The ILC offers a continuum of morning and afternoon English As A Second Language (ESL) classes for students who are illiterate in their native languages to those preparing to enter college. Individuals are placed in class levels that best reflect their current listening, speaking, reading and writing skills. Students progress through the school at their own pace in accordance with individual goals. All ILC classes are designed to be intensive, and instruction is given in English for a total immersion experience.
Students can also receive assistance in preparing for TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language, required for college entry), U.S. citizenship and other professional exams. All students receive up to two hours a week of computer literacy instruction.
Morning ESL Program
The Morning Program offers nine classes that span six levels. These classes meet four to five mornings a week for a total of 10 to 15 hours weekly. Offerings include a conversation class, two Family Literacy classes for parents of pre-school and school-aged children and a Theater Class that teaches English through the technique of theater performance and script writing about the immigrant experience in America.
Family Literacy Classes
These classes serve immigrant parents of pre-school and school-aged children who are learning English through the theme of family literacy. This includes reading with their children, attending parent/teacher conferences and volunteering at their children’s schools. The program’s curriculum is based on educational research that shows that children whose parents read, write and practice these skills with them are better prepared for formal literacy instruction and are more knowledgeable about written language concepts than children whose parents do not model this behavior.
Family Literacy Days
Several times a year, students and their children come together for Family Literacy Days to practice reading together, doing arts and crafts, listening to stories or going on field trips to local museums and other places of interest. The ILC provides children with free books donated by individuals and corporate sponsors, and teachers assign literacy activities for the adults and children to complete at home together. Family Literacy teachers conduct family literacy workshops twice a year in all ILC classes and distribute free children’s books.
ESL Theater Class
This class, established in 2004 and known as the Immigrant Theater Group (ITG), uses theater as an innovative tool to:
- Give immigrants the opportunity to give voice to their feelings and experiences as immigrants by writing, acting and producing their own plays;
- Help immigrants improve their spoken and written English abilities;
- Enable immigrants with advanced English skills to assist those at a lower skill level; and;
- Provide interaction opportunities between members of the local immigrant and non-immigrant communities that will promote dialogue and mutual cooperation and appreciation.
Several ITG videotaped performances are distributed nationally on DVDs to cable television stations. The ITG has performed within and outside the Malden community and at regional conferences for adult education practitioners. It provides audiences with a phenomenal opportunity to understand the cultural and psychological hurdles that immigrants and refugees face during integration into American society.
Afternoon ESL Program
The Afternoon Program offers eight classes that also span six levels. These classes meet Monday through Thursday from 12:30 to 3:00 p.m. for a total of 10 hours weekly. These include a low-level Literacy Class, known as The ILC’s “One-Room Schoolhouse,” for those illiterate in their native languages, a high-level Project-Based Learning Class for students who engage in consumer-oriented class projects and classes that prepare students to take the TOEFL and citizenship exams.
ESL Literacy Class
The ESL Literacy Class is a pre-literacy class that addresses the needs of students who are illiterate in their native languages or who experience severe learning challenges. This class meets four afternoons a week for a total of eight hours. In addition, these students receive four hours a week of conversation instruction. Some students have had some elementary schooling, and this class gives them an opportunity to continue their education. Many others never went to school. For these students, the Literacy Class is their first experience with any formal education. Several students in The ILC’s high-level ESL Theater Class serve as peer tutors for ESL Literacy students. Progress tends to be slower than in other ESL classes, but it is steady. The gains these students make such as being able to read the alphabet, write complete sentences with punctuation, learn vocabulary and read books are truly life-changing for them.
Citizenship Preparation Class
The Citizenship class meets the needs of immigrants and refugees who are ready to begin the process of becoming United States citizens. Students become familiar with the naturalization process and receive assistance in completing required forms. The class focuses on teaching United States history and government and also conversation skills, which help students prepare for the English language interview. Students practice dictation and review sample exam questions. The 2.5 hour class is offered one afternoon a week.
Financial Literacy Curriculum
Many students plan to start businesses or own homes and need to be educated in areas such as basic banking, credit cards and rental and mortgage contracts. The financial literacy curriculum helps students successfully navigate America’s complex financial systems.
The IBM/Verizon Technology Program
The ILC’s Technology Program offers students an opportunity to learn or enhance their computer literacy skills as part of their English language learning, which also helps to address digital divide issues within the immigrant community. All students have access to a 24-station, networked computer lab with Internet access, sponsored by IBM and Verizon. The Technology Directors/Instructors work with teachers to incorporate computer literacy into classroom curriculum.
In September 2009, The ILC added a new Project-Based Learning Class for high-level students that focus on topics such as health, financial literacy, consumer information, American culture, American government, community resources or issues related to employment. Students choose a topic and work individually and in teams to produce a finished product, such as a pamphlet, handbook, PowerPoint presentation, creative story, photo story, skit or speech. This innovative technique allows students to learn relevant English in a practical, hands-on fashion as they work on their projects. Instead of a syllabus based primarily on step-by-step language goals, the syllabus is designed around the topic students are studying. The goal is to help them identify personal goals, take leadership roles as they speak English, practice reading academic texts and writing in an academic style for college preparation and to become more aware of community resources and American culture.