Ms. Voegler added. “This was really valuable to us, because we could see what literacy skills were important to them, and it created a strong home-school connection for the students to experience.”
The program was such a success among students – and families – that it is continuing this school year, thanks to partners Northside Learning Center and the Bhutanese Community Center. Classes are being offered once a week for 12 weeks this fall for first through eighth grade students, and will be offered this spring for high school students working toward the Seal of Biliteracy.