One of the 21st Century School-wide Learning Expectations at Horizon Japan International School is to prepare students to be effective communicators who communicate clearly and accurately in English while respecting linguistic diversity and supporting Mother Tongue language development. Our school’s EAL Department is committed to supporting all students whose native language is not English, by ensuring they have full access to the curriculum taught, and are confidently progressing with their English language skills in all areas. Our program also strives to educate our community about the language acquisition process, as well as our philosophy and methodology for teaching language through content. We believe that the English language unites our community, and that learning it is a lifelong process for everyone.
At Horizon Japan International School, English is the language of instruction, and therefore developing skills in English takes particular priority in our language program. Therefore all students, including those who are learning English as an Additional Language are continually immersed in the English language throughout the school day. Our EAL program provides a caring, flexible and supportive environment to help students integrate socially and become successful academically. There are many different tools, resources, and methods that are implemented at HJIS to support these learners.
At Horizon, we believe that by modeling our own language learning, facilitating a school culture that values persistence and progress rather than perfection, we are able to create a comfortable environment for studying and mastering new languages. Students are challenged in each class to communicate well, take appropriate risks, show caring, and be respectful. Through these key elements of the IB Learner Profile, it is possible for all students to thrive as language learners. At each level, we believe a student’s native language needs to be maintained for heritage and literacy purposes. A strong foundation in one’s native language is the best scaffold on which to build learning in other languages.
On average, language acquisition research consistently shows that it takes seven to nine years to learn a new language proficiently in both social and academic contexts. The WIDA Guiding Principles for Language Development show how firmly rooted the EAL philosophy is the academic and research-based work on language learning. As teachers and parents, we need to remember to be patient with our students. We should look for steady progress rather than leaps forward. As students will often be exhausted when they begin this process, providing breaks at school and extra sleep at home are crucial components to their success. It is important to note that learners often experience a period of silence and varying emotional stages associated with being immersed in a language new to them. With patience, time, and practice, progress is sure to come.
The ultimate aim of our EAL program is to provide just enough support to learners of English so they may continue in their academic development across the whole curriculum. Upon matriculating at Horizon, students are evaluated for English language level and proficiency in the domains of listening, speaking, reading, and writing.
Understanding that language acquisition is a developmental process that takes place for a long time, we strive to provide a tailored support programme that may include both in-class assistance and small group lessons outside of the regular classroom as needed. Upon joining Horizon, students who are non-native English speakers are assessed by an EAL specialist who both determines their specific needs and designs a programme of support.
To determine which services are needed for EAL students, the WIDA MODEL (Measure of Developing English Language) proficiency assessment is given. This assessment measures the four language domains of Listening, Speaking, Reading, and Writing and gives teachers, parents, and students a better gauge of what knowledge, skills, and understanding the students possesses in the English language. Student’s are rated on a level of 1-6 in each domain and are also given an overall language proficiency score. This score helps determine language needs and if support services are necessary for student success.
Our aim is to support and monitor each individual student through their language development until they are able to fully demonstrate their knowledge in all content areas in the English language. There are two models of language support that English learners receive, depending on individual needs, either “push-in” or “pull-out”. Students with lower proficiency will start out in pull-out classes, then move to push-in, and finally exit our program when their EAL and content teachers determine they are fully capable to be independently successful.
In Grades 1 to 8, in order to be successful across the curriculum in academics, additional English language support is warranted for certain students. These students attend English language support classes in place of studying Language B in the International Baccalaureate framework. These classes take the form of intensive and tailored language instruction, plus support for learning of other academic material within a small group setting. The EAL department works with teachers and students in and out of the regular classes, adapting to various individual needs. Such EAL support is intended to give students an intensive, shorter-term boost toward academic language proficiency in English. Each Spring term, all EAL pull-out students are reassessed, using various assessment data including testing and teacher evaluations to determine their needs for English language support in the following year. Students gradually transition from small group “pull-out” support to “push-in” support in classes to full independent learning. Students who exit the EAL program continue to be monitored to ensure that they are thriving and successful at making academic gains.
The EAL specialist joins the subject teacher in the regular classroom and assists both the teacher and students in adapting the delivery of the content to support English language learners in that classroom. Thus, language learning is contextualized into academic content. Students learn grammar, syntax, and academic vocabulary through genuine classroom contexts in each of their classes as a result of careful preparation and planning, with integrated co-teaching.