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TKS ELL K-12 coordinator Kate Hamann describes how the beginning English speakers served The KAUST School

November 02, 2023

During my time living in Jakarta, an unexpected source of stress often emerged from an unlikely place - the Domino's pizza delivery calls. As someone who didn't speak Bahasa Indonesia, these phone conversations, intended to confirm my address, became 60 seconds of fumbling, anxiety-inducing exchanges. Whenever my children convinced me to order pizza, I would reluctantly pick up the phone, muttering to myself, "Why do they keep calling? Can't they just text? I can translate a text!" I couldn't help but feel embarrassed about my limited Bahasa Indonesia language skills.

In a way, these phone calls serve as a metaphor for the challenges faced by some of our students, particularly those who are new to the English language. Just as I struggled to communicate my address, these students find themselves overwhelmed and frustrated when trying to perform simple tasks that were once effortless in their previous schools. It is within this context that the English Language Learners (ELL) department at our school takes on a crucial role - ensuring the smoothest possible transition for our new students by creating a calm and supportive environment.

For our Kindergarten students, language development begins in the classroom, a space where they feel safe and familiar. Here, our dedicated teachers and teaching assistants employ translanguaging techniques to bridge the gap between the students' native languages and the English language used for instruction. Through age-appropriate games, activities, and songs, all students are exposed to opportunities that enhance their English language skills.

As our students progress to Elementary School, they are fortunate to have the guidance of our Elementary ELL teachers, Ms. Dossa and Ms. Paterson. This amazing team works with students in small groups or integrates themselves into their classrooms, focusing on building both social and academic language skills. We prioritize oral language development initially, ensuring that students feel confident in seeking assistance and advocating for themselves within the school community. Additionally, our ELL team collaborates closely with homeroom teachers to plan and support our newcomers within the broader classroom context.

Moving into Middle and High School, Ms. Pryse is the teacher of our English Enrichment class and provides in-class support for our older ELL students. She also works closely with subject teachers, particularly within Individuals and Societies, to prepare students for the language-intensive aspects of those classes.

As a team, we are dedicated to ensuring that our ELL students not only gain the necessary language skills but also the confidence to fully realize their potential as students and future leaders here at TKS. In doing so, we hope to transform their daily experiences from those stressful Domino's pizza calls to moments of empowerment, growth, and success.


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