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District 75 News and Announcements

Posted on: December 7, 2016

Kindergarten Bilingualism Growing


“¿Hola Jesús cómo estuvo tu fin de semana?” kindergarten teacher Vanessa Galvan from Washington Early Learning Center in Mundelein asks one of her students.
One English speaking kindergartener nods and responds with one syllable, “Bien.”

Another child, whose primary language at home is Spanish, answers in rapid fire Spanish, “Fui a ver una película”.

After lunch a group of of children from another Spanish speaking class enter kindergarten teacher Kristen Meister’s classroom. The same questions are asked again, but in English. The children are expected to respond in English.

The Two Way Immersion Program at Washington School that has gotten off the ground at the start of the school year beginning in kindergarten has been a great success with the nearly 80 students in the program. As students move up the grade level ladder the program will move with them.

As early as kindergarten teachers are witnessing the phenomenon of the children, half of whom come from homes where Spanish is the primary language, and half of whom come from homes where English is the primary language, already understanding their non-native language. Like babies first understand the spoken language before speaking it, so too do the students in the Washington dual language program.

The Two Way Immersion teachers divide up the subjects and then an English-speaking teacher conducts her math lesson in English and a Spanish speaking teacher conducts Spanish Language Arts lessons across the hall. While students learn to count in both languages and read and write in both languages, the teachers stick to their respective languages when the children are in their classrooms.

“I do the heavy lifting for math, explained Mrs. Meister, who is one of four teachers involved in the Two Way Immersion program at Washington. “I work hard to use gestures, repetition, visuals, to get math concepts across to children in English,” she said. In Mrs. Galvan’s classroom she stays true to Spanish and uses gestures and visuals to get the lessons across to the children in the full day kindergarten program.

What teachers experienced at the beginning of the year was a lot of shyness from students who didn’t know their respective language. Gradually students relied on one another to help them answer a teacher’s question. This reliance on one another built confidence in the children and a good classmate support system evolved.

Now, Mrs. Galvan may tell the children, “Saquen sus lápices,” while she holds up a pencil. An English-speaking child may approach her and ask, “Puedo agarar un nuevo lápiz?”

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