Tuesday, November 19, 2013

SSWIS - Success Stories in Regina Public Schools

    For the 2013-14 school year, Regina Public Schools have been fortunate to be working with 8  SSWIS (Settlement Support Workers in Schools) employed by Regina Open Door Society (RODS).  This program helps our Newcomer students and families adjust to their new schools and communities.  The SSWIS help to connect the families to services and resources to help settlement and student achievement in school.  English-As-Additional Language (EAL) teachers, classroom teachers and staff work closely with the SSWIS through a simple referral process to help our Newcomer students be successful in the school system.  Interpreters are easily accessed by the SSWIS and provide “services in a supportive, culturally sensitive and linguistically appropriate manner maintaining client confidentiality” (from RODS – SSWIS pamphlet). 

     When working with our EAL learners, it is essential to recognize that second language acquisition is a gradual development process and is built on the child’s skills and knowledge in the first language.  Our teachers provide authentic opportunities to use language in a non-threatening environment and remember that there is a language barrier, not an intellectual one.  I would like to highlight one of the many SSWIS success stories this fall in Regina Public Schools that illustrates this best practice when working with our EAL students.

     Alex Sergei Bolgov is a Russian speaking Grade 2 boy that came from Israel to Dr. A. E. Perry School last year.  One day in September, Alex was making his way down to see the EAL teacher, Mrs. Glenda Lourens.  He appeared to be confused about what to do with the Science experiment he was doing in class, and showed the activity to Mrs. Lourens.  It involved dropping tennis, golf, and sponge balls from the same height and measuring the bounce on the same surface.  Ali Reza Mohajer, the school’s SSWIS, was in the EAL classroom and started to ask Alex questions in Russian.  In the short video that Glenda Lourens made, Alex is thrilled to have someone to talk to in his language!  During a 45 minute work period, Ali Reza asks questions about the Science experiment and discovers that Alex had a solid understanding.  Alex makes an intelligent prediction on what will happen.  Ali Reza and Alex do the experiment and discuss what is happening the entire time.  Alex is able to explain the procedure and make insightful observations about what he has learned with the help of Ali Reza, Perry’s SSWIS worker.  After viewing the short video, I was reminded again that our EAL children have a language barrier, not an intellectual one. 





SSWIS Program Activities
  • Outreach support and services to all Newcomer families.
  • Settlement counseling for families, as well as increase parent and youth involvement in the schools and community by arranging interpreters/translators in client’s first language.
  • Cross-cultural orientations, group activities and information workshops on school, community and settlement topics.
  • Referrals to appropriate school programs, community services and government resources.
  • Workshops and presentations to teachers and school staff to raise cultural awareness and provide strategies to work effectively with immigrant and refugee students. (from RODS – SSWIS pamphlet)
Posted by Fiona Smith, Instructional Consultant

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