Kensington’s PS 179 Shows Promising Approach With New English Learners

Kensington’s PS 179 Shows Promising Approach With New English Learners
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PS 179 on Avenue C in Kensington. (Photo: Google Maps)

Our very own PS 179 is helping to pioneer a new approach to teaching English to children who speak another language at home.

And PS 179’s leading role makes sense. District 20, where PS 179 is located, serves students who speak languages from across the globe — such as Uzbek, Russian, Tajiki, Urdu, Spanish, Chinese and Bengali.

PS 179, located on Avenue C at East 3rd Street, was featured in an interesting United Federation of Teachers newsletter article this month because of its use of a new teaching model that does not pull English language learners out of the classroom, but instead “pushes in” additional English language assistance so students can stay with their peers.

PS 179 offers the model in grades K through 5.

New state regulations “inspired the UFT with the support of the UFT Teacher Center and the District 20 superintendent” to try out the approach in five District 20 schools this year. The schools had been “struggling to support” English language learners.

The model is “collaborative” in the sense that two teachers typically share a classroom, working with groups of students on different issues, but with a unified learning objective. The article looks at the experience of PS 179 first grade teachers Elizabeth Hurley and Johanna Kurt:

In [7-year-old] Dilnoza’s 1st-grade class, where eight of the 25 students are English language learners, Hurley is the general education teacher and Kurt is the English as a new language teacher. Their keys to successful collaboration: reviewing STARS data, observing students and creating lesson plans together…
Kurt may use more graphics or act out words for the students who are having difficulty following. Students often will be paired with another student who speaks the same language but is more fluent.
At times, the students break into groups, with Kurt taking the students who are not as English-proficient….When the class breaks into two groups, Hurley leads Dilnoza and 14 other students with greater English fluency in writing opinion essays. Meanwhile, Kurt leads 10 students in a vocabulary-building exercise before tackling the opinion-essay assignment.
“She took a different path but we came to the same conclusion,” says Hurley.

The pilot has enormous potential, the article argues, but requires two things: 1.) enough teachers “with the appropriate licenses and certification”; and 2.) sufficient “resources and flexibility” for schools who choose to try out the new approach.

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