Three years ago, when LISD opened Reed Elementary, we were excited to adopt a new bilingual program called two-way Dual Language at the campus. The program immerses native-English and native-Spanish speakers into the same class together starting in kindergarten, teaching them in both languages, with the goal of creating bilingual, biliterate and bicultural students by fifth grade. We expanded the program to Whitestone Elementary the following year, and at both campuses it has been well-received by students, teachers and parents alike.
We have recently opened the application process for our new class of dual language kindergarteners, who will join the program next fall. While it is only offered at Reed and Whitestone Elementary Schools, dual language students are not required to be zoned to those schools to participate. Parents will indicate their preferred school on the application form.
Participating students are held to the same, rigorous academic standards as in our traditional classrooms. Two-way dual language students learn math, science and social studies in both English and Spanish. Through first grade, students learn language arts in their native language and in both languages from second through fifth grade.
The program relies on partnering students in the classroom to encourage a learning and language support system. These are not quiet classrooms — visiting a two-way dual language class, you will often find many students engaged in conversation with each other and with their teachers. We have found that encouraging this open dialogue and allowing students a safe space to explore language has emboldened them to speak up more with peers and adults outside of their classroom, as well.
Beyond academic rigor and teaching bilingual and biliteracy skills, the program also helps students build relationships with children from different cultures and backgrounds, creating an increased world view for them. It helps our students understand that there is a world outside of their own walls, and it creates a desire to explore it, to become better world citizens.
It is inspiring to hear teachers and parents describe how eager these young students are to take the language skills they are learning in the classroom and apply them in their communities. They have shared stories with me of 5-year-olds attempting to order in Spanish when out to eat with their families, about children trying to help customers in their new language in grocery stores, and about siblings and parents who are inspired to learn the new language at home as a family. This is the kind of passion for learning and eagerness to apply it that we wish for every student who enters our classrooms.
Parents who are interested in applying to the two-way dual language program at Reed or Whitestone Elementary School will have the opportunity to attend an informational meeting on Tuesday, April 11, at Reed or Tuesday, May 2, at Whitestone from 6-7 p.m. Attendees will hear more about the program from our dual language teachers, as well as testimonials from other parents whose children have participated in the program, who will share their experiences.
The deadline to apply to the program is Friday, May 26. The application form and more information can be found under the Departments tab of our website in the English Language Learners section, or paper forms are available at Reed and Whitestone Elementary schools. Each campus will have room for 22 students in the 2017-18 program. Priority will be granted to those zoned to attend Reed and Whitestone, with remaining seats being filled through a random selection process from all other applicants.
We are excited to watch our community of bilingual, biliterate and bicultural learners grow, as well as the support for these outstanding, innovative programs, as we work together to create bright futures for every LISD student.