Suggestions for Creating a Welcoming and Supportive Environment
All school staff members should work towards creating a welcoming and supportive atmosphere for ESL students. Schools can create this atmosphere by:
• Posting visual images that represent all students in the school.• Honouring the various cultural and faith celebrations within the school. Remember that every school receives a listing of the major dates emailed in the spring for the coming year.• Recruiting bilingual volunteers.• Promoting ESL professional development opportunities.• Including time for ESL issues in staff meetings.• Making resources for effective teaching of ESL students accessible to all teachers.• Allocating funds for the purchase of inclusive curriculum resources.• Giving students access to books that reflect their cultures and identities.• Sending home regular memos in simplified language.• Providing parent sessions, modelling ways parents can help their child with reading and homework.• Providing information about access to community resources.• Embracing the cultural diversity in the school; have multicultural events, displays and opportunities for parents to share their culture and knowledge.
Picture of Chinese New Year Display at Blair ElementaryIMG_6054.JPG

Vaisakhi celebrations at Tait Elementary

Some Further Suggestions to Support and Welcome New StudentsWhen a new student arrives in a classroom, try and buddy them up with a student who speaks their first language. If that's not possible, don't worry, ask for two volunteers.
Have these students show the new ESL student around the school pointing out where are the nearest washrooms, library, first aid room, gym and which doors the class uses to exit and enter.
These students can also go over class and school social responsibility rules as well. At recess and lunch, have these students take the new ESL student around the school and show them where they can play. Perhaps the teacher can rotate these "student ambassadors" daily so others can share their knowledge and social skills.
Schools often have Tea and Talk presentations organized by the administration, SWIS and perhaps an ESL teacher. If the Talk is scheduled in the fall, these sessions can help parents of new ESL students learn about our school system as well as the school. If the Tea and Talk is given in the spring, the presenter/s might focus on the Spring Census format and ways to support their child. SWIS workers can be invaluable resources for new immigrant families as they navigate through our system.
Make sure to monitor the social and language development of new students and if progress seems slow, you may want to have a School Based Team meeting to discuss ideas about how to support the student. Sometimes, you need to garner more background information on the students. Meeting with a parent and the SWIS worker can help you find out what kind of student they were in their former school, what their home situation here is like and how the student learns best.
Newcomer's WelcomeOn the Saturday of the Labour Day weekend, a Welcome to Richmond Schools presentation is organized by our SWIS and held at the Brighouse Public Library. This annual event is well attended by families with over 150 participants in the audience generally speaking. Presentations are done in English and in Chinese. During these presentations, an overview of our school system as well as how we support our learners is provided. Other community organizations provide brochures as well. Here is an example of the advertisement for the fall of 2011:Newcomers_Welcome.png
Here below is a further list of suggestions from the Ontario Ministry of Education found at:

Raising the profile of students' languages throughout the school
A multilingual school is an enriched linguistic and cultural environment, and this should be evident to all who walk through the hallways, visit the library, listen to the P.A. announcements, or attend special events. Here are some ways to draw on community languages to enrich the cultural fabric of the school:
  • Consider proficiency in a community language when hiring new teachers and other staff. School staff who can speak with children and parents in their own languages can greatly enhance the school's ability to serve its various linguistic communities effectively. Bilingual staff members also serve as role models for all students.
  • Create multilingual signs, notices, and announcements. Many schools display a multilingual "Welcome" poster in the front entrance. Then think about other signs and notices that could be displayed in more than one language.
  • Encourage students to use their own languages when it is natural and appropriate to do so. For example, it would be unnatural for a group of Korean speakers having lunch together or working on a project to use English with each other. Work with students and parents to develop agreements on appropriate language choices.
  • Provide multilingual library resources. Community newspapers are often readily available, and parents will be able to help you find some materials in community bookstores. Several publishers provide dual-language children's books. In secondary schools, provide reference dictionaries for the languages of the school.
  • Train student ambassadors to assist in the welcoming and orientation of new students and their parents. It is especially helpful if you can pair a newcomer with an ambassador of the same linguistic background.
  • Develop a dual language tutoring program. Many schools have peer and cross-grade tutoring programs already established. In a multilingual school it would be an extra benefit if tutors could work with students of the same language background, using their shared home language to explain concepts before transferring to English.
  • Create display material that communicates positive attitudes toward linguistic diversity, such as a graph showing the linguistic and cultural backgrounds of the students in the school. Include English as one language among many represented in the school.
  • Provide information in community languages on the website. Community volunteers may be able to help with translating and uploading information about parent-teacher interviews and other important events.
  • Think about ways of including community languages in special events such as concerts or open houses. For example, include some songs in languages other than English in the concert; perhaps some parents can provide an English translation. Students and parents can help to create signs and printed programs for open houses and other events. Acknowledge festivals and other significant days, and draw on the expertise of students and parents to create multilingual display material.
  • Make connections with International and Heritage language classes. These classes often take place outside school hours, sometimes in another school building or in a community centre. You can bring students' linguistic worlds closer together by creating stronger links with these programs. Display work from heritage language classes, and collaborate on joint projects. In secondary schools, think about which languages should be taught in the Modern or International Languages department: perhaps it's time to offer community languages such as Mandarin or Urdu.

Using students' languages in the classroom

Drawing on students' languages in the classroom enables English language learners to make special contributions, enhances their participation and academic achievement, and broadens the linguistic awareness of all students.
  • Learn a little about your students' languages. For example, knowing something about the script system may help you to understand difficulties learners may have with learning to write in English. You don't need an in-depth knowledge of all the languages represented in your class. The students are the experts, and you can prompt discussion and comparison by using some generic questions such as, What is the direction of print? Is there a printed and cursive form?
  • Learn some expressions in your students' languages. The students will greatly appreciate your efforts even if you learn only a few simple greetings. Just learning to say "Hello," or "Good," in a few of your students' languages will enhance the multilingual climate of the classroom.
  • Encourage students to learn some words and phrases in each other's languages. For example, a group of Farsi-speaking students could teach the class some greetings and polite expressions that everyone will use for the rest of the week or month.
  • Encourage learners of English to develop ideas in their own language. Many students will produce better work in the end if they have opportunities to clarify concepts, discuss problems, plan group tasks, or write notes, outlines, and first drafts in their first languages before transferring to English. Beginning learners of English could write their first journal responses in their own languages, or they might insert words from their own languages when they don't know the English word. If another student or a colleague can help with translation, you may be surprised by the quality of the students' writing in First Language, compared with what they are able to produce in English.
  • Provide opportunities for students to work with same-language partners from time to time. This may enable students to be more successful on challenging tasks than they would if they were required to use English only. Provide extra time for them to switch to English before showing their work.
  • Develop some multilingual projects: for example, students can compare how different languages do things such as numbers, proverbs, and names. Students can also create dual-language books to share with each other or with younger children. English language learners and English-speaking students could work together to create dual-language posters in various subject areas; for example, citizenship-awareness posters for the Civics class, health and nutrition posters for the Physical Education class, or environmental awareness posters for the Science class. In Geography, groups of students could produce series of dual language brochures on various cities or regions of Canada. These and other multilingual projects have the added benefit of encouraging parental involvement.