Learning in many languages

Posted by Dr. Sharon Desmoulin-Kherat on 4/29/2019 12:00:00 PM

In September 2018, the Board of Education awarded the Remarkable Spirit award to Rolling Acres Middle School science teacher Lacy Haefli.  When a new student arrived from Yemen speaking only Arabic, Haefli found an online translation program to translate her assignments and content so her student could succeed despite the language barrier.


Of the 13,222 Peoria Public School students, about 780 are English Language Learners (ELL).  


Our students come to us speaking 35 native languages other than English. Eighty-two percent of Peoria Public School ELL students are Spanish-speaking. The most common languages after Spanish are Arabic, French, Vietnamese, Pilipino, Cantonese, Mandarin and Gujarati.


More and more educators must meet the needs of ELL students, not only helping them linguistically to become proficient readers, writers and speakers of English, but helping them learn across all content areas.


Many Peoria Public School teachers and teacher aides are trained in The Sheltered Instruction Observation Protocol (SIOP) model. According to the Center of Applied Linguistics (CAL), SIOP is a research-based and validated instructional model designed to meet the academic needs of English-learning students.


The SIOP model consists of eight interrelated components:

  • Lesson Preparation
  • Building Background
  • Comprehensible Input
  • Strategies
  • Interaction
  • Practice/Application
  • Lesson Delivery
  • Review & Assessment


This year, Peoria Public Schools launched three dual-language immersion pre-kindergarten classrooms at Valeska Hinton Early Childhood Education Center. Pre-school is an ideal age to learn a second language. According to PPS ELL coordinator Anna Rose, students who learn a second language show cognitive advantages including increased retention. Students who are bilingual, bicultural and biliterate develop increased cultural awareness and sensitivity. As adults, being bilingual is a professional advantage and, according to some studies, can even provide a buffer from cognitive diseases like Alzheimer’s and dementia. We are excited to expand the dual-language program for kindergartners at Whittier Primary School next year.