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Language takes center stage

Students in the English Learners (EL) summer program perform during their closing ceremony for parents and educators. (CONTRIBUTED)
Students in the English Learners (EL) summer program perform during their closing ceremony for parents and educators. (CONTRIBUTED)

MADISON – Numerous ‘scripts’ were in play when approximately 100 Madison students perfected their ‘lines’ for an important ‘plot’ element — language acquisition.

These “English Learners,” or EL, students met at Heritage Elementary School for four weeks of half-day classes this summer. (EL students formerly were referred to as ‘English Language Learners’ or ELL.)

“The purpose is to decrease some of the summer learning loss, especially in the English language,” Nichole Phillips said. Phillips is Heritage’s Assistant Principal and the EL program’s administrator.

“Of these 100 kids, there are 13 different home languages. That’s indicative of Madison City Schools, and we are proud of that diversity,” Phillips said.

The EL students are in pre-kindergarten through fourth grade, Sharon Willis said. Willis works as Federal Programs Coordinator and Grant Administrator for Madison City Schools. “Our focus has been on language and vocabulary development, as well as school readiness for our new kindergartners.”

New students or those currently enroll in Madison City Schools were eligible for the summer session.

All teachers working with the EL students are certified. “They worked together to develop their ocean unit to build vocabulary and engage the students in an exciting unit of study,” Willis said. The camp’s slogan was “Dive into Learning.”

Teachers crafted songs and lessons around oceanic themes and props. With volunteers helping, the teachers led students in crafts, games, learning activities and songs.

In addition, the students took several field trips throughout the month, including Kids Kingdom and Huntsville Botanical Garden. “It has been a very exciting time for the students and teachers,” Willis said.

Their culminating program on June 25 included presentations and songs from the students, Phillips said. Madison Board of Education members joined a crowd of parents at the closing ceremony to celebrate the program.

Federal grants partially fund the summer EL program.

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