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Parents learn about dual immersion language program

posted Jun 12, 2018, 11:33 AM by Cheryl Shuffler
Photo: Jack and David Stockham attended the information session with their parents.

Morganton, NC – Thursday, June 7, 2018


Five-year-old David Stockham speaks one language at home, is learning American Sign Language at preschool and has the opportunity, along with 49 other rising kindergarten students, to learn another language at Mountain View Elementary School. David, his mom, dad and younger brother were at the Olive Hill Resource Center on Wednesday, June 6 to learn more about the dual language immersion program Burke County Public Schools will start in August.   


David’s mom, Jessica Stockham, said, “We have worked a lot with him on kindergarten readiness, and we don’t believe in restricting him. We would rather him be challenged when he starts kindergarten and continue to grow at the pace he is.”


The Stockhams have ties to McDowell County, which has a year-round dual language immersion program that David would be eligible for, but now that Jessica teaches in Burke County, they are interested in enrolling David in the Global Immersion Academy at Mountain View Elementary School. Kindergarten students at the Global Immersion Academy will learn 50 percent of the time in English and 50 percent of the time in Spanish.


Burke County Public Schools Director of Elementary Education Karen Auton and Coordinator of English Language Learners Lannie Simpson shared the vision for the Global Immersion Academy with parents during the information session.  


Simpson said 19 percent of Burke County Public Schools students speak a language other than English at home, which is two percentage points higher than the state average. In Burke County schools, there are 26 other native languages spoken in students’ homes besides English. In Burke County, 80.5 percent of students speak English at home, 13.2 percent of speak Spanish at home and 4.7 percent speak Hmong at home. Other common languages include Aguacateco, Mayan and Lao.


Simpson said for multilingual students, the process of learning a native language at home is natural, unlike the process for adults who took a foreign language in high school or college where the focus was on grammar rules and verb conjugations. She quoted Wayne Thomas and Virginia Collier, experts on dual language schooling, who say, “The key to natural language acquisition is to use the languages for meaningful and interesting tasks.” The Global Immersion Academy intends to do just that by having students learn language through content and content through language.


Students in the dual language program will learn the standard course of study continuously in both languages. For example, a teacher may start a math lesson in the morning in English and finish it in Spanish in the afternoon. The teacher will not repeat the same instruction in both languages. The goals are biliteracy, bilingualism, grade level academic achievement and cross cultural competence.


Simpson said in choosing textbooks, the Global Immersion Academy will look for books written in the native language and not books that have been translated from English to Spanish or vise-versa. Simpson gave nursery rhymes as an example. Nursery rhymes written in authentic text help students learn language, culture and history, but they do not translate well into other languages.


The dual language immersion classes also will use student modeling as a learning technique. Native English speakers will model and help the non-native English speakers in the class when the students are learning in English. On the flip, when the students are learning in Spanish, the native Spanish speakers will model for the non-native Spanish speakers. Simpson said it is empowering for students to be able to teach their peers this way.


Burke County Public Schools is working in partnership with Participate on the dual language immersion program. The information night allowed the Stockhams and other parents to talk with a Participate representative, ask questions about the program, visit different stations to see sample textbooks and curriculum and to meet Mountain View Elementary School Principal Charles Williams and Assistant Principal Leanna McKinney.


Burke County Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Larry Putnam said, “We are excited to offer this opportunity to students entering elementary school and to be able to give parents a choice. After our board visited the dual language program in McDowell County and researched the options, they saw that in opening a new elementary school it would be the perfect timing for our own Global Immersion Academy. We also are excited about our partnership with Participate and look forward to working with them on this endeavor. It is one more way we are helping students find their niche and get them excited about learning.”


If you have a rising kindergarten student and are interested in the dual language immersion program at Mountain View Elementary School, applications are due by Monday, June 25. Students will be selected through a lottery process. If you live outside of the Mountain View district and get accepted, the school system will waive the transfer fee for your kindergarten student and siblings. The kindergarten students will stay in the program through the fifth grade and each year a new cohort will be added in kindergarten. Visit www.burke.k12.nc.us for an application.

Photo: A family meets Mountain View Elementary School Principal Charles Williams and Assistant Principal Leanna McKinney.

Photo: Lannie Simpson, director of ELL, speaks with a parent at the information session.