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Supporting Syrian and Arabic speaking students

Malo Ni,

TESSOL Scholarship reminder

The closing date for  the TESSOL Scholarships is this Friday 30th October.  I know the thought of studying after work can be daunting but my own personal experience was that the course was highly relevant and immensely stimulating. It challenged my thinking and practice and the whole way I taught changed.  Apply for yourself or encourage others to apply especially mainstream teachers. When I studied we had two mainstream teachers and two ESOL teachers win scholarships from our school. This allowed us to support each other, car pool to lectures, and to be challenged together. I think the school also benefits with a wider cross-pollination of ideas throughout the school.

 Our Community

Thank you to everyone who has shared ideas and asked questions this week. There have been three main streams of discussion.

 1.     Reporting progress to parents in relation to the National Standards

Linda added some comments to support how she reports progress to parents using the report template she shared last week. They don’t just send their ESOL reports home ‘cold’ with the children. They invite the parents in and talk them through a large, laminated poster of the Nautilus ELLP diagram, plus a statement about ELLs and the National Standards, reinforcing that although the Standards are what we are aiming for eventually, the ELLPs are our immediate guide and we should expect to work together for some years before we use just the Nat Standards to measure their child’s progress. The MoE ‘Supporting your child’s learning’ have also proved helpful over the past few years and it’s great that they’re being published in so many languages.

o    Gwenna shared s small piece of research that TESOLANZ did which showed that the those parents who had been spoken to by the teacher/ESOL specialist before the reports went out were the ones that were happiest with their children's progress against the National Standards. 

 2.     Supporting new Syrian students

Nan has a new Syrian student starting this week and would like ideas and suggestions on how to best support this student? She wonders if anyone else has had recent arrivals from Syria and can offer any ideas/advice?

·         Karyn shared some books from Iversen Publishing that she uses with new students.

·         Meryl-Lynn shared a promising new resource Lingomagic that Rainbow Reading is publishing soon.

·         Breda shared 3 sites in her secondary weekly update that she has found helpful to understand the differences between Arabic and English. I have used the first source myself and found it helped me to understand the written errors that my Arabic speaking student was making. I was then better able to support his learning of English.

§   the FIS site

§  PDF which is a very general introduction to the differences between English and Arabic.

§  Five writing trouble spots for Arabic students

Breda also reminded us that the English Language Intensive programme (ELIP) primary is a good starting point. A year 7-13 version is also available.

 More than 120 Syrians have already been settled in New Zealand since 2011. Over the next two-and-a-half we will settle 750 Syrian refugees in New Zealand. The initial intake is likely to be resettled in the Wellington region as that is where many of the current Syrians already live.  

Recent arrivals may have experienced broken schooling as “three years into the civil war, about 2.2 million school age children cannot go to school in Syria. One in five schools no longer functions—thousands of schools have been destroyed or damaged, and others are being used to shelter internally displaced people. Schools lack books, desks, and sanitation facilities; in some areas many teachers have fled.” …More than half a million Syrian refugees are school-age children who do not attend school. (The Education of Syrian Refugee ChildrenBy Judith Cochran Aug 20, 2014)  

Last month I did write a general post on supporting refugee students which is a good starting point if you are not already familiar with the general resources available.

A few other resources that you may find helpful are:

·         Exploring the Challenges Facing Arabic-Speaking ESL Students & Teachers in Middle School Omran Akasha, Washington State University Pullman (WA), USA. Journal of ELT and Applied Linguistics (JELTAL) Volume 1-Issue 1, October, 2013 ISSN: 2347-6575

·         English Spelling Errors Made by Arabic-Speaking Students Saleh Al-Busaidi & Abdullah H. Al-Saqqaf. English Language Teaching; Vol. 8, No. 7; 2015 ISSN 1916-4742 E-ISSN 1916-4750 Published by Canadian Center of Science and Education

·         Education in Syria – Wikipedia  Syria has a good basic education system and education is compulsory and free from grades 1 to 9. Arabic is the medium of instruction in the Syrian Arab Republic. English and French are taught from grade 1 in the basic learning stage as the primary second language.

