Newcomers in the School Community

Newcomers in the School Community

by Judie Haynes

In the Spring my district always welcomes newcomers to the United States into our E.S.L. program. Finding activites for these new students is a challenge. Combine your students' natural interest in environmental print with a tour of the neighborhood for this thematic unit.

For my district Spring is always brings new students to our school. Summer is over in South America and the school year has ended in Asia. ESL Schedules and groups that have worked well all year have to be revamped. How do we welcome these newcomers and keep our other first year students engaged?

Our new English language learners are eager to read the environmental print that surrounds them. Take advantage of this natural interest to help your students learn to read in English and gain information about your community at the same time. Pair your newcomers with a student who has been here a little longer. Take a trip around your community for signs such as Welcome to ..., Exit, McDonald’s, Shop-Rite, Exxon, Stop, No Parking.

  • Have students make a book of the photographs. Begin with one of the sign displaying the name of your town or city. Encourage students to label or write a simple sentence to go with each picture.
  • Give students a large street map of your town or neighborhood. Help them find the location of each building and write its name or glue a picture at the correct location on the map. A buddy can help with this.
  • Ask simple questions such as "Where is the library?" Using your students' language ability and willingness to speak as a guide, have them point to the library and generate simple sentences such as "The library is here." "The library is on Main Street."
  • Help students find their own house on the map. Teach directionality. Have students show how they walk or ride home from the school. Have them write and say, "I walk three blocks north, turn left and walk two blocks east."
  • After your students have mastered this lesson, you may wish to place the people who work in these buildings on your map. Firefighters work at the firehouse.
  • A variation of this lesson is to use the important places in your school building: Nurse's office, principal's office, gym, lunch room. If there are no signs, make them for the photographs.

  • Related Links

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    How Culture Shock Affects Newcomers
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    Tips on Communicating
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