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Corinne Varon-Green, EdD

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Corinne Váron-Green, Ed. D.


Second Grade English teacher


Amigos School, Cambridge, MA



Interview: November 12, 2009


1. Can you describe the population your school serves? Demographics? What grade level do you teach?


I teach second grade English at Amigos School, a two-way bilingual, public K-8 school in Cambridge, MA. Children attend Amigos school by choice. The distribution of students are (ideally) 1/3 dominant English, 1/3 dominant Spanish speakers, 1/3 bilingual.


Beginning in kindergarden, there are two cohorts of students per grade level. All students study all subjects in two languages (Spanish and English) and they also receive Chinese language instruction once a week. Classes switch weekly up to 8th grade. Up until 5th grade, one week students have all their classes in Spanish and the next week they have all their classes in English. Then, in middle school, courses switch according to content area.


English language learners are available to enter two-way programs by law. In non two-way programs ELLs are segregated into SCI programs.



2. As a teacher, how were you prepared for ELL students? Professional training? In-service training?


Most teachers at the Amigos School have ESL training and continually participate in professional and multicultural training.



3. Which method(s) do you believe to be the most effective in educating English language learners, not only in English, but in content matter?


Two-way programs are ideal for ELLs. Amigos School is best for native Spanish ELLs because they will learn academic language, while not forgetting their native language. Sheltered English Immersion (SEI) programs segregate ELL students and do not allow them to have Native English Speakers as friends.  SEI programs promote the “them vs. us” mentality.


Two-way programs provide the ideal environment where integrated children learn from each other. Two-way programs enhance the cognitive development of students.  Students develop more advanced critical thinking skills and metacognitive understanding of language and culture.  When students are immersed in a multicultural, multilingual educational environment, they are able to understand things at a deeper level.    



4. What experiences from your teaching practice indicate improvement of academic achievement using bilingual education models, and which of these models have been the most promising?


Some important teaching methods are to preview and practice new vocabulary, use kinesthetic teaching techniques, always write on the board when talking, provide visuals, do not just verbally teach, and encourage ESL teachers to come in the classroom and provide additional support. It is also crucial that teachers provide visuals and design hands on projects for their students. Science is a good place to explore and talk to their peers. Students need a safe environment to practice language and content and to demonstrate what the ELL students have learned.  In my class, as part of the responsive classroom program, our daily discussions on the rug promote oral language and develop interpersonal skills.  


Communication between peers is important. Two-way programs promote interdependence between each other. Because instruction alternates weekly between Spanish and English, students’ status (in Spanish class) sometimes gets reversed where majority students become a minority and need help from their non-English speaking classmates. This interdependency creates tolerant and accepting relationships between diverse student populations.


By 8th grade, all students are bilingual and bicultural. 



5. In your opinion, how do English-only programs hurt ELLs? 


English-only programs take away students’ native language.  English only programs robs students of their identity and. English-only requires assimilation. It is a subtractive, not additive model. In the English-only models, children assimilate and reject their native language and culture interfering with students’ family practices. Whereas two-way language immersion programs cultivate bilingualism, and celebrate students’ cultural pride and heritage.


6. Currently 1 out of every 9 students is an ELL. It is predicted that in 20 years, 1 out of every 4 students will be an ELL. How do you see the educational system needing to change to accommodate that statistic? 


 All teachers need to be trained on ESL strategies and multi-model teaching. Teachers must be trained on how to conduct classes for students with multicultural backgrounds and to promote racial and cultural harmony. 


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