Ross School - Senior Projects 2011
Mentor: Arianne Mayer
Domain(s): Foreign Languages
Title: Cultural Exchange: An ESL Experience
Description: For my Senior Project I wanted to explore language immersion. This summer, I spent a month living with a family in Costa Rica in order to better understand this process. The book I created, Cultural Exchange, is a book of 7 short lesson plans based on my experiences in various English as a Second Language (ESL) classes. I was able to observe and assist with classes of two different levels of ESL at the Ross School, as well as with an adult ESL class at the John Jermain Memorial Library in Sag Harbor, under the instruction of my outside consultant. I created lesson plans which promote cultural exchange within the classroom, and each lesson reflects this central theme.
To summarize my senior project in a page will be no mean feat, but IÕll give it my all. In May of my junior year, when presented with the question of what to do for my Senior Project, I knew immediately that I wanted to study language immersion. I had spent a considerable amount of my life surrounded by different languages but my interest in the subject began when the Ross School became an international boarding school and I was introduced to new languages and cultures from as far away as Japan, China, Korea, Germany, and Brazil, to name a few.
The start of my project came when I decided to spend four weeks living with a local family in San Jose, Costa Rica. I traveled with a classmate and spent my weekdays taking Spanish language classes, and my weekends exploring the country and immersing myself in the language. Through this experience I was able to obtain an extremely personal connection with my project. I was given the unique view of a student in an unfamiliar place where the native language was not my own. During the trip, I read my summer reading selection, which was The Practice of English Language Teaching by author Jeremy Harmer. HarmerÕs book introduced me to the concept of a lingua franca, which means language of exchange. From that point on, my project took on a theme, the theme of direction. Though I still had no idea where that theme would take me, it was a relief to have chosen a path at last.
Upon my return to the states, school began, and with it came the realization that it was time to approach my project from a realistic standpoint, and to decide what it was that I wanted to do. After several productive meetings with both the head of the High School and the head of the English as a Second Language program, I had decided to spend some time observing and studying the teaching of English as a Second Language through the experiences of the international students studying at Ross. I began by observing two different classes, four days a week. One class was a beginner comprehension class, while the other was an intermediate writing class.
In order to make my project as universal as possible, I sought to have some exposure to an ESL class outside of the Ross School community, and with the help of ESL teacher Meikle Blossom, I was able to get in contact with Martha Potter, an ESL teacher for adults at the John Jermain Library in Sag Harbor. Ms. Potter offered to allow me to observe her 5pm class on Tuesday evenings at the library and also agreed to be my outside consultant for the project.
After many more meetings, my mentor, Arianne Mayer, and I decided that my final product would be a book of original compiled lesson plans, for teachers, based on my experiences. The book took shape over the next few weeks transforming from an activity book, to a lesson guide and from ten lesson plans to an even seven. As the last of the Fall months passed, I was falling into a routine where attending ESL classes was part of my daily life. Eventually, I was able to teach small activities and even my own lessons to the classes. These were the experiences that I drew from the most when considering who might read my book. I intended the book to be for other ESL teachers to read, and to write for them, I needed to understand how their daily lesson might go.
Finally, after many weeks of editing and revising my lessons with Ms. Mayer, I was able to send out the rough draft, and after several more weeks, the final draft. After all of my hard work, I was able to hold in my hands a beautifully bound, hardcover book containing seven concise lesson plans, activities, photos from my teaching days, and personal reflections of my own.
I believe that the most valuable part of this project was its ability to have come full circle. I started out as the student in a foreign country, being taught a second language by someone who didnÕt speak the same native language as I did. I was shocked to find how different my experience was on the other end of the spectrum, having become that teacher, interacting with students immersed in American language and culture. In the near future, I hope to participate in the construction and implementation of ESL programs at the university that I will attend, as well as do some teaching of my own in later years.
Blossom, Meikle. "Beginning ESL." Personal interview. Fall 2010.
Broukal, Milada. What a World: Amazing Stories from around the Globe. White Plains, NY: Longman/Pearson Education, 2004. Print.
Coelho, Elizabeth, Lise Winer, and Judy Winn-Bell. Olsen. All Sides of the Issue: Activities for Cooperative Jigsaw Groups. Burlingame (Calif.): Alta Book Center Publ., 1998. Print.
Harmer, Jeremy. The Practice of English Language Teaching. Fourth ed. Harlow, England: Pearson Education, 2007. Print.
Heyer, Sandra. Very Easy True Stories: a Picture-based First Reader. First ed. White Plains, NY: Addison Wesley Longman, 1998. Print.
Potter, Martha. "ESL for Adults: Intermediate Level." Personal interview. Fall 2010.
Singer, Rebecca. "Intermediate Writing ESL." Personal interview. Fall 2010.
"The Teaching of Language Arts to Limited English Proficient/ English Language Learners: Learning Standards for English as a Second Language." Bilingual Education and Foreign Language Studies. New York State Education Department, 2 June 2009. Web. Nov. 2010. <http://www.p12.nysed.gov/biling/resource/ESL/standards.html>.
English as a Second Language Teacher
John Jermain Memorial Library