Intercultural folklore helps English Language Learners transition to college
For nearly a decade, Penn State Behrend has offered a group of incoming first-year students the opportunity to get a head start on college through Pathway to Success: Summer Start (PaSSS). The six-week program, designed for individuals from underrepresented groups, first-generation college students, and new Americans, gives attendees access to tools and resources that increase the likelihood they will be successful at Behrend.
Among those tools has been English Academy for those in need of grammar or language skills development. Beginning this summer, participants were able to earn college credit for it.
“We decided to trade the English Academy model for ENGL83S: First Year Seminar in English, which is a credited course,” said Jasper Sachsenmeier, lecturer in composition.
Sachsenmeier tweaked the course to reach English Language Learners (ELL) enrolled in the PaSSS program, specifically.
“We examined works of folklore, covering all four major types: myth, legend, fairy tale, and fable,” he said. “In doing so, we addressed a wide range of important skills and topics from close reading and critical analysis to basic rhetoric and composition to plot and the foundations of human literacy and storytelling.”
Sachsenmeier also incorporated tales from around the world. Students read excerpts from Mallory’s “Le Morte D’Arthur” (King Arthur), selections from Kalila and Dimna (Arabic fables of Sanskrit origin), and even a Wendat creation myth from the Hudson Bay area.
“This intercultural exposure helped engage students from differing backgrounds and demonstrate the legitimacy of non-English literary canons and traditions,” he said. “This is particularly important working with ELL students, who can frequently feel excluded from English-majority classrooms and institutions of higher learning. And, of course, it’s a great way to introduce the writing, reading, and speaking skills necessary for success in college.”