When teachers and administrators were planning a dual language program for Finley School, one of the expenses that concerned them was adding Spanish books to the school library. To begin to build a better collection of Spanish books the school sought and received a grant from the Laura Bush Foundation for America’s libraries for close to $4000 which enabled them to double the Spanish collection in the Finley Library. In the same year the foundation gave $850,000 to school libraries nationwide to update and diversify their collections. The foundation has also provided millions of dollars to help the libraries on the gulf coast which were affected by the hurricanes of 2005.
Finley’s dual language program got started in the fall of 2008 with the incoming kindergarten class. Unlike the bilingual programs which include only immigrant children who need to learn English, this program balances natives Spanish speakers with native English speakers. In this way, children in each group serve as role models for the others. Half the day the children are studying the subjects in English with one teacher and the other half day they are studying everything in Spanish with a different teacher. In the 2009-2010 school year the kindergartners continued to first grade and a new group began the dual language program in kindergarten.
The program is strictly voluntary. All parents of incoming kindergartners are informed about the program and a special meeting is held to answer any questions. The first year the school had to make a special effort to let parents know about the program. By the second year, many parents were calling to be sure to get their children on the list for dual language. The program is open to all students, and children are put in the program on a first come first served basis, but parents are asked to realize that it is a commitment and that it will not be easy to take their children out of the program. Last year about an equal number of parents chose the mainstream all English program as chose the dual language.
Eva Quevedo, the Spanish model in the kindergarten classroom, said that because the program is highly structured the teachers can see the children progressing in both languages. And she says that even at the kinder level, children are beginning to have social interactions with children in the new language that they are learning. Nicole Tumbaga, the kindergarten teacher for the English portion of the day, sees an advantage in the fact that the children who enter with no English have a chance to participate enthusiastically in their own language half the day. “They don’t need to sit all day silently until they acquire enough English to participate. This is very good for their self esteem.” The two kinder teachers agree that they can each observe what the children can do in their own language and by exchanging this information they can better help the children acquire the skills they need in their new language.
Eulalia Hayden, the first grade Spanish model, says she has always wanted to participate in this kind of program because she believes that knowing to languages well is a tremendous advantage.
Since children are not especially selected for this program there is the normal range of learning abilities and stages of development in the dual language classes. On considering adopting this program, teachers and administrators discussed the possibility that by having half their day in Spanish, English learners would fall behind in English. Finley’s program was designed so that all the children receive the complete English Language Arts Program. Maria Irungaray teaches the first graders in English. She had taught for several years before beginning the dual language program this year. She observes that her dual language students are on a par in their English with students from previous years who had been in an English only program.
Principal David Martinez states, “I feel good about giving our children a competitive advantage by helping them become fluent in both languages and also about the chance to promote language equality.”
For further information contact
Susan Massey 760-356-5649 or 760-554-3300
David Martinez 760-356-2929
Mariana Garewal 760-356-5258