ESOL camp helps Hispanic students fine-tune English skills

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, June 27, 2012

By Sarah Campbell
SALISBURY — More than 50 Hispanic students from across Rowan County have spent the past two weeks fine-tuning their English skills through the use of technology.
The Rowan-Salisbury School System is hosting its first English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) camp at Knox Middle School this year. The program started June 18 and wraps up today with students attending from 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. each day.
Program coordinator Miriam Basso said many of the students participating in the program strictly speak Spanish at home and the majority of them don’t have Internet access.
She’s hoping the summer camp will help students get ahead before school starts back in August.
“We really truly wanted to provide an avenue to keep them active and keep them on the computer during the summer,” she said. “That way the children are engaged and they’re learning.”
Jerri Hunt, the district’s ESOL director, said the program is aligned with the district’s focus on getting students up to speed on listening, speaking, reading and writing English.
“The camp focuses on those four domains using an enrichment approach infused with technology” she said. “We’re really excited about it.”
Throughout the camp, students have been working with Rosetta Stone language learning software to improve pronunciation, vocabulary and grammar.
“It’s very basic, but it gets progressively harder,” Basso said. “It’s a very good program because it allows students to move at different paces.
“But Rosetta Stone is not an instrument to replace teachers, it’s just to support and try to fill in some of the academic gaps.”
Students have also been using a variety of software including iMovie, iPhoto, Comic Life and digital cameras.
They have made brochures and created virtual field trips based on countries they’ve been assigned to research.
Juan Sanchez, a rising third-grader at Woodleaf Elementary, said he’s had fun learning to use the different programs.
“I thought it was going to be hard, but it’s really easy,” he said.
Teacher Leslie Foster said the students haven’t had any problems keeping up because technology has always been part of their life.
“I’ve actually learned some things from them that I didn’t know,” she said. “It’s been fun and they are definitely learning more about technology while improving their language skills by writing and learning new vocabulary.”
Leysi Gonazllez said she enjoyed tapping into her inner artist by drawing through the program Comic Life.
“It’s a fun thing to do,” she said.
But the camp hasn’t just been fun, it’s given her the tools to hone her English skills.
“It’s helped me read better,” she said.
Basso said parents brought rising second- through eighth-graders to Knox from everywhere from Koontz to Mt. Ulla elementary schools.
“We’ve had a pretty good turnout for this being the first time and considering we didn’t offer transportation,” she said.
Next year, the district is hoping to have two camps in different parts of the county in order to reach more children.
Contact reporter Sarah Campbell at 704-797-7683.