Town Square

What Should Elem. School Foreign Language Instruction Look Like?

Original post made by Paul Losch, Community Center, on Mar 25, 2007

A very useful posting that engendered a great deal of discussion has led to this topic being posted--sort of like cells dividing, I suppose.

Foreign Language Instruction at the Elementary School Level in PAUSD

We have had Spanish Immersion for a dozen years. Mandarin Immersion has been a lively topic of late. We have a strategic planning and priority setting process that will get under way later this year. A new Superintendent will be selected. A FLES task force will begin work in the fall to study how foreign language instruction could be implemented at our elementary schools.

So, what does that mean? What would it look like? What are must have's, what are nice to have's? What might be some unintended consequences? What about the financial implications?

In the interest of full disclosure, I was heavily involved in getting Spanish Immersion introduced to the District some years ago, I have been in support of Mandarin Immersion (although I am not a member of PACE.) I consider myself to be primarily an advocate of having foreign language instruction at the elementary school level, and believe that it should become part of District policy.

But, I am just a parent like everyone else, and do not control this bulletin board. I may offer my thoughts from time to time, if I think I can provide some helpful perspective, but I am now about to push the button to send this, and I hope it engenders a worthwhile discussion on a topic that has the attention of many in this community.


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Posted by PV Parent
a resident of Palo Verde School
on Mar 25, 2007 at 6:17 pm

I have already given my thoughts on this topic to Many Lowell when she requested them, so this may be duplicated to the task force, but here goes anyway.

FLES should be incorporated into the school day and although it may need to be worked out slightly differently at each campus, the principles should be the same. I feel that the classes should be incorporated into the school day with increasing the school day be approximately 20 minutes a day, which may mean a slightly longer day on Wednesdays. The classes should be taught at least 3 times a week by travelling teachers, the way pe and art are taught. This way the regular teachers would not be teaching more hours per week.

There should be a way to choose between two or perhaps three different languages. It should be possible to get a classroom of each language run simultaneously and there should be a way of enabling say two (or possibly three) grades taught in the same classroom at differing skill levels. E.G. language A could be taught in classroom 1 for complete beginners of 2nd and 3rd graders, and taught in classroom 2 for those who have knowledge from home or a previous year.

The choice of languages is the very difficult one. Initially, a survey may be a good idea, but once the teachers have been hired and the system gets going it will be difficult to change. However, it may be possible to get a choice of say 6 languages throughout the district, but only 3 choices at any 1 school. This may mean that at the initial enrolling requests may be made (although of course no guarantees made) of opting for a particular school or cluster, to get a first choice of language.

Lastly, no FLES program can be considered without taking into account the language departments at the middle schools. Obviously the 6th grade wheel would have to change and probably the elective manner of languages in 7th and 8th grades. This in turn would of course affect high school languages, and the exit requirements for graduation.

Good luck.

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Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 25, 2007 at 8:11 pm

I've said this elsewhere, but I'll say it here because it's where it belongs.

I think much of what PV Parent says is good. In addition, I'd like to see Summer immersion courses that tie into the curriculum. Summer may also be a time to introduce languages that might not otherwise be in the curriculum (i.e. Spanish is an obvious main choice, but Arabic might be a summer option.)

I think there's got to be some way of moving kids around so they're learning at their level of proficiency. We have a huge percentage of ESL parents and their kids will be at a different level than English-only kids.

Lastly, I wonder if there should be an opt-out situation for kids who are learning a second language elsewhere.