English with English Jump Start at IS 119
8 a.m. at IS 119 in Glendale, Queens, students from all over the
world sing jazz chants, not the Star-Spangled Banner. Throughout
the day, they read, write, and talk with each other—in English.
This is particularly amazing because it is their recently adopted
language; many have been speaking it only since the beginning
of this year.
IS 119 is one of many schools in New York City that are home to
Project English Jump Start, a Board of Education program for children
in grades 1-8 who have just arrived in the United States. Children
whose formal schooling has been interrupted or who have spent
the last three years in the school system without sufficient progress
are also encouraged to attend.
Jump Start’s curriculum focuses on New York City and is divided
into four units—All About Me, My Community, Transportation and
Places of Interest—which are taught through literature, art and
technology. In some schools, the program is departmentalized,
with different teachers for each component. However, Irma Evangelista,
who supervises four English Jump Start classes at IS 119, opted
to have each teacher, or pair of teachers, responsible for using
all three subject areas. “The objective [for the students] is
to learn as much English as possible,” says Evangelista.
Indeed, all the classroom activities are geared toward that end.
Ms. Serna and Mr. Batista assign guided compositions on themes
such as ‘My Community,’ which the children later type on the computers
in their classroom. Ms. Papadopoulou’s students just created their
own little books about New York. Mrs. Lozano and Mrs. Capdevila’s
students have listed the characters and talked about the plots
of “Peppe the Lamplighter,” “Jessie Came Across the Sea” and “Tar
Beach,” stories which portray the immigrant experience.
The teachers try to make the lessons enjoyable, but certain dreaded
tasks cannot be eliminated. Mr. Perez admits that he gives “lots
of homework.” Most of his students are entering eighth grade in
the fall and will be required to take exams that measure reading
and writing skills. Almost every day, each student works with
a partner to revise descriptive essays that have written about
class trips, such as a recent one to Coney Island Aquarium.
The goal of the program, which has existed under various names
over the past few years, is for children to learn the language
well enough to be placed in mainstream classes in September. Once
there, if they score below 41 percent on the LAB (Language Assessment
Battery Test), they are entitled to ESL classes.
Unfortunately, the program’s organizers have encountered some
difficulties. Sabina Miller, Jumpstart’s City Coordinator at the
Bilingual Office at Community School Board 24, cites the current
teacher shortage as an obstacle. Also, because only air-conditioned
classrooms can be used, a limited number of seats in the 18-student
classes are available. Even though students from three schools
participate in English Jump Start at IS 119, Evangelista has yet
to turn anyone away.
According to Evangelista, this summer program functions better
than the regular school year because classes are smaller and there
is no pressure of exams. The teacher’s job is easier because all
the materials, including books and supplies, are provided. Thus,
Evangelista says that “Teachers can be more creative.” #
parents should contact their local community school board. Sabina
Miller can be reached at 718-417-2645.
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