B. Transitional

•PEDRO MEDINA finished typing a series of commands for a computer program he would use to review arithmetic and algebra problems.
•The program bade him ”adios,” then displayed his results in English.
•For Pedro, a 17-year-old student at John Bowne High School in Queens, the switch from the farewell in Spanish to a list of printed results marked a transition to English that typified not only his course work in the computer math class but also in special classes he attends as part of the school’s transitional bilingual program.
•Sixteen months ago, when Pedro moved from the Dominican Republic, he knew little English. Now he is learning English in the computer math class, as well as in science and history classes, which are taught in both English and Spanish. He also takes two special classes of English for non-native-speakers.
•As with other transitional bilingual programs, the aim at Bowne is for the non-native-speaker to achieve English proficiency as quickly as possible. In the early stages of a class, bilingual instructors teach subjects in the student’s first language and then use progressively more English as students’ proficiency increases.
•”We want them to keep their foreign language but they have to succeed and master English if they want to make it in this country,” said Patricia Kobetts, Bowne’s principal.
•Hispanic and Chinese Blocs Like many large urban schools that use the transitional approach, Bowne is a melting pot. Its 3,200 students come from 67 countries and speak 28 languages.
•The school has identified about 500 students as limited-English-speakers. Of those, about 250 are Hispanic and 90 are Chinese, large enough blocs to warrant the formation of parallel bilingual curriculums.
•For them the school offers bilingual math and science courses in Spanish and Mandarin Chinese. A bilingual social studies class for Hispanic students is also taught.
•The remaining limited-English students receive special instruction in English as a Second Language classes.
•In addition, Bowne offers literature classes in Spanish and Mandarin as a way for those students to maintain their cultural and educational development in their first language. Students also take an English as a Second Language class to supplement                                     the English they learn in other courses.
•One day recently, 10th-grade students in Pearl Shum’s biology class listened to her instructions in English on how to use a microscope to examine onion-skin cells. For reinforcement, Mrs. Shum repeated some instructions and answered questions in Mandarin.
•Similarly, in Carmen Wojnarowski’s life-sciences class, Spanish-speaking students followed instruction sheets printed in both Spanish and English to test the carbohydrate content of various foods. Both teachers said that as the term progressed they would use English more in lectures, experiments and tests.
•The transitional approach employs teachers who are fluent in English and, in Bowne’s case, Chinese or Spanish. They are also certified in their specialties.
•Bowne tests students’ English skills twice a year to determine placement in bilingual classes. Most students can read, write and speak well in English after two years in the bilingual program, Mrs. Kobetts said. They are then placed in mainstream classes.
•While many of the school’s top students started in the bilingual programs, school administrators identified areas where their program could improve. ”Our feeling is that the kids need more practice writing,” said Mrs. Kobetts, echoing a general concern among educators nationwide who often lack the funds or smaller class sizes to teach the way they would prefer.”They have to cope with English to fill out job applications, college applications,” she said.
Thanks for the report.

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