Initiating an immersion program in your school will require much research, multiple meetings, and many conversations with central office personnel, other school administrators, counselors, department coordinators, and the immersion teacher(s).
CENTRAL OFFICE PERSONNEL: School administrators and immersion teachers will need central office support to implement an immersion program. Will there be a central office curriculum person assigned to coordinate curriculum development, funding, and training? Will the funding be sufficient to support the school program? Who will develop the curriculum and who will provide training? Will the central office coordinator be knowledgeable enough to work with immersion teachers to develop program articulation and establish clearly defined goals for the K-5/K-6 immersion program?
TEACHER SELECTION: The teacher selected for the school immersion program will be the most critical component of the program. An immersion program is doomed from the beginning if a school administrator selects a teacher who is unwilling to initiate this program and teach the students. The school administrator must select a teacher who is willing to teach students in an immersion program, must have the Spanish language skills to teach academics and reading in Spanish, and must be willing to go above and beyond because the first year it will require many hours of preparation.
TEACHER CERTIFICATION: Each state has different certification requirements. Some states may only require early childhood or elementary certification. Other states may require Spanish certification in addition to elementary certification. Still other states permit teachers with bilingual certification to teach immersion programs. It is important that the teacher meet the certification requirements as it may affect the children’s Spanish credits in the future. Credits? Yes, students in immersion programs can receive credits. This will be discussed in future blogs.
INSTRUCTIONAL MATERIALS: There are several book publishers that offer instructional materials for teaching Spanish. The immersion teacher will have to review them to determine if the instructional materials meet the specifications for teaching Spanish as a second language in addition to teaching academics in Spanish. There are no formal specifications per se, but the materials should address the national standards for foreign language teaching. In addition, the materials should substantially reinforce communication skills and not be totally grammar oriented. The immersion teacher will probably develop many of his/her classroom materials during the first year of implementation.
STAFF DEVELOPMENT: It is important that the immersion teacher be permitted to attend conferences related to immersion programs, second language acquisition, language standards, and other related staff development that will help the teacher increase his/her skills in teaching immersion classes. It is important that the district immersion teachers meet at least on a bi-monthly basis to share information and develop lessons/materials.
María J. Fierro-Treviño
Instructional Specialist, Northside Independent School District, San Antonio, TX. (Retired)
Director for Languages other than English, Texas Education Agency (Retired)