Questions about Dual Immersion
Q: What is Dual Immersion and how does it work?
A: A Dual Immersion program brings together native speakers of a
minority "target" language, in this case Spanish, with native speakers
of the majority language, in this case English, in the same classroom.
Both groups of students develop fluency and literacy in both languages.
The early grades are taught mostly in Spanish. The
amount of English-language instruction increases as the children
progress through the grades. English-language instruction typically
reaches 50 percent by fourth or fifth grade.
Parents do not need to be bilingual for their children to succeed in a dual-immersion
and enrollment in such a program would be voluntary. At Leopold
Elementary School, it is suspected that interest in the program would
be high. Details of the enrollment process have not been established
since we are in the preliminary stages of planning.
Q: When would dual immersion begin at Leopold Elementary School?
A: District staff is beginning to have conversations with
Leopold staff regarding dual immersion programming in kindergarten this
coming fall -- for the 2009-2010 school year.
The number of kindergarten classrooms has not been determined at this time,
however, based on current enrollment numbers, it could be three. Each
succeeding year a grade level would be added, with first grade coming
on board in 2010-2011, and so on, until fifth grade is added in the
2015-2016 school year. Again based on current enrollment figures, it is
anticipated that if the program is implemented, 18 out of Leopold's 44
classrooms would be dual immersion settings by 2015-16.
Q: What about students not in the dual immersion classrooms? What would their
program look like? Would they have opportunities to develop skills in a second
A: Students not enrolled in dual immersion classrooms would be
placed in classrooms following past and current practices. Students who
are English language learners in non-dual immersion classrooms would
still have additional literacy support provided by ESL teachers who are
already part of Leopold's staff.
The current plan is to develop further the school's existing World
Languages program (in partnership with the University of
Wisconsin-Madison) to provide second language learning opportunities
for all students in non-dual immersion classrooms. Students in these
classrooms would be given opportunities in kindergarten through fifth
grade to develop conversational
fluency in Spanish through weekly lessons and other curricular
supports. Students in the World Languages strand may also gain exposure
to other languages such as French and German.
Q: Has Dual Immersion been proven to be an effective education paradigm?
A: Yes. In large-scale studies over many years,
university researchers have documented a very high rate of success in
achieving academic proficiency for both Spanish and English-speaking
children in this type of program.
Q: What happens in the classroom?
A: Language is the vehicle for instruction in immersion
classrooms. A visitor would not find a class memorizing prepared
"dialogues." Rather, one would see children
using the language --speaking, reading, writing, adding, subtracting,
experimenting, singing, arguing, whispering, etc. -- all in Spanish,
under the guidance of a teacher, who has been specially trained to
teach the language while using it. The teachers follow the same
curricula as the district's English-only classes.
Q: How do Spanish speakers specifically benefit from this program?
A: Spanish-speakers get the chance to advance
academically and socially while becoming bilingual. They can maintain
their first language, Spanish, while learning a second language,
English, at a time when their brains are most receptive to language
learning. Spanish-speakers also gain socially by making friendships
across cultural, ethnic and linguistic boundaries and are found to hold
positive attitudes about people from other cultures.
Q: How do English speakers specifically benefit from this program?
A: English speakers get the chance to acquire a new
language in the years when their brains are most receptive to language
learning. Most become highly proficient in the target
language, a standard that most adult Americans, who typically began to
study a foreign language in middle or high school, can never hope to
attain. English speakers also gain socially by making friendships
across cultural, ethnic, and linguistic boundaries. Researchers who
study this phenomenon find that English speakers in language-immersion
programs hold positive attitudes about people from other cultures.
Q: How do children who are already bilingual benefit from this program?
A: Dual Immersion programs allow bilingual children to
continue to develop their speaking skills and to learn to read and
write in both languages.
Q: Is this method of early language learning in
A: In short, yes. There are more than 300 elementary
language Dual Immersion programs throughout the United States,
according to the Center for Applied Linguistics in Washington, D.C.
There are Dual Immersion programs in many languages, but the most
common by far is Spanish. The model was developed in the 1970s in
Quebec, Canada, where it is still used extensively to develop
bilingualism in French and English-speaking students.
Q: Are there local models of language immersion programs?
A: Yes. Nuestro Mundo, a charter elementary school
in the Madison Metropolitan School District, is now in its fifth year
of offering dual immersion programming.
The school has been building its program from kindergarten up, with the
school now serving students in grades K-4. Next year fifth grade will be added.
Q: What are the next
steps in the dual immersion planning for Leopold?
A: Leopold School is forming a committee of staff and
parents to work with district staff regarding the viability of the
program and to explore how to shape the program to meet the
needs of the Leopold community. Progress of the planning will be posted on the
district website: www.madison.k12.wi.us.