Article written by Andrew Staub in Delawareonline.com, August 8, 2012:
As Delaware embarks upon an ambitious plan to enroll nearly 8,000 students in language-immersion programs by 2020, the teachers tasked with guiding them in their bilingual studies started by considering a simple question Tuesday.
If a Martian landed on Earth, how would they describe a circus to him?
Part of a four-day professional institute for about a dozen visiting teachers from Spain and China, the exercise aimed to prompt a discussion of how language proficiency grows over time, said Lynn Fulton-Archer, an education specialist for the World Language Immersion program.
While some teachers could use only one word to describe a circus, others could build upon that with an adjective or a full sentence. It’s illustrative of the progression state education officials would love to see from the more than 340 kindergartener who will dive into foreign languages this year, spending half their school day being taught in Mandarin Chinese or Spanish.
The four immersion programs, spread among three schools across the state, have already proved a popular draw, with interested students quickly outnumbering the available slots at some schools.
The classes will focus on building language proficiency rather than grammar. Students will learn academic content through Spanish or Chinese as well as English, and classes will have a teacher for each language, according to the Department of Education.
As students reach first grade, the hope is they could put together limited sentences in their second language, Fulton-Archer said.
“Their listening level may be a little higher,” she said.
But before the students can start, the visiting teachers had their day in the classroom. The institute, held at the William C. Lewis Dual Language Elementary School was intended provide the visiting teachers with an overview of the World Language Immersion program and introduce them to the Delaware education curriculum, Fulton-Archer said.
With Gov. Jack Markell putting in a $1.9 million annual investment, the DOE wants language immersion to reach 10 programs next year and 20 programs by 2015. Five years after that, the goal is to have 8,000 K-8 students in immersion programs.