What is the difference between the Enrichment and Immersion Programs?
In the Enrichment program core content curriculum is taught in English. Students also participate in weekly Spanish classes. The goal of the Enrichment program is to familiarize students with Spanish vocabulary, conversation and culture. Student also experience “environmental” Spanish during interactions with their friends, school adults, in the halls and during community gatherings and specials such as art and music. Students who complete the Enrichment program will gain some limited conversational Spanish, not fluency.
In the Immersion program core content curriculum is taught in Spanish, including language arts. Supplemental literacy instruction in English is also included in these classrooms. All teachers in the Immersion program are native Spanish-speakers. The goal of the Immersion program is that students will leave the program able to read, write and speak Spanish. Students who complete the Immersion program at Casa have been able to gain two years of high school language credit. Charter students usually enter this program in Kindergarten. Admission to the Immersion program after kindergarten is done in special circumstances after an initial written, oral and listening proficiency assessment.
What is dual-language/immersion education?
Casa’s Immersion program has been designed to create the environment, incentive, resources, and opportunity for monolingual English-speaking children to learn Spanish, for monolingual Spanish-speakers to learn English, and for children partly bi-lingual in both to balance and enhance their dual-language skills. To achieve this end, Casa’s classrooms are facilitated by faculty members who speak both Spanish and English. The method of daily exposure to and participation in both languages is a rapid and effective means of learning a new or less familiar language.
Casa’s Immersion program should not be confused with bilingual instruction. In bilingual programs, bilingual teachers and guides are available to respond to a child in whichever language the child is most comfortable. Used by itself, the bilingual approach limits exposure of a child to a new language while creating few incentives for learning it. In the Immersion program, the child is in fact educated in both languages by being exposed to two different languages in multiple contexts. It is quite possible for a child to effortlessly acquire two or more languages, and this can be done simultaneously without interfering with the learning process for either.
What does research show about second language acquisition?
Language is not only a means to communicate and an instrument for thinking; it is also an important tool for understanding and appreciating the thoughts of others in our increasingly multicultural world. Knowing two languages is a marketable skill, thus expanding the individual child’s later opportunities for constructive engagement with society.
There are cognitive benefits as well. According to Michael Rosanova, Ph.D., a professor of education at Chicago State University, a Montessori-certified teacher, and an expert on bilingual education,
Long term, children who have gone through an early childhood [language] immersion experience show greater cognitive flexibility, greater facility in concept formation, greater creativity and problem-solving skills in verbal and math problems, and, obviously, a greater facility of vocabulary.
Learning a language, however, occurs most effectively and efficiently at a very early age. Young children are highly receptive to language acquisition, and second language learning comes most easily early on in a child’s life. Students at Casa Esperanza Montessori are at the perfect age for second language learning.
What if my family does not speak Spanish at home? Will my child still be successful in the Immersion program?
Casa’s Immersion program includes children who come from English-speaking and Spanish-speaking homes. Many children know little to no Spanish upon entering the Immersion program. Teachers speak both English and Spanish. They provide a transition period at the beginning of the year to help students adjust to the new language. Children are highly adaptable and take to learning a second language easily. However, you should not expect your child to come home speaking Spanish immediately. Language acquisition is a four to five year process. Children will often understand a new language before they are able to speak it. As a parent of a child in the Immersion program, the school will expect you to focus on exposing your child to as much English reading and writing as possible.
Can my child enter the Immersion program after Kindergarten?
Children in the Immersion program spend a large portion of their day learning to speak, read, and write in Spanish. This makes it very difficult for children to enter the Immersion program after Kindergarten. There are exceptions—children who have previously been in a bi-lingual education program, children who have lived in a foreign country, etc. If you are interested in the Immersion program past the age of Kindergarten, the school will ask you to come in for an assessment to see if your child has the language skills needed to be successful in the Immersion program.