·         Syrians Countries and their Cultures, http://www.everyculture.com/wc/Rwanda-to-Syria/Syrians.html

Here are a few insights from this resource:  

o    The Syrian Arab Republic is a small country located on the eastern edge of the Mediterranean Sea. Syria has an area of 185,000 sq km, a little more than half the size of Italy. It is bordered by Lebanon in the southwest, Jordan in the south, Iraq in the east and Turkey in the north. Two-thirds of Syria is desert; the other third is part of the Fertile Crescent along the Mediterranean coast. About 80 percent of the population lives in that fertile region. The total population of Syria is a little over 13 million.

o    Arabic is the official language of the Syrian Arab Republic and the language spoken by nearly all Syrians. French is the second-most-common language. Syrians do not use standard Arabic numerals. Instead they use numerals that came to them from India.

o    Syrian hospitality is famous and they do not hesitate to offer their friendship even to strangers. It is customary to shake hands on greeting and departing.

o    At least half of Syria's men and boys are named Muhammad. (They often use their middle names to distinguish themselves from each other).

o    The majority religion in Syria is Islam: 85 percent of the population is Muslim (most are of the Sunni sect, the rest are Alawi). Other groups include Christians (mostly Roman Catholic or Eastern Orthodox), Druze, Jews, Baha'is, and others.

o    Syrians are great believers in fate and frequently resign themselves to it. They also love proverbs. The following are two examples: "One who has no good for his family has no good for anyone," and "Where there are no people, there is Hell."

o    Syrians stand close together, talk loudly, and use vigorous hand gestures. A downward nod of the head to one side means "Yes." Brushing open palms together quickly as if to brush off dirt means "I'm finished with it (or you)." Patting the hand over the heart when meeting someone expresses affection for that person.

o    Syrians wear a mix of traditional Arab and Western-style clothing. Both men and women cover their legs to at least below the knee. Their arms are covered to below the elbow.

o    Syrians eat typical Middle Eastern food. Common dishes include hummus, falafel and shish kebab. A special Syrian dish is farooj, roasted chicken with chilies and onions. In general, Syrians love their food either very sweet or very sour. Common basic ingredients in Syrian food include lamb, chicken, chickpeas, eggplant, rice, burghul (cracked wheat), olives, and yogurt. Syrians drink their coffee strong and sweet; tea is also drunk frequently. Meals in Syria last a long time, two to three hours or more. Most food is eaten by hand or scooped up with flatbread.

o    Syrians enjoy soccer as a spectator sport. They also play the game in friendly street competitions. Martial arts are very popular. Syrians also enjoying swimming, tennis, track meets, and ping-pong tournaments. Camel racing is a popular spectator sport.

o    Eating and socializing are the main forms of entertainment. Some public activities are considered socially unacceptable for women. Men sit for hours in all-male teahouses drinking tea or Turkish coffee. They smoke water-pipes, talk, and sometimes play a favourite board game—a Turkish form of backgammon. Young men often hang out in the streets. If they have cars, they cruise the streets. All Syrians enjoy concerts, from jazz to classical. They especially love parties. At celebrations men and women, either separately or together, perform the dabka, a line dance. It is performed to the music of a band or a hand-held drum called a tabla. A leader guides the dancers by shouting out moves as he or she dances in front of them.

o    Syrian crafts include jewellery-making, inlaid woodworking, glass-blowing, weaving, and embroidery. Textiles include clothing, tablecloths, pillow covers, and carpets. A special brocaded fabric called "damask" is named for the city of Damascus. Modern damask is still woven by hand.

·         The Arab and the Raven is a folk story from Syria which in this link is written in both Arabic and English.

·         The Buried Treasure is another folk tale.

If you want to teach your students about the current Syrian refugee crisis then you may find these sites helpful

o    Oxfam http://www.oxfam.org.uk/education/resources/syria

o    I am Syria http://www.iamsyria.org/teachers-guide.html This Teach Syria educational toolkit is designed by teachers for teachers, and allows you to feel comfortable teaching about Syria without having to feel like you are an expert —within a 40-minute lesson plan

o    7 Top Classroom Resources for Teaching Syriahttp://www.pbs.org/newshour/extra/2013/09/5-top-classroom-resources-teaching-syria/

o    Children in Conflict – Syria http://www.actionaid.org.uk/blog/schools/2013/09/19/new-teaching-resource-children-in-conflict-syria

 You may be interested in this culture quiz written by Judie Haynes. Whilst it is American it could easily be adapted to New Zealand as a resource to use with teachers.

 3.     Tips and tricks” for supporting Māori, and indeed all learners, in Literacy.”

 Gemma Stewart shared about the importance of students’ overcoming hardships and showing resilience. It’s important to be real and address the issues of our younger generations; we can’t afford to hide them.” This is an important message that is relevant to all our learners.

 Enjoy your week and please continue to share resources that you have found helpful to support Arabic speaking students and Syrian's in particular.