The Implementation of ELL Classes

Fatima Al-Sammak, Editor-in-Chief

2016 marked the first year that Lincoln Northeast adopted an ELL program. Previously, only two high schools offered ELL classes. But this new class has brought on lots of changes to the students’ lives. And for those of you who don’t know, ELL classes, which stands for English Language Learners, are created to help foreign students, whose native language is not English, learn to adapt to the cultures and traditions of the United States as new residents to this region.

So why was ELL implemented at LNE out of all the other high schools? The main reason is that ELL student enrollments in the two other high schools that offer said class numbers were was getting too high, especially at North Star. So, considering LNE’s small student population, ELL classes were introduced here to help with balancing the enrollment of high schools. But decisions for which schools will adopt ELL are all up to district and the board of education, so changes are bound to happen in the future as well, and it might come to point where all high schools will adapt ELL classes if the need arises. But for now, Northeast is enough as its student population is already lower than that of all the other Lincoln Public High Schools.

ELL classes are very different from regular classes as language provides a huge barrier between the students and the teachers. So in order to communicate with each other, Ms. Wickard, the ELL teacher at LNE described communication as being “a whole body experience.” She goes on to state, “My students and I have become pros at the ‘song and dance’ routine.” They use gestures and simple words and sentences in order to portray what it is they need to communicate. They laugh at their mishaps rather than their mistakes so no one makes fun of each other, and they all work together to help build up their language skills. In a matter of time, the students are able to learn new English vocabulary and can build themselves up to understand simple directions and talk using uncomplicated sentence structure.

ELL classes tend to be very interactive. Everyday they work on reading, writing, speaking, and listening with each other. Sometimes Ms. Wickard will use cooperative learning groups to make it easier and more comfortable for the students and to learn without being afraid to make mistakes while practicing their language skills. She wants her class to be a comfort zone, one where the students could have fun and laugh while learning rather than being afraid. She wants her students to understand that it is okay to make mistakes and that they don’t feel stressed being in class. The students always have something to do in class everyday, and not participating in not an option.

But interestingly enough, this is not the first time that LNE has had ELL classes. About a decade ago, ELL classes were at LNE before they were at any other school. But because of LNE’s small size, they decided to move ELL classes into more modernized and bigger schools. But now that the student load at the other schools is too high, ELL classes have found their home at LNE once again.