LeMoyne Students Gain English Literacy through PENPal Program

     Published on 2/28/17   Tagged under:    District News    Academics    LeMoyne Elementary School   

In Michaela Clark’s English as a New Language (ENL) classroom at LeMoyne Elementary, one group of students read books in Nepali. A second group, native Spanish speakers, practiced a phonics activity; while a third group used flash cards to learn early English words and phonics.
Ms. Clark roamed the room, assisting students as she observed how this year, it is so much easier for these ENL students to learn independently. Thanks to a grant funded by the SCSD Educational Foundation, the 150+ ENL students at LeMoyne Elementary now have the opportunity to use Mantra Lingua translated books and PENpal Phonics items including charts, flash cards, word tiles and more to help them make connections from their native language to English.
“We can use this special [PENpal] pen to touch a language and then touch a phrase and it will tell us how to say it,” fifth grader Naiara Oropeza said as she displayed a PENpal Phonics chart. “It helps us learn another language easier. I’ve learned how to speak more French and Spanish. I like learning new languages because it means I’m not stuck with just one language for my whole life!”
“We can read books or play games and the pen will tell us if we get things right or wrong,” classmate Yuliannis Venero Del Toro said. “It’s fun, but you’re learning at the same time. I’ve learned new words this way.”
LeMoyne students now have the opportunity to use the PENpal pens in their integrated classroom during reading or phonics time – or visit the ENL room to check out a bilingual book, talking phonics magnets that play sounds out loud and more. Books are currently available in nine languages including French, Thai, Spanish, Somali, Arabic, Nepali and others.
“These materials have impacted my students in such a positive way,” Ms. Clark explained. “My students do not get to interact with their first languages in an academic way very often in class. These materials have enabled them to read and utilize their first languages in their classrooms.”
Ms. Clark noted that prior to the grant, teachers did not have access to many multilingual books and resources. 
“I think that hearing a story while they follow along, tracking printed words in their first language and then again in English with the same story, will help to make reading comprehension ‘click’ for some of my students who still struggle with this essential reading skill,” Ms. Clark added. “My students were so excited to see these materials! Hearing stories in their first languages through the PENpal made a few of them emotional.”
Thanks to PENpal stickers, students who speak less common languages are even able to record books in their native language to assist future LeMoyne students! This is one of 20 projects funded by the SCSD Educational Foundation in 14 schools this year, totaling $53,000. Thank you for the continued support!