The goal of our dual-language model is for all Valdez students to acquire oral and text-based language skills so as to become bilingual and bi-literate in both English and Spanish. In our dual-language program, each student spends a pre-determined amount of his/her day immersed in an English environment and immersed in a Spanish environment. We achieve this through staffing each grade level with one English-speaking teacher and one Spanish-speaking teacher. Students move between the two language environments each day both in linguistically homogeneous and heterogeneous peer groups.
We manage our enrollment for a balance of about 50% native Spanish speakers and about 50% native English speakers. In ECE/K, 1st, and most of 2nd grade, students spend about 60% of each day in their native language environment, and about 40% of each day in their second language environment. By third grade and through fifth grade, students will receive half of their day in each language. We differentiate for each student by fine-tuning this language allocation schedule to meet each student’s academic and linguistic needs.
Students are supported in their learning through instruction that supports language acquisition through research-based strategies, such as:
- Mirrored classroom environments
- Content instruction with similar language forms and functions in both languages
- Explicit content and language objectives
- Oral language development opportunities
- Shared, independent, and guided reading
- Thematic curricular instruction
- Preview, View, and Review with concepts and vocabulary
- Sheltering strategies including: identifying and front-loading specific, targeted vocabulary, realia, visuals, gestures, modeling, total physical response storytelling (TPRS and TPR), questions/responses leveled to different language levels
- “Thinking Maps”
Students are exposed to most concepts in their first language first, then, with an understanding of the concept, they expand on the same concept in their second language. Concepts and ideas are built upon one another in both languages – students do not receive repeated lessons.
We use a variety of assessment tools in order to monitor and analyze student progress.
- We use end-of-theme content and oral language assessments.
- We use a beginning and end-of-year oral language assessment (currently IPT).
- We identify the language acquisition stage of each student: Preproduction, Early Production, Speech Emergence, Intermediate Fluency, and Advanced Fluency (Krashen & Terrell, 1983) to tailor our instruction to the students’ needs.
We are working to align our instructional strategies, thematic units, assessments, and literacy genres so that we can ensure that second language learning builds on previous learning. We deliberately allocate funds each year (and draw from School Improvement Grant funds, 2007-2013) in order to provide appropriate and abundant resources in English and Spanish that align with our curricula.
Our dual-language program will remain responsive to changing demographics of our population and to new research in the field of dual-language education.