April 23, 2013
Cale Elementary School in Albemarle County is teaching Spanish to kindergarteners. Cale is the only school in the county teaching Spanish where they get 90 minutes of instruction each week.
Throughout class time, students are repeating words and talking to Marisol Martinez, the Spanish Teacher at Cale Elementary School, in Spanish. Martinez speaks only in Spanish to the students. They are submerged into the Spanish language for 90 minutes a week.
The program is new to Cale this year. They used to watch videos for their Spanish enrichment.
Lisa Jones, Principal at Cale Elementary School, said, "In the past, we have always had some sort of Spanish program but it's been done with a video. So, what we decided is that we could do this a little different. We moved from what was about a 15-30 minute video that was actually being taught in English to teach Spanish to doing 90-minutes a week with students being taught in Spanish."
Martinez said, "At the beginning they looked at me with their blank eyes and they didn't understand what I was saying. Now, they are used to my way of speaking and my speed. So, now they understand more and they're engaged and having fun with the class."
The kindergarten teachers all work together as a team to decide what subjects will be covered. The students learn each subject twice, once in English and once in Spanish.
Martinez said, "That way they know what we're talking about but at the same time they acquire new vocabulary in Spanish. It helps them get the vocabulary and at the same time practice the skills again. The teachers, we get together once a week to decide what we are going to teach together. We talk about the strategies we'll use and we talk about different activities."
Students are not only learning a new language but, they learn about a new culture. The skills then carry over into all aspects of their lives.
Jones said, "Our goal is to continue to grow on it and to make it a little bit more next year and to add it into first grade. I know that our school board is really interested in world languages. I know the success of Cale's program will, I think, be influential in helping other schools get it as well."
The Albemarle County School Board has said they will consider adding world language instruction in all of the elementary schools in the future.