In one kindergarten classroom, the students all speak and write in Spanish, but the next day, those same students are in the classroom next door, speaking and writing in English. While it is early in the school year, students enrolled in Goose Creek CISD’s kindergarten dual language two-way Program, piloted this year at Carver Elementary and Harlem Elementary, are already on the road to becoming bilingual, biliterate and bicultural.
This enriched educational model integrates native English speakers and native Spanish speakers in the same classroom to promote second language acquisition, high academic achievement and cross-cultural understanding. Benefits of the program include increased cultural sensitivity and empathy, confidence and self-esteem.
A typical day finds students moving through numerous activities, which helps keep them energized and engaged in learning. They might be seated on the floor, reading words and sentences off the board; writing words on the Promethean Board; working individually or in groups at stations around the room or working in bilingual pairs, comprised of one student who is a strong English speaker and another who speaks Spanish fluently. To an observer, it might seem a little chaotic, but this program not only keeps students moving and focusing, but also allows them to provide language support for each other so that they are not afraid to work with their less familiar language.
“Their favorite activity is speaking or singing into the microphone,” said Wendy Madrid, who teaches the Spanish class at Carver Elementary with Sandra Santos, the English teacher for the program. “The more they share with each other using the language, the more comfortable they become with it.”
Dr. Sandra Mercuri, a nationally recognized educational consultant in the areas of second language acquisition, dual language education and curriculum integration for biliteracy development, is guiding teachers and administrators through the program. She works with teachers Madrid and Santos as well as the Harlem Elementary team of Fabiola Avena, Spanish teacher, and Norma Dominguez, English teacher, providing feedback to help them refine their classroom instruction. A tutor has recently been added at each campus, shared by the two classes.
“This is the most effective model for all language learners, but it takes communication, collaboration and planning by the two teachers. It is true team teaching.” said Dr. Pilar Moreno-Recio, director of bilingual/ESL.
Communication with families is important to student success, so teachers have created websites to allow them to share information, photos and videos to keep everyone informed of progress. Apps, such as Seesaw, also are used to help provide information.
“We plan to showcase what the students have learned soon through student-led conferences with their parents,” Moreno-Recio said.