Helping International Boys Thrive
Blue Ridge School’s English Language Learner (ELL) program offers international students, on the one hand, the opportunity to learn and improve their English language skills while experiencing the American boarding school way of life. On the other hand, our ELL students’ rich cultural backgrounds are welcomed and celebrated here at BRS as we here at BRS understand that through a diverse international student body, we all become stronger in academics, sports, culturally, and socially. More specifically, we honor all nationalities throughout the school year with international student clubs open for all to join, we celebrate international holidays, and even often share and cook international culinary recipes.
Blue Ridge School ELL teachers employ both Content and Language Integrated Learning (CLIL) and Project-based Learning (PbL) approaches to prepare our ELL students for a smooth transition into mainstream Blue Ridge School (BRS) courses. International students of any English language level, from absolute beginner to a more seasoned, non-native speaker of English, are welcome to join the ELL program at any time.
Outside the classroom, international students can also enjoy fun, off-campus activities, such as going to the movies, shopping trips, and theme parks. Furthermore, we often participate in other schools’ social activities, and even visit Smithsonian Institute museums in Washington, D.C. On our beautiful 750-acre campus, our students form music bands and play songs of all genres in our music programs, compete in top sports teams, act in our school plays, and participate in a rich variety of outdoor programs, all while immersed in the English language. As a result, by the time an ELL student graduates from Blue Ridge School, he has earned many distinct advantages over other high school students, prior to attending any American or English-speaking international university.
After gaining acceptance to BRS, ELL students are placed in classes supporting various English language levels which are determined by past standardized English language assessment scores, their International Test of English Proficiency (iTEP) Academic Plus scores upon arriving at BRS, and an interview with the Director of the ELL program. Nevertheless, adjustments to ELL student class schedules can always be subsequently made if necessary and done fluidly through teacher recommendations within the first two weeks of each trimester.
ELL Classes include:
- English Summer Camp. This three-week-intensive, full-immersion course is for international students who are just starting to learn the English language. Two main goals of this intensive summer camp are to help new international students acclimate to American boarding school life and prepare for BRS classes three weeks prior to starting the fall trimester. This ELL Summer Camp provides its attendees with many advantages over those students who arrive on campus three weeks later.
- ELL Level I. Students attend two ELL English classes where they are introduced to the writing process, hone reading comprehension skills, and listen to authentic podcasts with the ultimate goal being to improve English-speaking skills. Phonetics and pronunciation are also woven into the lessons. ELL I students are given interesting, relevant, and current topics to prepare discussions for. Therefore, conversation eventually becomes the greater part of this class by the spring trimester. The remaining two or three classes are BRS mainstream classes*. ELL I students still have support from the ELL teachers available, if necessary, while taking their mainstream classes. * ‘Mainstream classes’ are classes open to all BRS students, integrate national and international students, and follow our rigorous curriculum to get all BRS students on the path to university acceptance.
- ELL Level II. Students will be in one ELL class and choose one mainstream history class. The remaining two or three classes are mainstream BRS math, science, humanities, music or art classes that follow the regular curriculum from those classes. The English language learning difficulty level increases in ELL II as students are encouraged to learn more advanced English grammar, as well as STEAM subject-specific, TOEFL, and SAT-level lexis. ELL II students also still have support from the ELL teachers available, if necessary, while taking their mainstream classes.
- Advanced ELL Level III. Students will usually be in only ELL class. Nevertheless, upon recommendation from the ELL Director and the English or History Department Head, ELL III students may choose to take one or more advanced mainstream classes at the same time as taking ELL III: either ELL Lab or an advanced mainstream class of the student’s choice. The three or four remaining classes for ELL III students are mainstream BRS classes, such as science, physics, humanities, math, music, art, or electives, etc., and follow the regular curriculum for those classes. In ELL III, students become more involved in project-based learning by defining a problem area, but then solving this problem through critical thinking, doing credible research, and ultimately answering ‘how’ and ‘why’ questions and presenting solutions in either written reports or presentations.
- ELL Lab. This course is required for all international students. The ELL Lab’s main goal is to strive for college readiness. More specifically, ELL students analyze complex university-level texts, learn how to research and corroborate sources, understand what university professors want when they ask for summarized articles, understand how to paraphrase, but not plagiarize, focus on writing college essays, prepare for university interviews, and hone academic writing skills prior to matriculating to their chosen university.