Thursday, May 22, 2014

Making Graduation Momentous

Holly Niemi on making graduation momentous

Many of my ELLs are some of the first in their family to graduate from high school.  They are proud of their accomplishments, as are their families, but they are not as familiar with American graduation traditions.  The month of June is filled with many seniors’ open houses and graduation parties, but this is not the case for my ELLs.  I want them to have a graduation to remember, so as an ESL department, we host an annual “Senior Showcase” that celebrates, and is a tribute to, our graduating seniors.  The ESL teachers and ESL underclassmen plan the graduation celebration.  Underclassmen ELLs divide celebration duties: making invitations, compiling a guest list, selecting music, preparing gifts, making a video featuring our graduates, and a video highlighting our school year, as well as booking an event room in the school, planning the menu and decorating. 

Invitations & Gifts
Our seniors are the guests of honor, but other guests include current ELLs, monitored ELLs, and exited ELLs, some American students who collaborated with us throughout the year, as well as administrators and teachers.  Each person receives a hand-delivered invitation made by our ELLs.  On the day of the celebration, our ESL seniors come to the front of the room when their names are announced during their part of the video to receive gifts.   We used PTA funds to purchase each senior a journal that every underclassmen ELL signed and wrote a personal congratulatory message, as well as a CD containing a copy the ESL Senior Showcase video and annual ESL photo highlights. 

Photo provided by Holly Niemi

Celebration Entertainment & Festivities
We book a large event room in the school.  We take one period to set up, one period for the celebration, and one period to clean up.   We decorate each table with a tablecloth and flower arrangement, borrowed from the cafeteria.  As the ELLs enter the building, they deliver their food, which is labeled and set out.  ELLs and their parents graciously donate enough food to serve 100+ guests. 

Photo provided by Holly Niemi
 As the students enjoy a variety of ethnic cuisine, we play a video compilation of senior interviews.  Each senior’s country, flag and short farewell speech is set to music.  The end of the video highlights our field trips, excursions, and various activities from the past school year.  A short clip is provided below.  

This is truly one of the highlights of the year for our ESL program.  It gives our ESL seniors a chance to be recognized and our underclassmen ELLs a chance to show appreciation.

Photo provided by Holly Niemi

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