New videos and website help students strengthen their English skills
While many Island students were catching up on sleep over the winter break, Jennifer Holdway was busy getting ready for a new year at school.
Holdway used her time off to create a website for her students at Stratford Elementary, where she works as an itinerant teacher—a teacher with specialized training. She recorded and uploaded a series of videos to help develop her students’ vocabulary and speaking skills, in preparation for remote learning in January.
“It’s important for more beginner language learners to have the visual and audio together,” says Holdway, who has been working in the field of English as an additional language – or EAL – education for more than 10 years.
"All of the content is in the form of videos to make the most of the audio/visual format for students newer to English.”
EAL services, as well as French as an additional language (FAL), are provided to Island school children from kindergarten through Grade 12. Holdway said she noticed many videos available for EAL and FAL learners were designed for younger-aged school children, so she was motivated to create her own EAL website and videos that would interest older students.
“I wanted to make videos that were more age-appropriate for older students who are newer to learning English.”
Holdway has worked with EAL students from Grades three to six for the past three years. She says the videos she creates offer a variety of learning opportunities for students – including speaking, listening, reading, and writing – and are suited to a broad age range.
“The content on the website can be used for a wide-range of students across grade levels.”
Holdway has even created videos on what winter is like on Prince Edward Island, because many children might have never experienced snow and cold weather till now.
“This season in PEI is new to some students.”
However, it’s not just the schoolkids who are learning new things. Holdway says the students are sometimes her teacher.
“My students come from diverse backgrounds with so much experience that they’re happy to share.”
It’s a great learning opportunity for her, too, she says.
“I really enjoy learning from my students, including how to say words in the languages that they know.”
Holdway’s website and videos have been used by all EAL itinerant teachers.
“Jennifer has created more than 100 extensive videos,” says Janet Perry-Payne, director of the Province’s EAL and FAL programs and services.
The videos help students learn functional language related to everyday things, such as food, weather, sports, shapes, and numbers.
“This material is exceptional,” says Perry-Payne. “I am very proud of Jennifer’s initiative as it is beneficial to all new language learners.”
Developing engaging content during times of remote learning can be challenging, says Perry-Payne, but EAL and FAL teachers always work hard to be creative while meeting the needs of Island students—even where remote learning is difficult.
“Teachers provided packages of language activities and in some cases, when students are very new to the language, they arranged for one-on-one or small group contact at individual schools.”
Helping colleagues meet the challenges of remote learning was a main reason Holdway created the videos, she says. And her effort did not go unnoticed.
“EAL teachers have been very supportive,” she says. “It feels very rewarding that they’re helping more than only my students.”
Holdway hopes students, parents, and caregivers will benefit from her website – even following kids’ return to school.
“I hope it will be one of a number of helpful resources to families.”