Woodstock welcomes students from around the world. This cultural and linguistic diversity provides unique opportunities for all the students at the school. In particular, the ESL programme has been designed to help students who have English as a second or additional language access a Woodstock education. Our aim is to help students develop English skills that will allow them to be successful in their academic work and confident in everyday communication.
What is the ESL provision at each grade level?
A beginner ESL programme is available for students in grades 5 to 7. At this stage the ESL students have most of their lessons in the ESL classrooms. Initially, the student is withdrawn from English, Science, Foreign Languages, and Humanities. As their English improves they may join the mainstream class, first Science and later Humanities. Woodstock only admits students in grades 5 to 7 for the beginner ESL programme. This is to ensure there is plenty of time for the students to reach the required level of English to manage the demands of the IGCSE and AP curriculum. The recommended entry level for the beginner course is grade 5 or grade 6. The regular ESL programme includes students from grades 5 to 8 and occasionally grade 9. Here the students will work in smaller groups, at different levels, for language based activities in the ESL classrooms. These classes take the place of a foreign language. ESL teachers also work alongside students and teachers in the grades 6 to 8 mainstream classrooms and provide support in English and Social Studies. On arrival at Woodstock, it is important that grade 8 and 9 students are already comfortably working at the intermediate level as recognized by the Common European Framework for Language Learning (CEFR). This means they will have the skills needed to participate in the IGCSE programme. Results of a TOEFL test may be required for students applying in grades 10, 11 or 12. Once students have completed the intermediate program they will continue to be monitored by the ESL department. This is to make sure progress in language is maintained alongside the increasing demands of the academic curriculum. Additional support is always available for these students from the specialist ESL teacher.
Who decides whether a student has ESL lessons and on what basis is the decision made?
Part of the application process at Woodstock includes an assessment of language skills through an oral interview and a writing sample. These serve as initial assessments of English-language skills as well as language ability. Once an applicant has been granted admission, the admissions office informs the ESL department of the students who may need ESL support lessons. A placement test at the start of term helps the ESL team decide whether a student does in fact require support and at what level. Both the subject and ESL teachers regularly review your child’s progress, keeping in mind the goal of moving students into the mainstream classroom as quickly as is beneficial. Children attending language instruction in the mainstream classroom must be peer competitive in all aspects of literacy; listening, speaking, reading and writing.
What is the focus of the beginner ESL programme at Woodstock?
When your child is beginning to learn English they will first need to get over some of their anxieties about the new language, studying in a new school and all the other unfamiliar aspects of daily life at Woodstock. It is important that they relax and enjoy being here as these anxieties may be a barrier to learning. The beginner or foundation course is designed with this in mind. Initially, the fun activities provide a basic ‘survival’ English vocabulary as well information that the beginner student will find useful. These activities focus on developing language skills as well as confidence to communicate in a new language.
How long might it take for my child to learn English?
SChildren learn at different rates and they have varied strengths and learning styles. Therefore it would be very hard to predict how long it might take for your child to learn a new language. Also, the amount of time will vary for the different skills like reading, writing, speaking and listening. Studies show it can take from 4 to 11 years to acquire the same level of English as native speaking peers.
What things might influence how quickly my child learns English?
An important thing to remember is – there are no short cuts! No matter how many advantages a student brings to the task, it will always be necessary for him or her to spend a great deal of time listening, speaking, reading and writing before he or she reaches an academic level in any language. Therefore, motivation, curiosity and a willingness to study in English are key to success. Some of the factors that may influence the speed of language learning include: -Time spent reading books (an extremely important factor in language acquisition) -Time spent working in the language being learned -Aptitude -Learning style -Anxiety -Knowledge in their mother tongue -Age – this is a tricky one! Research does not say that young learners always have an advantage over older ones -Language distance – how different is the student’s mother tongue to the language being learned?
Are students required to speak English at all times in school?
No. At Woodstock we celebrate the multicultural and multilingual aspect of the students and appreciate that sometimes the mother tongue enables a child to access the curriculum more easily. However, the common language is English and staff actively encourage communication in English during lesson times, PASSAGE activities and social interactions.
Should a child study their mother tongue at the same time as learning English?
We believe it is very important that your child continues to use and develop knowledge in his or her mother tongue. Studies have shown that learners find it easier to transfer words and concepts they already know to their new language. If they know only a little of their mother tongue they may find it harder to learn new concepts for the first time through English. The knowledge of their mother tongue comes first and foremost through you, the parents. Providing a broad range of experiences for your child will help enrich their cultural heritage and learning experiences. Also, we will actively encourage your child to read a broad range of books in their mother tongue and English. Talking about the events and characters in books is an important part of language acquisition. However, it is the enjoyment of reading that we most hope to foster.