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Creative and Collaborative Venues Augment ESL Classes

July 11, 2018

Education in English as a Second Language (ESL) has expanded beyond the classroom at Rosalie Rendu almost since its inception. We’ve had great success in our traditional model of teaching ESL, with classes growing significantly every year.

But every season, we also experience new, exciting and effective ways to provide learning in literacy.Our students love the challenge of refining their English speaking, reading and writing in a variety of venues and settings outside the classroom, including Conversation Club and outside cultural and educational events.

Our staff, students and volunteers regularly outdo themselves in creating thrilling, collaborative adventures in advancing literacy. In one especially creative venue — Readers Theatre — they wrote, produced, directed and performed a chapter from Francisco Jimenez’ The Circuit, “Miracle in Tent City.”

Readers Theatre is an oral presentation of a written work that has been adapted into a script with narrators and characters. Volunteer Jane Stern and teacher Maria Lozano brought Readers Theatre to our advanced English class with the goal of improving our students’ reading comprehension, fluency, pronunciation, expressiveness and presentation skills.

The adult students chose to dramatize a passage from “The Circuit,” a fictionalized autobiography of a Mexican migrant family that had meaning for them because it reinforced the importance of faith and a supportive family in getting through difficult times and reaching one’s dreams. Jane and Maria worked together to compose the script.

David Riggs, a retired professor from Stanford, guided students in the art of writing a synopsis, one of which was used in the program. In volunteer David Hutsell’s basic computer class, students created the program; and in Elisa Madrigal’s Art Club, students painted stage sets. Students from Stanford who had enrolled in a service learning class integrated the diverse aspects of the production into one project.

The beginners’ conversation club welcomed and escorted the audience into the courtyard “theatre” and the performance commenced. In a festive pot-luck after the presentation, the audience and performers celebrated the fruitful collaboration with the Stanford students.

As the seeds of teaching English literacy proliferate every season, so does our respect for our creative, hard-working Spanish-speaking and,  increasingly, bilingual students. Their eagerness to learn and to participate in breakthrough ways of learning English keeps us all on the growing edge.

Synergy among our students, staff, volunteers and donors is a big part of what makes Rosalie Rendu the inspired and magical place that it is in realizing our goal of breaking the cycle of poverty and helping our students advance towards fulfilling careers and thriving lives.

We welcome volunteers and donors to brainstorm their own imaginative activities and funding ideas and to bring their unique talents and skills to share with our Center.

We can’t thank you enough for your constantly flowing contributions of talent and energy to make new, creative and highly effective educational opportunities possible for our students!

Thank you for dreaming big with them.

Sister T

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Sister Trinitas, warmly known as Sister T at the Rosalie Rendu Center, shares her reflections of teaching English as a Second Language (ESL) classes in the East Palo Alto community. Sister T and her team have been offering free, specialized ESL classes for over 15 years in a traditionally underserved neighborhood in the Bay Area. Hundreds of families have benefited from the resources at the Center, and Sister T continues to deliver on the promise to combat poverty through education.

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