Find out what a bilingual program for kindergarten children looks like


Enter the double talk kindergarten to Aguilar Primary School, you will notice that it is slightly different from ordinary learning spaces – instead of one classroom, two classrooms are connected by a door in the middle.

While this may seem counterintuitive and at times disruptive in a traditional kindergarten setting, it does favor the new curriculum. Tempe Primary School District.

Students in the bilingual program spend half their day learning in English and the other half learning in Spanish. A group of students spend their mornings taking Spanish lessons with a teacher Kenia Federico, while another group of students take English lessons with a teacher Jordan mccoy. Throughout the day, students change teachers and receive instruction in the two different languages.

Video courtesy of Tempe School District: A Day in the Life of TD3 Bilingual Students

To recruit Federico and McCoy, the Human Resources department sought teachers qualified to communicate and teach students in English and Spanish and comfortable working in the bilingual program format.

“Think about having two groups of kindergarten students, one in English and one in Spanish, and they get their instruction in Spanish in math and reading, and then they flip-flop, then they get instruction in English in math and in English “, said Dr James Driscoll, superintendent of Tempe Primary School District.

During the last years, bilingual programs have increased in state schools with instruction offered in English and Spanish, Diné, Mandarin, French, German and other languages.

A bill presented by Representative John Fillmore during last year’s legislative session would have removed barriers that prevent English learners from participating in bilingual programs.

Simultaneous House Resolution 2005 would have enabled district and charter public schools to establish bilingual immersion programs for native and non-native English speakers. It was approved by the Arizona House of Representatives, but it was held in the Arizona Senate. Bill would have repealed sections of law created when Arizona voters approved Prop. 203, also known as Teaching English to Children in Public Schools Act in 2000, and ask the Arizona Secretary of State to submit this proposal to voters in the next general election. Proposition 203 was put to the polls in several states in 2000 by a Silicon Valley businessman, and Arizona is the only state not to have repealed it since then.

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Families interested in Aguilar Elementary’s bilingual program for their students have completed and returned a file before registration begins on January 14, 2021, in order to be considered for the pilot program that began this school year.

Priority for the program was given to students in the Aguilar Elementary Attendance Zone, who had prior experience in the bilingual program, children of district employees, and any other child depending on eligibility with age and primary language.

When selecting students for the bilingual program, the school was targeting a class of around 50% native English speakers and 50% native Spanish speakers, according to their parent manual.

The bilingual program is at full capacity this year with 50 students in the class, said Dr. Driscoll.

The bilingual program currently uses the Maravillas language program Mcgraw-hill in collaboration with Houghton Mifflin Harcourt‘s Big day for pre-kindergarten and Travel study programme.

Teacher Jordan McCoy helps students in the bilingual kindergarten class at Aguilar Elementary School. Photo courtesy of Tempe School District

“After a year, they will be able to count in English and Spanish and know their Spanish letters. Spanish also has additional sounds and letters that they need to learn, so they will learn them. They’re also going to be able to do tricks, they’re going to be able to count – they’re going to be able to do all that in English and Spanish. Mccoy noted.

The bilingual program has been successful, teachers said. They said their students quickly took ownership of the subjects taught in both classes and seamlessly alternated between the two classes.

“I think teaching them this way is actually easier for me. Because they are learning two different languages ​​and they have to change and they get up, they move, they are more focused ”, Mccoy noted.

Federico said that while her students are learning Spanish, she still allows them to speak English in class. Indeed, while some of its students come from Spanish-speaking homes and understand Spanish, others are only at their first exposure to the language.

“They can understand a lot of things that I say – they can follow instructions; they can go get something for me. They can do a lot of things except speak it. They have the vocabulary, but they don’t speak it in full sentences or anything yet. Federico noted.

In addition to teaching students English and Spanish, teachers provide hands-on instruction, which is especially important as some students may have experienced kindergarten completely virtually or have increased screen time if they did not go to kindergarten.

Find out what a bilingual program looks like for kindergarten children Students-switch-classrooms-Cropped-600
The students of teacher Kenia Federico change classes as part of the bilingual program at Aguilar Primary School. Photo Courtesy of Tempe School District

“A number of families have asked how much screen time there would be versus how much pencil paper,” said Matthieu strauss, principal of Aguilar primary school. “In the past, they wanted more screen time. But there were a few families who were adamant that they wanted more pencil paper. “

“They felt like last year the older siblings had spent too much screen time. And they wanted more hands-on active stuff on pencil paper and less screen time. So I think it’s a pretty good balance between the two ”, Principal Strauss noted.

The program’s mission is to “provide an environment that promotes literacy, bilingualism and biculturalism for students.” The underlying goal is to prepare students for the future with the ability to listen, speak, read and write in two languages ​​and foster an appreciation of diverse cultures, ”according to the parents manual .

“I know what increasing the primary language does for students, and it will only have a positive impact on these children,” said Charlotte winsor, vice-president of the Tempe School District Governing Board at a meeting in September.

This mission has become increasingly important, particularly in Arizona where about 20% of the state’s more than two and a half million households speak Spanish, according to recent data from the US Census Bureau.

“The interest we have seen from families and families who are not necessarily or otherwise would not have been Aguilar families, you can see that they appreciate the importance of being bilingual”, Principal Strauss noted.

Find out what a bilingual kindergarten program looks like at McCoy-and-students-3-cropped-600
Teacher Jordan McCoy leads an activity with kindergarten students as part of the bilingual program at Aguilar Elementary School. Photo Courtesy of Tempe School District

Arizona’s percentage of Hispanic households is much higher than the national average of 12.6%. About 20.6% of people in the United States speak a language other than English.

“I think this program will help these students to be successful in life as they grow older, as I believe our world is moving more towards a multilingual rather than monolingual society, so students in their global workforce will need to know more than one language. It gives them a chance to fight, ”said Dr. Driscoll.

“For students from Spanish speaking families, it actually helps them come to school and feel close and comfortable because they are able to speak in a language that is familiar to them in their family life.” said Dr. Driscoll. .

The bilingual program is halfway through its first year at Aguilar, and it has enjoyed strong support from the community and the families of the students, Driscoll said. Information on applications and registration to the bilingual program for the next school year have already been posted on the school website.

The goal would be for students who were part of the pilot program to continue in this bilingual setting until grade eight, Driscoll said.

Principal Strauss said that from now on, the plan is for students in the program to continue until at least the fifth year. After that, it would take conversations about the logistics of where the bilingual program would be hosted, as Aguilar only goes up to the fifth grade.

“They are so proud of themselves,” McCoy said. “It’s great to see. There isn’t a day when they don’t come from one class to another without being excited. So, it’s really good to see.

Find out what a bilingual preschool program looks like: Teacher-Kenia-Federico-and-dual-language-kindergartners-Cropped
Teacher Kenia Federico works with kindergarten students in a bilingual program at Aguilar Primary School in the Tempe School District. Photo Courtesy of Tempe School District


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