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Friday, January 13, 2012

Foreign Language Immersion

Foreign Language Immersion
by Pat Maness, Principal of Richmond Drive Elementary, Shane Goodwin, Principal of Ebinport Elementary

Bienvenido! Welcome to learning about a new tool in foreign language instruction. It’s call “immersion.” Both Ebinport and Richmond Drive elementary schools will offer immersion language instruction to kindergarten students in school year 2012-2013 as part of their “schools of choice” initiative.

In our immersion programs, students will spend half of their day learning math and science standards in Spanish and the remaining half day learning other kindergarten standards in English. Our goals are for students to be able to read and write in both their native language and a second language, to master subject content, and to understand and appreciate another culture. 

In traditional language programs in Rock Hill Schools, elementary and secondary students receive foreign language instruction as a separate class. In immersion classes, however, students will be taught grade-level math and science content standards in the new language, rather than being taught the new language independently.  The teacher and aide will talk exclusively in Spanish with their class for half of the day, and then the students will go to another teacher for instruction in English for the second half of the day. This model, which builds on the traditional world language instruction already offered in our schools, is called a Two-Way or Bi-Lingual Partial Immersion.

Researchers at the Center for Advanced Research on Language Acquisition (CARLA) at the University of Minnesota have identified numerous benefits of immersion education:
        Students achieve a higher level of world language proficiency than students in classrooms using traditional language instruction.
They score at the same or higher level as peers on standardized tests in English.
●They develop better problem-solving abilities. 
Non-native English speakers in the class develop higher levels of proficiency in English than peers in traditional ESOL (English Speakers of Other Languages) programs

Students who begin an immersion program in kindergarten will continue immersion instruction each year as the schools add immersion to succeeding grades.  By the end of elementary school, these students will have been taught half of each day in the foreign language, and proficiency levels will be far greater than those for students in traditional foreign language programs.

Middle and high school instruction will be re-designed to build on these enhanced language skills. Since the community our students will live and work in is becoming more and more globally diverse, a high proficiency in communicating in a second language enhances employment possibilities for these students in areas such as international business, tourism, and government.

For families who apply through our schools of choice program, immersion foreign language instruction will engage students in exciting in-depth learning of a second language. We invite parents who are interested in immersion for their children entering kindergarten in the fall of 2012 to contact us for further information and to attend meetings about schools of choice later this year as they are scheduled and publicized. This is an exciting new era of language instruction in our district, and we invite you to join us.

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