Why choose Spanish Immersion for your child?
Pella Christian Grade School is pleased to offer a Spanish Immersion program track in addition to our English program. In 2012-2013 we began with a preschool section and a kindergarten/first grade combined classroom section. In 2019 the Spanish immersion program became fully scaled through eighth grade. The Board of Trustees of Pella Christian believes that in addition to academic and lingual benefits, Spanish immersion is an excellent way to increase the global awareness of our students while promoting the mission of the school, which is to "challenge students to develop their individual, God-given gifts for a life of service in God's kingdom."
Pella Christian’s Spanish Immersion program is a unique educational opportunity that teaches native English-speaking children their academic content in Spanish from preschool through fifth grade and continues in secondary immersion with at least 50% of instruction in Spanish. This allows students to acquire a second language through subject content instruction, educational discourse, and social interaction in the Spanish language (Cloud et al., 2000). By hiring teachers fluent in the language and of or familiar with the Hispanic culture, children in the program will have a deep knowledge of not only Spanish but also of the cultures that speak it.
- Creates a positive influence on children’s brain development.
- Produces students with more flexibility in thinking, greater sensitivity to language, and a better ear for listening.
- Improves their understanding of their own first language.
- Increases their ability to learn additional languages.
- Opens their minds and hearts to other cultures and helps them understand and appreciate people from other countries.
- Increases job opportunities in many careers.
- Listen to your child read to you in Spanish. Rather than translating, ask them to explain what they understood from the text to you.
- Provide a space and the time for your child to read in Spanish according to their grade level requirements and to do their homework (which in general is fairly minimal).
- Read to your child(ren) in English. Choose both fiction and non-fiction texts and aim for at least 20 minutes of reading aloud to your child each day.
- Introduce English-language word games like crossword puzzles, word searches, Scrabble and Taboo.
- Have your child repeat their Bible memory verse to you in Spanish as you follow along on a printed sheet; even if you do not understand all the words, you will be able to notice if they make a mistake and then you can have them look over the printed verse and try again.
- Ask your child about what they learned in school. Even if they learned it in Spanish, they can still explain it to you in English. If you know the topics that they will be tested over, ask them to explain those topics to you in English as a review.
- Smile whenever you hear Spanish spoken and make sincere comments to your child(ren) about how amazing it is to be bilingual. Research shows that students whose parents have positive attitudes towards the target language do better in immersion programs.
- Consider creatively including some Spanish in your family time; for example, listen to music in Spanish, when you watch an age-appropriate movie change the audio to Spanish, visit a hispanic grocery story, or look for a Latino festival to attend.
- Trust that your child can be successful in immersion education and reach out to your child(ren)’s teacher if you need some extra support.
At Pella Christian, we focus on additive bilingualism meaning that students can add a second language at no cost to their first language (generally English) because languages are interdependent. Skills developed in the second language are available for learning and using in the first language and vice versa. First-language literacy skills are introduced in 3rd grade, while the family and community also reinforce first language skills outside of school. Students 3rd-5th grade will receive instruction in one subject in English with a special focus on English grammar and spelling embedded into the content instruction. In middle school, students move to a 50-50 model with half of their content instruction in Spanish and half of their content instruction in English.
Research shows that “the effect of learning a second language on first-language skills has been positive in all studies done.... [and] the loss of instructional time in English has never been shown to have negative effects on the achievement of the first language” (Bournot-Trites & Tellowitz, 2002). In fact, in general immersion students match and often surpass English track students’ performance by 4th or 5th Grade after first-language literacy skills are introduced (Turnbull, Hart & Lapkin, 2000).
We recognize that any time there are two tracks at a school unity can be a challenge. Some of the ways that we work to promote unity among our students are by having them go to specials classes together (p.e. and music) whenever the schedule allows. Students are divided into mixed groups on field trips, during grade level singing time and discipleship groups. Recess is divided into grade levels, not language tracks, so students can interact with friends in all classes of their grade. In middle school, during their English content instruction classes the students from the two tracks are intermingled and also during homeroom, Rec Day group and exploratory classes.
Pella Christian School is an addalingua partner school, an organization that works with schools to inspire global empathy through education in two languages. Visit addalingua.com to learn more.
As a partner school, we offer a Spanish Immersion addalingua program. Pella Christian School is part of a professional learning network that implements addalingua programs; thus, our school receives access to tried and true materials developed by dual language and immersion educators, used in actual classrooms, and modified based on teacher feedback. Our staff spends five years working through addalingua professional learning that results in Pella Christian School becoming the resident dual language and addalingua program experts. Lastly, our school has access to formative assessments and receives access to the most relevant research. The comprehensive system of support that we receive for our addalingua immersion programs helps students reach three goals:
- grade-level proficiency and biliteracy
- cultural competence
- academic achievement
Most importantly, however, addalingua programs help foster in students global empathy, the ability to understand and accept what others, even those most different from ourselves, feel and experience.