English Language Learners in the El Paso Independent School District are improving their language skills with a SNAP!, the Summer Newcomers Academy Pilot program.
The Guillen Middle-based program uses project-based learning with students who are learning English to get them ready for the incoming 2018-19 academic year.
“This is a way for our English Language Learning students to practice their language skills through fun, engaging activities,” teacher Luis Diaz said. “The kids keep coming back. Every day they are excited to learn.”
Diaz wrote the curriculum for the three-week program with fellow Wiggs Middle School teacher Jerusha Hunt, focusing on learning about math, science and language through comic books and graphic novels.
“Comic books and graphic novels are high interest,” Hunt said. “You can make a lot of inferences from the pictures, so they are not intimidated by how much English is on the page.”
Students are not only reading about superheroes, they are creating their own. They were tasked with writing and illustrating a comic strip and designing a t-shirt logo for their superhero … or villain.
Incoming sixth-graders Jorge Vaquera and Daniel Guzman teamed up to create their original characters and storyline.
His favorite project so far has been designing the logo for his comic, but he has also really enjoyed the science, technology, engineering and math component of SNAP!
“I have liked everything about the camp so far, but I have learned a lot about math and science,” he said. “If I wasn’t here I would be laying down at home. It’s better to be here so I won’t be bored.”
Students have learned fundamental math and science terms, such as mass, density and graphing, through fun projects.
The first week, they built comic book-inspired canoes out of cardboard, testing their buoyancy in kiddie pools. The second week, the students built a rocket out of a plastic bottle to launch and graph its trajectory.
Ulises Monkada couldn’t wait to see how far up his “Rocket U” would go.
“I have been so excited since Monday,” he said. “We have been doing so many things. There are two days of learning and two days of constructing our projects. This program is really fun because we work on a lot of projects and work in groups.”
The most important thing, Monkada said, is that they get to work on perfecting their English.
“We get to work on our English, and I like it because it’s not just sitting in class,” he said. “We are having so much fun, and we are getting ready for sixth-grade.”