The Orange County Library System was forunate to receive funding from the Florida Humanities Council and the National Endowment for the Humanities to begin a new series at the North Orange Branch called English Classes for Families. This 10-week series is designed to develop English skills for the whole family. Over the course of the series, bilingual teachers will help parents and children work on their language skills and provide strategies to address challenges they may face at work or school. The first class took place earlier this month on September 4. To provide further insight into how the series is able to make an impact on the lives of our participating families, I will be writing a bi-weekly recap while the program takes place.
The first week of the series was a resounding success. On the first day, we met with ten families to go over expectations and the format of the classes. We covered what would happen during each class. The students also completed their first assignment: the Ellis Placement test. The students all took the exam to better determine their current level of English comprehension. They were encouraged to document their results so they can compare them at the end of the series.
During the next class, we went over words and stories surrounding the concept of the family. We covered how to say things such as sister, brother, mother and father, and we also read I Want a Sister by Tony Ross. We also reviewed KWL charts to help them get an idea of what they would learn and take away from the book. The students were challenged with difficult vocabulary words in both English and Spanish and we discussed synonyms to these words. After that, we were able to send families home with a second book, My Name is Gabriela by Monica Brown, so they could read the Spanish portion of the two-language copies provided.
In the last class of the week, the number of families did decline but the class was still frutiful. We discussed what we learned about Gabriela in the book, as well as read over the English translation. The discussion and reading allowed us to answer questions the students had from their KWL charts. Afterward, we dove into the vocabulary, formal greetings, and went over when certain greetings are appropriate. Overall, we seem to have built a solid base of recurring students for the week, and I believe the numbers will stabilize the following week.