NEW YORK—On Sat., Aug. 18, the Armenian National Educational Council (ANEC), a joint venture of the Eastern Prelacy and the Armenian Relief Society Eastern USA, held a teacher training seminar focused on teaching Armenian as a second language. Participants from New York, New Jersey, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., Providence, Boston, and Chicago gathered at the Prelacy’s offices in Manhattan to participate in a workshop titled “Train the Trainer: Armenian as a Second Language for Newcomers,” presented by Scott Cohen of Community Learning Partners.
In his opening prayers and remarks, Rev. Fr. Mesrob Lakissian thanked ANEC for organizing the seminar and wished all participants a fruitful and successful workshop. Following these remarks, ANEC Executive Director Dr. Vartan Matiossian welcomed attendees and thanked them for coming to New York for the workshop. He then discussed a few new ANEC projects and resources, and said they are intended to be used in support of all teachers’ practice. He said this seminar served that same purpose and was organized to meet the developing need of changing classroom dynamics, particularly in teaching Armenian to students with no Armenian-language exposure.
Matiossian then introduced Cohen, who led the workshop for the day. He first gave an overview of the workshop and handed out a participant workbook including activities and information related to the topic. During the morning session, he discussed ways in which teachers could connect with students and families while being mindful of group and individual identity ideas and in some cases stereotypes. Then he transitioned into a discussion of culture and assumptions that might play a role in how teachers might understand the students in his/her class. This, he said, guides students’ interest and energy to participate.
After this portion, Cohen asked participants to consider what values they wish to see in their classroom and noted that although lesson and content are important, these values create a safe environment for learning. Everything that teachers do, said Cohen, is driven by what teachers want as an outcome for their students. He then went on to lead a group discussion about culture and students and their families, where participants were encouraged to brainstorm what it means to be Armenian. After a long discussion, the issue of choice was brought up as an important dynamic in the classroom today.
At this point, the group broke for lunch, during which participants were able to browse and shop in the Prelacy Bookstore for materials they could use in their classrooms. After lunch, Cohen asked the group to list the reasons why they might want to teach in an Armenian school. Topics of duty, the love of being Armenian, and propagating the culture were some of the reasons given. Based on these responses, Cohen asked teachers to brainstorm ways they might open the first day of class and what they might expect from their students.
Different language acquisition theories were then presented to give participants a context of possible ways in which students might be learning language. Based on these theories, Cohen discussed the various stages of second language acquisition and gave teachers examples of possible prompts that could be used to facilitate learning and practice at the different stages.
Finally Cohen explained that students learn best when material is presented linguistically, spatially, musically, and kinesthetically. At this point he invited the four different groups of participants to plan and carry out a short lesson on any Armenian topic and for any age group utilizing these different mediums.
At the workshop’s conclusion, Matiossian briefed participants about the next ANEC initiative: to write a Common Core Standards for each grade level for Armenian Saturday Schools in the Eastern United States. He asked all participants to review the draft document prepared by the ANEC board and return feedback so the council could refine its ideas.