Outside the bubble: English learners


Kaylie Thompson

Have you ever wanted to ask how your friend is coming along with learning their English but too afraid to ask? Or curious about how students anywhere learn English better than most Americans? Thanks to Rachel Perez, the bilingual teacher at Ventura High School who works alongside Damira Volic with helping students learn the basics of English, VHS students are better able to get engaged in sports, school itself and the outside world.

There are two levels in the English learner program, “System 44,” that help students learn the basics of English. Level one, taught by Volic, helps the students focus on dealing with comprehension, vocabulary and sentence structure.

This class is taught the first hour of the students’ block schedule class for which they have the same teachers for two class periods. Volic works off of materials that are filled with short stories that help her students in level one work on basic conversation and how to give descriptions of objects and people.

When moving away from the books, Volic has her students get engaged on the Chromebook to allow them to hear pronunciation of words and also improve their typing skills.

Listen to an interview with Senior Carlos Aviles addressing technology in the English learner program:

Perez is also there to give the added help needed since there is only so much time and few helpers in the classroom. She teaches the second hour of the block period class which spans both second and third period. The second half counts as elective credits where as the first class counts as English credits.

Perez likes to focus on teaching the beginners the basics of American English such as how to read a clock and tell time, how to pronounce words, and reading comprehension.

When sitting down with Perez, she said,“If I could get them to know these basic things, it’s one less thing they have to concern themselves with in life.” Before  moving on she will sit down with them and go through the ABC’s. Her goal is to have them pronounce all these letters and learn how to write them before learning any basic vocabulary. It is kind of like in kindergarten except in this case, students are learning their second (or third language) and everyone is in the same level and no one is left behind.

During the teaching process students are given their own books. These books have questions like “How tall is this?” or “What color is his hair?” In the back of these books there are sentence structures that help the students engage in conversation with what is given and make descriptive sentences. 

Technology also plays a big role in lessons for the English learner program. When asking a sophomore student at VHS who is currently enrolled in the English learner program their view on how technology is used for them in the System 44 program, they said,“Technology helps because you have to understand how to read and type and are given online readings to help you do that.”

Previous English learning students in the old EL program, like senior Carlos Aviles at VHS, also think technology was helpful.  Aviles said, “Yeah, I think technology helps a lot but I think one on one help is better.”

Junior Beatriz Alcantar who said the school system has improved with technology, says that when she was younger “[she] couldn’t practice at home because [her] parents don’t speak English.”