ELL students & pen-pals share their experiences

MARYSVILLE — English Language Learners were given a chance to show off the reading and writing skills that they'd developed through hands-on application, as 20 students from the Allen Creek, Kellogg Marsh and Pinewood elementary schools met with their 10 pen-pals, from the Friends of the Marysville Library, June 3 in the Marysville School District Board Room.

Not only did the students write letters to their pen-pals, and receive letters from them in return, but the students and their pen-pals also chose ELL books that they could read together, with the pen-pals helping the students through the tough parts. The students and their pen-pals even did special projects together, designed to tie back into their correspondence and the books that they'd read.

MSD ELL TOSA Staci Tuck explained that she'd started the program four years ago with Heidi Johnsen at Liberty Elementary, but wasn't able to conduct it again, or to expand it to other schools, until this school year. She noted that the Marysville Firefighters Association paid for the rides that transported the students to the MSD Board Room that afternoon, while Costco provided the cake, cookies, strawberries and water bottles.

Tuck then presented certificates to Pinewood students Osmara Ruiz and Angely Munoz, and Kellogg Marsh students Eduardo Aparicio, Margarita Flores, Daniel Guba, Jazmin Guzman and Isabella Ortiz, in recognition of their passing the annual Washington Language Placement Test, conducted earlier this year. As a result of passing the WLPT, all seven students have transitioned out of the ELL program.

Rosa Barringer's students from Allen Creek delivered speeches they'd written beforehand, about their experiences with their pen-pals, before Pinewood pen-pal Renee Stensland showed everyone in the room how to make origami animals. Holly Scriven's students from Pinewood paired off to recite tag-team poems about their respective pen-pals, before they presented oral book reports on the books that they'd read. The students of Kellogg Marsh shared what they'd learned through a variety of different media, as Janeth Cardenas and Marylu Lamas performed a scene based on the book "Ruby the Copycat," Aparicio showed off a model explaining the different ways in which animals can be poisonous, Guba summed up the book "What's the Matter With Herbie Jones?" in a story-wheel, and Eric Trofimchik listed facts about bats on a "bat cereal" box.

Marysville Fire District Commissioner Kay Smith enjoyed socializing with her Pinewood pen-pals, 9-year-old Ruiz and 10-year-old Andrew Jaramillo.

"This has just been a totally wonderful experience," Smith said. "It's been nice getting acquainted with two really nice young people."

"I was excited to have a pen-pal," Jaramillo said. "I wasn't as excited to write before."

"I never wrote a letter before," Ruiz said. "I never got one before, either."

Smith used her correspondence with Ruiz and Jaramillo to send them fire prevention information and stickers, to enhance not only their English language skills, but also their safety.

Johnsen, director of categorical programs for the Marysville School District, complimented both the students and their pen-pals by calling them "mogul diamonds," quoting from Samuel Taylor Coleridge, who defined the term as those "who profit by what they read, and enable others to profit by it also."

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