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Elementary Spanish Immersion

Spanish Immersion is wonderfully effective way to prepare our students well for the kind of world in which they live and work, interacting and collaborating with many different people wherever they may be, as well as around the world.

Even more, Spanish Immersion further equips our students to carry out the Gospel mission to which we are called as Christ’s disciples, namely, to join God in cultivating shalom amidst the chaos we find in our world.

For the 23-24 school year, we are offering 3-year-old Spanish Immersion (SI) preschool on Tuesday & Friday mornings; 4-year-old SI preschool on Monday, Wednesday, & Thursday mornings; and Spanish Immersion K-5th grade classes. We plan to continue the Spanish Immersion program into 6th grade/middle school next year with a selection of classes at HCMS taught completely in Spanish. Within three more years, as we bring Spanish Immersion through middle school an additional grade each year from 6th-8th grades, we will soon be offering Spanish Immersion from 3s preschool all the way through 12th grade!

Dual Language Immersion Models

There are many different models for immersion language instruction. Research suggests that students in partial immersion programs do not have Spanish proficiency to support the increased cognitive demands required in upper elementary and post primary grades. Full immersion programs, such as Early Total One-Way, have been shown by research, as well as in practice, to be the most effective model for students and creates an environment for the highest level of Spanish fluency by graduation. For those reasons, Early Total One-Way is the immersion model that Holland Christian has chosen.

About the Early-Total One-way Language Immersion Model

In the early-total one-way model, majority language students receive 100% of their academic instruction in Spanish. In grades K-2, children learn to read first in Spanish. Then instructional time in Spanish decreases by percentages as the students progress through elementary school. The introduction of formal English instruction varies based on student demographic and other socio-cultural factors. In most cases  in the U.S., however, 5th grade immersion students continue to receive a minimum of 50% of their instruction in the immersion language.

HC's Early-Total One-Way Spanish Immersion Program

In Holland Christian’s early-total one-way Spanish immersion program, students are instructed in Spanish the following percentage of time during the school day:

  • Preschool: 100% Spanish
  • Kindergarten: 100% Spanish
  • 1st Grade: 100% Spanish
  • 2nd Grade: 100% Spanish
  • 3rd-5th Grade: Just under 3 hours of English/week

What have been some of the positive outcomes for HC students and families in our Spanish Immersion program?

  • Students view themselves as bilingual and are willing to step out of their comfort zones because they have to do that as they practice their second language.
  • A greater diversity within the teaching staff. Spanish Immersion is changing the face of Rose Park and making it a more open place. In schools with immersion programs, some families choose to enroll their children in the English track, saying that they chose the school system because it must be an accepting, open place if it has an immersion program. It also allows students to interact with people “different” than themselves and learn to love them, which makes them more aware of other peoples and cultures, and also more open to them.
  • Students with Spanish language skills have opportunities to serve people in need of language help even at a young age. Parents are so proud of them when they do this!
  • Spanish Immersion students’ worldviews change because of the influence of their teachers, but also because languages can shape one’s view of the world and having two languages gives them another, often richer, perspective.

How we teach language immersion

You can read more about the various immersion language models above, including the “Early Total One-Way Language Immersion” program that we use at Rose Park. Our Spanish Immersion teachers work to bring students out into Holland’s Spanish-speaking community to practice their language skills in real-world and culturally rich experiences.

Immersion FAQs

Why is dual language immersion most effective beginning at a young age?

Babies are born as “world citizens,” able to distinguish any sound in spoken language.

Toddlers learn through interaction with their families and their immediate surroundings (Vygotsky, 1978).

School-age children make sense of new concepts by relating those new concepts to what they already know.

The human brain is more open to linguistic development prior to adolescence and students therefore  more easily attain higher levels of proficiency and more native-like pronunciation.

Research suggests that learning a second language allows students to more easily attain additional languages.

Why is Spanish a good choice for an immersion language?

In the United Sates, 1 in 7 persons is Hispanic. By 2020, Hispanics are expected to account for half of the growth in the United States’ labor force. Spanish is the second most widely spoken language in the world. Spanish is a “gateway” language that allows students to learn the syntax and and orthography of a LaEn-based or Romance language, thus fostering metalinguistic awareness and allowing students to more easily master academic vocabulary in English, of which many have latin origins (the Spanish word mal = evil/bad — >malicious, malign, malevolent) (Nagy & Townsend, 2012).

How can I support my children at home if I don’t speak the target or immersion language?

The single most important activity families of immersion students can do to aid in their children’s education is reading aloud in English (or the primary home language). This does NOT mean you need to teach your children to read. As long as families commit to reading to their children in English (or home language) and exposing them to the language in a variety of social settings, they can trust the add.a.lingua dual language immersion model to ensure their children will read at or above grade level in the immersion language and in English.

Why does Holland Christian teach students to learn to read and write in Spanish before English?

