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Turning a new LEAF

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Posted: Sunday, January 23, 2011 12:00 pm

By Sonya Campbell

Killeen Daily Herald

SALADO - A new program at Thomas Arnold Elementary School in Salado is aimed at improving students' grades by teaching their Spanish-speaking parents English.

Principal Lisa Nix said the Learning English Among Friends program, first implemented at her campus in November, has enrolled nine participants - all moms.

"I felt the need to communicate with parents and get them involved," she said.

Part of the reason is based on growth among the Limited English Population at the campus.

Currently, there are 42 LEP students at Thomas Arnold Elementary and 104 throughout the district.

"Our Hispanic population has grown," Nix said, adding enrollment overall has increased.

Anna Kate Stanley, one of two LEAF instructors, said she believes there is great need for the program.

"Many times, the No. 1 concern I hear from parents is that they can't or don't know how to help their children with their homework because they don't know the language of the homework.

"The parents want to be able to take part in their children's education, but find it hard when they can't understand, speak, read and/or write enough English."

She acknowledged parents who were unfamiliar with operating a computer initially were apprehensive.

"They wanted to know what the program would be like so we set up two preview opportunities for them to see Rosetta Stone and meet those of us who would be there every week to help," Stanley said.

"The biggest issue has been remembering which set of usernames and passwords is used to sign on to the computer and which is used to sign into the program. I have noticed that they are all getting faster at navigating the computer and the keyboard as they become more familiar with them," she said.

Stanley said she is big believer in Rosetta Stone.

"I give it an A plus. In fact, I have signed up to use it to try to learn Spanish," she said. "I have used it with students as young as second grade and on up to adults. There are three levels of language available, and we can tailor the curriculum to the students' needs. It comes with workbooks and tests for the students and parents to practice what they are learning.

"We can print reports that show where they are and how they are doing. I think the best thing about it is that it works on all four language domains: listening, speaking, writing and reading, as well as incorporating technology and computer skills. It is self-paced and independent. It provides privacy while practicing English, which is beneficial because many find embarrassing when they make mistakes."

While the moms are working in the computer lab, their children - seven at this time - are receiving tutoring in a classroom across the hallway.

Nix said seeing their parents excited about learning inspires and motivates the students.

Stanley agreed.

"I think it gives the children a better sense of the importance of education and learning English," she said.

The LEAF program is offered from 3:30 to 4:30 Thursdays.

There's no cost for enrollment.

In addition to Stanley, teacher Julia De Leon serves as a LEAF instructor at the campus.

For more information, call the school at (254) 947-5479.

Contact Sonya Campbell at sonyas@kdhnews.com or (254) 501-7585.

About Rosetta Stone

Rosetta Stone teaches listening, speaking, reading and writing.

The listening components deal with picture vocabulary and hearing sentences that students then match to a picture or vice versa.

During speaking, they use a headset to try to correctly pronounce a sentence. At some levels, it breaks up word sounds to work on English phonetics.

Reading comes into play in all activities because the words and sentences they are practicing are often written and spoken. There are also times when students must type a sentence. The teacher can turn on or off the capitalization and punctuation, but spelling always counts. Grammar is also taught.

The program gives a picture with a sentence that has a blank and it gives a few choice to choose the grammatically correct word to fit in the blank, such as "He/she is driving the car."

- Anna Kate Stanley, LEAF instructor at Thomas Arnold Elementary

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