Vita’s English as a Second Language students come from all over the world. Some have college degrees, while others have not finished elementary school. What they all share is a desire to learn, and that goes beyond just learning to speak English.
This month, ESL teacher Judith Gelb introduced her students to Presidents’ Day, and found them eager to learn more. While many were able to recognize recent presidents (particularly Joe Biden, Donald Trump, and Barrack Obama), they were curious to hear about George Washington and especially Abraham Lincoln.
“We talked about the Civil War and the Emancipation Proclamation,” Judith said, “and they were really interested to learn about it, especially because we had talked about Martin Luther King Jr. Day last month.” Students are eager to learn about US history and culture, which are especially important to them now that they have made their homes in the United States.
Teacher Jose Garcia agrees that holidays provide a good learning opportunity. While the curriculum, “focuses on daily life, situations at work and at school, things like…apply[ing] for a job,” talking about holidays is a chance to vary the conversation. On President’s day, Jose said, he talked about the role of the presidency in the government. Afterward, he takes students through activities like a crossword with clues based on the lesson, or having them solve a puzzle like those on Wheel of Fortune.
Students care about their new home. “[Our students] watch and read the news,” Judith said. “It makes them want to understand more about our government and how it works.” Focusing on important figures in our country makes history come alive. Engaging students in lessons and discussions like these not only helps them speak English, but also to be more at home here in the United States.