Most children growing up in homes in which at least one parent is a native English-speaker, within the United States, acquire English syntax (structure/grammar) and basic vocabulary through interaction with caregivers, relatives, and media by the time they are of school age. Because of time spent in the English language (or primary language in two-way models) at home, the classroom can then become the environment in which immersion students expand their second language (L2) vocabulary and acquire L2 syntax. Interactive classroom read-alouds and guided reading groups allow immersion students to add to vocabulary they have already acquired by listening and responding to their immersion teachers during class time.

Reading skills such as learning to scan sentences from left to right, decoding (looking for phonetic or semantic clues – finding parts – such as prefixes, suffixes, radicals, or characters within words), or deciphering meaning from context are all “transferable” between many languages. Students who learn to read first in Spanish transfer those same skills to the majority culture language of English and are ultimately able to then attain grade level reading competency in two languages rather than just one.

How can I prepare my children to enter a dual language immersion program?

Tell your children what to expect. Help them to understand that “going to school” means learning another language along with all the other interesting skills they will gain (reading, writing, spelling, etc…).

Explain to your children that they will NOT understand every word their teacher is saying when first entering the immersion classroom. Explain that over time, perhaps without even being aware, they will understand and even begin to use the immersion language themselves. For now, encourage your children to think of the first few weeks of school as a game – observing the teachers and then following their lead.

BE POSITIVE. It is natural for many children to resist leaving you upon beginning school, regardless of whether or not the classroom they enter dual language immersion. Many preschool students cry initially and are perhaps more reserved at school as they process the “newness.” Behaviors such as crying and/or acting shy are often extremely normal responses.

Students who enter the program in kindergarten and first grade may have the same types of responses. Because the brain is “exercising” more, as children initially begin to acquire a second language, many students will cry and adamantly oppose the added “work.” Even students who have begun the program in preschool may struggle in kindergarten and/or first grade, as they adjust to being immersed in their second language for longer periods of time.

Your positive attitude will make a huge difference to your children. Immersion students observe their parents’ responses to the program and eventually adjust their attitudes accordingly. Students who receive regular encouragement and assurance from their parents that learning a second language in an immersion setting is the right choice for their family, ALWAYS settle into the program.

The same children who resist an immersion experience at the beginning are often the ones who are vocally grateful for their ability to speak a second language in the higher grade levels.

What do I need to understand about my children’s dual language immersion experience?

Just as toddlers learning their native language, immersion students pass through “stages,” as they acquire their second language. As children connect learning in an academic environment with the immersion language, they are able to comprehend and gradually produce more of their ideas and thoughts in not only the target language, but also their primary language.

Children learning another language in an immersion program intuitively understand that language is the means through which they communicate with real people in real-life situations. Immersion students typically will not “perform” on cue when asked by family members to “say something” in Spanish.

Many families of immersion students share concerns about their children never using their second language in the home or when prompted, only to be amazed when hearing their children revert to the target language upon encountering a native Spanish-speaker in the community.

REMEMBER: your children “switch” languages almost automatically, depending on their environment (classroom or real-life context) and with whom they are speaking.

In the initial stages of language acquisition, immersion students may not be able to share what they learned in school. In preschool through a large portion of second grade, most immersion students are unable to directly translate or interpret concepts learned in school for their parents in the non-immersion language. Because immersion students are learning content and their second language simultaneously in an interactive academic and social setting, they do not learn direct translations as in some more traditional world language instructional settings. As students cognitively develop, however, they are more and more able to address new concepts in either language.

Will immersion teachers assign my children homework in Spanish?

Whenever possible, we send homework in English so that parents can participate in helping their children when they do not speak Spanish.

Throughout the initial literacy process (K-2nd grades), immersion teachers send books home with their students so that they can hone reading skills by practicing outside the classroom. A parent or caregiver can sit next to children learning to read in any language and encourage them.

Asking your children to act as the “teachers” or “experts” in the Spanish language gives them confidence. They appreciate having knowledge about something you might not.

As dual language immersion students progress through the grade levels, teachers may assign some homework in Spanish. However, the concepts the homework entails are clearly laid out in English via newsletters or email explanations. In this way, parents understand assignments their children must complete and the subject content areas being covered.

Once dual language immersion students attain middle and high school grade levels, they receive most subject content instruction in English. In this way, as students’ workload and level of difficulty increases, parents are able to help.

Who does Holland Christian partner with to provide the immersion experience?

Holland Christian partners with our friends at add.a.linga for our elementary Spanish Immersion program. We are grateful for their expertise and research into best practices in the area of immersion education. Thank you to add.a.linga for also providing the answers to the FAQ’s on this page!

What does research say about Spanish Immersion?

Interested in Spanish Immersion for your kids, but need a little outside research to persuade you it truly is a good idea? That your kids could possibly “fare better in the job market,” could be “more likely to demonstrate empathy and problem solving skills”? There are a raft of well-researched articles out there, but here’s a decent online list to start with:

Have Questions?

We look forward to meeting you and your family and introducing you to the fresh, creative, personalized education at Holland Christian! We are here to help! Get in touch using the contact form linked below or call us at 616.820.2805.

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