What is language immersion education?
The focus of language immersion programs is to help students become proficient in a target language while mastering subject content from other disciplines. In immersion programs language is not taught as a subject; it is the medium in which core instruction is delivered. Research shows the most effective way for students to acquire a second language is to integrate instruction into the standard curriculum students are already learning. Research shows that immersion education students outperform students in traditional language classes, do as well as or better than non-immersion students on standardized tests, and have a greater appreciation of cultural diversity.
How does it work?
The International School at Gregory will be a dual immersion program. The program will serve both native speakers of English and Spanish. The content for the students, K-8, will be conducted in Spanish one day and English the next day, alternating between two teachers. The students become bilingual, bi-literate, and bicultural and are equally proficient in both languages with near-native fluency in the target language. The content taught will be progressive, meaning that there will be common themes, goals, assignments, and testing throughout the week (for example: a lesson in Spanish on primates might be followed by a test in English on the same subject). All students receive the Common Core and Essential Standards Curriculum, as decided by the State of North Carolina.
The Spanish Immersion Program began at Forest Hills Global Elementary School in 2010. In 2012, the school contracted with a Chapel Hill-based company Participate Learning to help develop curriculum as well as to recruit highly qualified international faculty. Beginning with the 2016-17 school year, the program moved to Gregory Elementary due to the continued growth and interest in the program. The name of the school is now the International School at Gregory.
Who are the teachers for the immersion program?
Through our contract with Participate Learning, we recruit Spanish-speaking teachers from countries around the world (former teachers have come from Colombia, Spain, and Honduras). Our international teachers are qualified and certified.
Is an immersion program only appropriate for really high performing students?
No. Research shows that immersion education can be effective for a wide variety of learners, including academically/intellectually gifted students, non-native English speakers, students with special education needs and socio-economic challenges.
Isn’t kindergarten too young? Transitioning my five-year old to school is hard enough. Why would I make it harder?
Starting school can be difficult, especially for students who have not had pre-school experiences already. Learning to go to school, to understand school procedures and routines, is a transition, but it can happen in any language. The high use of props, puppets, and gestures at this early age benefits language learning. When you watch your five year old responding to his/her kindergarten teacher’s instructions and conversing with his/her classmates in another language you will understand the possibilities.
What if my child doesn’t respond well or doesn’t like it?
Like any kindergarten student, your student will be tired at the end of the school day. It’s tough work to play hard and stick to all those school rules. It’s even more exhausting when you are processing a new language. So don’t be surprised if your student is tired and cranky after school. If you are worried your student is not enjoying school or thriving in the immersion environment, talk to your teacher and principal. Most kids respond well to joining an immersion program --- they are made to feel secure right from the start and, after a few days, they do not focus on the fact that the teacher is not speaking English. Parents should give it at least nine weeks, if not a full semester, to see if the student responds better after just getting through the transition of being in school.
Will my child be able to speak English in class until she learns enough vocabulary to communicate?
In kindergarten you will often hear students speaking or responding to teachers in English. However, their teachers will be speaking only in the target language to them, using a lot of gestures and props to convey the messages. Good immersion teachers will encourage new language learners to respond in the target language by giving them the needed vocabulary to mimic. Good immersion teachers will not revert to English, unless safety or emergency necessitates. Good immersion teachers, by the middle of first grade, will insist on NO ENGLISH in the immersion classroom. Students will quickly realize an easy way out if they are able to speak any English (except in emergencies) with their teacher. Don’t be surprised if your students thinks her teacher does not know any English!
Will my child take the EOGs in the foreign language?
No. All state mandated assessments, like the EOGs, will be taken in English. Literacy skills & patterns learned in one language will help the development of skills in another language.
I don’t speak another language; how will I be able to help my child at home?
The most important thing you can do at home is read to your student in English. Read and ask questions. Reading in any language supports the acquisition of reading skills such as fluency, vocabulary building, comprehension, etc. Your student’s homework should support what he has learned in class. Students should be able to tackle the assignment on their own. Parents will be able to identify what skill is being addressed and support their student's learning in the skill, even if you can only help in English. Homework should not be a struggle! If it is, please talk with your student’s teacher. The good news: You don’t have to know the language to support your student at home.
For More Questions or to Tour the Gregory Campus:
Contact The International School at Gregory's main office: 910-251-6185.