Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a language immersion program?

Immersion is defined as a method of foreign language instruction in which the regular school curriculum is taught through the medium of the language. That is, the foreign language is the vehicle for content instruction; it is not the subject of instruction itself. Total immersion is one program format among several which range on a continuum in terms of the time spent in the foreign language. In total immersion all schooling in the initial years is conducted in the foreign language, including reading/language arts.

What are the goals of an immersion program?

The long-range goals of immersion are:
Goal 1: To develop a high level of proficiency in understanding, speaking, reading, and writing the foreign language.
Goal 2: To develop positive attitudes toward those who speak the foreign language and toward their culture(s).
Goal 3: To develop English language skills commensurate with expectations for students’ age and abilities.
Goal 4: To gain skills and knowledge in the content areas of the curriculum in keeping with stated objectives in these areas.

Will the immersion students follow the same curriculum as the students in the regular English program?

The curriculum in immersion programs is the same as the curriculum in English-only programs. Students receive equivalent instruction in the basic subjects: mathematics, reading, language arts, science, social studies, etc.

When is English language arts instruction introduced? How much instruction is given in English?

English language arts instruction is introduced during the second semester of second grade. Second grade students have 30 minutes of English instruction. Third grade offers forty-five to sixty minutes of English language arts beginning with the second six weeks of school. Fourth and fifth grades receive an hour of English instruction.

What about reading in English?

Your child will transfer reading skills to English once they have learned to read in Spanish. Parents should NOT attempt to formally teach their children to read in English. If a child is ready to read in English on his or her own, encourage this at home and deal with it in a relaxed and enjoyable manner. Nevertheless, it is very important that you read daily with your child.

What eventual effect does an immersion program have on the participants’ verbal and mathematical skills in English?

Studies have consistently shown that immersion students do as well as, and may even surpass, comparable non-immersion students on measures of verbal and mathematic skills.

At what grade level does the immersion program begin?

The Alamo Heights Spanish Immersion Program begins in first grade, is available for selected students at both Cambridge and Woodridge elementary schools, and continues through fifth grades. Immersion students will have an opportunity to continue the study of Spanish in grades 6-12.

How are students chosen for the immersion program?

Students are selected for the immersion program through a lottery system.

Are students in immersion programs screened?

As in most immersion programs, at the entry level there is no screening process. While most immersion educators believe that the program is suitable for learners of all ability levels, there is also general consensus that children with serious delay in first language development or auditory processing, auditory memory, or general auditory impairment should not be in an immersion program.
The immersion program has unique aspects which may extend the process of identifying a student’s learning disability. The most appropriate time to show an academic delay is after one to two years of reading instruction. Since children begin Spanish reading in first grade, the optimal time for the school’s child study team to evaluate a child is usually at the beginning of second grade. Therefore, immersion students may not be eligible for some academic support programs until the formal introduction of English reading the second semester of second grade.

What is the class size for immersion?

Class size for the immersion program is larger than that in the regular program. First grade classrooms have twenty-four students. A full-time instruction assistant provides support for the classroom teachers at first grade.

May we try the immersion program for one or two years?

It is important for parents to enter initial enrollment with the understanding that they are enrolling in a grade 1 through grade 5 program.
The success of immersion education is best validated by sustained continuity and intensive experience in Spanish. It is not in the best interest of the child or the program for students to be enrolled for a one or two year “interesting experience.”

Is Immersion the right choice?

One of the first questions often asked by parents is, “Is this the right choice for my child?” When trying to answer that question, it is important to remember the opportunities that you are offering your child by exposing him or her to another language and culture. Through the immersion program your child will be provided with the opportunity to become and develop the ability to communicate freely with persons who speak the immersion language. Being bilingual may enhance your child’s opportunities in the job market and make it easier to learn yet a third language. Taking part in the immersion program can be an exciting and stimulating experience for your child. Parents need to consider their personal commitment to bilinguality.

Does it matter if no one at home speaks Spanish?

The program was designed primarily for children of families who do not speak the second language. Teachers are aware of this when they send home notices or assign homework. Report cards are issued in English.

What about the first days in an immersion program?

For students beginning school, the only difference between the immersion class and the non-immersion class is that the teacher is constantly using Spanish. The children 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 speaking primarily in Spanish.

What will happen to children’s skills in English?

Although there usually are lags in English language arts for the first few years of the program, experience has shown that children tend to make up these lags after formal English instruction is introduced. By the end of the elementary grades, immersion students generally perform as well or better on standardized tests of measured English skills than children in the non-immersion program.

How can parents help?

  • Encourage your child by telling him/her how proud you are that he/she is learning a second language.
  • Do not feel discouraged if, at the beginning, your child cries or seems nervous about this new experience. Some students may experience some stress initially as this can be an overwhelming, albeit exciting program. Parents need to be supportive and understanding of both their child and the teacher during the initial stages. Your child will need some time to adjust to this new challenge. However, if this anxiety continues beyond the first two months, please discuss it with the teacher. By the beginning of October every child should be over the initial adjustment and be looking forward to going to school.
  • When your child gets home, do not be upset if he or she does not feel like telling all about the day at school. Children take the routines of school for granted and often are in need of a change of subject once they get home.
  • Do not expect your child to start speaking the second language after the first few days, and do not try to force him or her to do so. Your child will start to use the second language on his or her own individual pace.
  • Become acquainted with your child’s teacher and program through attending Back-to-School night.
  • Be actively involved in your child’s school.
  • Keep informed about immersion education.
  • Encourage but do not force your child to speak the second language at home.
    Do not attempt to correct your child if you are uncertain of the correct expression or pronunciation. Give your child the benefit of the doubt.
  • Do not ask your child to translate. This requires skills not focused on in the Immersion program.
  • Do not give in to the temptation to compare your child’s progress to that of the neighbor children. No two teachers and no two students work at the same rate.
    Teach your child the songs and nursery rhymes that are part of his or her own heritage. Read stories to your child in English because English stories will not be heard at school in the beginning years of the immersion program.
  • Take advantage of any opportunities to expose your child to the immersion language and culture(s) outside of the school setting.
  • Let your child know that you are pleased with his or her progress.
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