Halifax school newcomers make movies to improve their English

There was a red carpet, gold statues and popcorn for the premiere on Tuesday of several short films made by some students at Grosvenor-Wentworth Park Elementary in Halifax whose first language isn’t English.

The movies, made by 13 students in grades 3 to 6, highlighted their immigration stories and were told in their first language, as well as English.

“It’s important that they do it in both. First of all, that’s who they are, that’s part of their identity,” Jacquelyn Buckland, the English as an additional language (EAL) teacher, told CBC’s Mainstreet Halifax in an interview on Tuesday.

“And we wanted to show how these students can still participate when they come here to Canada. They have higher order thinking, they have their literacy and their first language most of the time, and it’s really important that we highlight that.

“The confidence the kids have when they get to be themselves and use their language is so important. And they’re also teaching us, so not only are they learning English, we can also learn a bit of their language as well.”

The students in the EAL program originally come from five different countries: Syria, India, China, Japan and Colombia.

The movies show the children sliding drawings they’ve made across a table and into the view of the camera. As they did this, they talked about their families and tell the story of how they came to Canada.

The movies were premiered in the Grosvenor-Wentworth library. Paper stars with the children’s names were taped on the floor to create a Hollywood Boulevard vibe.

As the children walked the red carpet at the library, they collected a gold statue. It wasn’t an Oscar, but a Grosvenor. After they accepted their award, they gathered at a photo area and posed for a picture surrounded by gold balloons.

“Me and my family used to live in Syria and in Syria there was a war, so we moved to Jordan. We weren’t comfortable there, so we moved here to Canada,” said Nassouh Alnajar, an 11-year-old student in Grade 6.

“And Canada is a safer place than Syria right now. And here we’re learning more English.”

Alnajar said he was initially nervous about making a movie and had to try a few times.

“I did take a long time [drawing]. It was hard and it was fun too,” he said.

Marcos Luna, a nine-year-old student in Grade 4, said he enjoyed making the movie.

“I first got to Colombia and I speak Spanish. And then my dad said, ‘We can go to Canada,’ and I came to Canada,” he said, adding he likes winter and snow.

Sonja Grcic-Stuart, an EAL consultant, attended the movie premiere.

“I think for us today in 2020, this is a wonderful way to capture how our schools are changing, how our city is changing and how we’re changing how we listen to stories in a traditional sense, in a traditional way,” she said.

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