How is that Dual Language program working out?
Walking into the Dual Language kindergarten classes at Durfee School, you notice that the teachers are speaking as much with their hands as they are with their voices. According to kindergarten Dual Language teachers, Angelica Gates and Yolanda Espinoza, half of the students in their classes do not speak Spanish. Consequently, both teachers supplement their Spanish words with actions.
This morning the lesson in Gates’ classroom was about the concept of pequeno, mediano, and grande. (small, medium and large). Crossed-legged students paired up with their rodillas (knees) touching and in Spanish they told each other which size they preferred. Meanwhile Gates went to each pair of students and shared a visual – tres osos, tres tamaños(three bears, three sizes). She encouraged each student to speak and point to the size they preferred. Gates never used a word of English.
Espinoza’s class was engaged in a total physical response lesson as she was teaching body parts - cabeza, pies, espalda – (head, feet, shoulders). Everyone was standing and mimicking their teacher as they sang a song in Spanish.
There is quite a bit of singing, much like you would hear in a traditional English speaking kindergarten class, but all songs are sung in Spanish. It was interesting to hear the familiar tune The Itsy Bitsy Spider, along with hand motions, sung in Spanish. Most of the kids didn’t quite know the words, but the hand motions were there. According to their teachers the language production is not there yet, but the language reception is there.
“Kids learn really fast. They encounter some frustration but that is quickly overcome. The students don’t have the fear or anxiety of learning a language like some adults do,” explained Espinoza.
Gates commented that, “This program brings out different talents in the kids. Some of the more timid Spanish speakers are now looked at by the other kids as leaders. While some of the other kids who are not used to struggling are learning perseverance.”
After the first day of class, one student went home and told her parents, “I like my teacher. She talks like grandma!”
“Talking like grandma” is why some parents chose to enroll their students in the Dual Language program. Parents feel they missed the opportunity to learn Spanish themselves and don’t want that same loss for their children. Parents are excited as well as curious about the program. This was evident during the recent Back to School Night where both teachers noticed whole families attending to get a first-hand look of the program. Parents, grandparents, siblings, baby sitters – everyone realizing that this was going to take a group effort. Families are also using YouTube to access Spanish language lessons for themselves so they can be better equipped to help their children.
Virginia Castro, EMCSD Director of Instruction and Assessment, said, “As a district, we want to make sure that we nurture both English and Spanish learners by giving full access to both languages. This also provides a meaningful way to celebrate multiple cultures.”
Research has shown that bilingualism has a wide range of benefits in children, helping their communication skills and giving them an edge over monolingual peers in their ability to focus and process information. Children are likely to have a better mastery of a language the younger they start learning it.
As the students grow up, the amount of English in their classes will increase every year. By fifth grade, they’ll learn in Spanish half the day and in English the other half. The district plans to open more Dual Language classes in the future.