A survey about dual immersion is available on the Morgan Elementary and Mountain Green Elementary websites. Paper copies are also available in both school offices. The brief survey, only 10 questions, will determine if and how a dual immersion program will be available for students in the Morgan School District. Results of the survey will be used to help determine which elementary school the program would be hosted by as well as the preferred language to be taught if a dual immersion program is implemented. The survey is available to parents of children who will be entering elementary in the Morgan County School District. It will be available online until Feb. 5, 2013.
Dual immersion programs have been around for over 40 years and have been established as a way to teach a second language with a high proficiency. The day is typically broken into two separate parts, half of the day with the teacher and students speaking in English and the rest of the day only speaking in the foreign language.
According to the Utah State Office of Education, there are several proven benefits to children enrolled in dual immersion programs. The first benefit is obviously second language acquisition. By learning in a second language, the students become proficient in that second language. Another expected outcome that has been substantiated is students in these programs show an increased cultural sensitivity.
In addition to these outcomes, dual immersion programs have proven to be beneficial in other areas. While some would fear that students would not learn what they need to in elementary if they are not being instructed in their primary language, it has been proven that students in these programs test the same or higher than their peers in English and math standardized testing. These results are coming from schools here in Utah.
“Immersion students typically develop greater cognitive flexibility, demonstrating increased attention control, better memory, and superior problem solving skills as well as an enhanced understanding of their primary language” according to the state website. It has been found that when young children are instructed in this atmosphere, they are able to learn in different ways.
Jen Webster taught in a Spanish dual immersion program before she had her first child. She found that when the program began, some of the parents were concerned about their children understanding the curriculum if it was being taught in a second language. As the program continued, the school found many parents were trying to do everything they could in order to get their students in the program. Webster found the students in the program had the same experience as other programs where they tested as high or higher than students in English-only classes. She found other skills that these students were acquiring that she didn’t feel the other students in the school were obtaining to the same degree. “They learn to really pay attention to the teacher,” she explained. She found their ability to pay attention to facial expression and body language increased, as well as their ability to understand and relate to others.
Webster now has a child who will enter into Morgan School District in 2013 and two more to follow close behind. “I wouldn’t even hesitate,” she said of enrolling her daughter if the opportunity arose. In fact it was a hard decision to buy a home in Morgan because it lacked this opportunity. She is thrilled at the prospect of any language being taught to her children.
The students will also be able to better compete for jobs where second language is desired.
Students cannot fluently learn a language in a year, so there would be a commitment to continue through the entire elementary career. “If the parents aren’t committed to the program and support their child, they won’t be as successful,” Webster warned. She added that this is true of any type of educational experience or activity that students are involved in, but with support children can flourish. She has talked with several students that she instructed years ago and finds that many of them are now taking college level classes while they are in junior high.
Utah is gaining recognition in leading the nation in dual immersion programs. It has been reported that Utah Governor Gary Herbert’s goal is to have 100 dual immersion programs with 30,000 students by 2015.
“Utah’s dual immersion programs help to prepare our students for the jobs of tomorrow. Dual immersion gives students a tremendous and early advantage in learning to navigate the national, cultural, and linguistic complexities inherent in our increasingly global marketplace,” Herbert said.
The survey can be found at http://www.morgan.k12.ut.us/elementary/index.html and http://www.morgan.k12.ut.us/MGES/MGESIndex.html