Elementary Spanish Pilot Program

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  • As one of our district’s key initiatives, we will be rolling out our world language pilot in kindergarten classrooms district-wide in the 2018-19 school year, and 1st grade in the 2019-20 school year. Over the past year, we engaged in research about early language instruction, held discussions with different stakeholder groups, gathered feedback from teachers, worked out specific details with kindergarten teachers, and started collaborative planning with our two elementary world language teachers.

     

    Here are key findings from research indicating the benefits of early language instruction

    • It improves brain development and cognitive abilities, including problem solving, mental flexibility, creative thinking, and communication skills.
    • It’s part of being a globally competent person and developing into a global citizen.
    • It builds an appreciation for diversity and new perspectives, develops cultural awareness, and helps make connections to others. 
    • Early language instruction produces a more native-like accent in the second language being learned. 

    Here are the points of feedback that helped design the program

    • We interviewed several Spanish teachers from local elementary schools who shared their insight and recommendations about how to build a successful elementary language program.
    • Global Studies Committee members engaged in research about early language instruction, made program recommendations based upon this research, and led discussions about world language at staff meetings
    • An online survey was sent out to elementary teachers in January 2018. Teachers shared their thoughts and opinions, and they offered worthwhile suggestions that were integrated into the program’s implementation plan.
      • Based upon this survey input, we decided to scale back the roll-out of the program next year. Instead of beginning with K-1st grade, we decided to start with a kindergarten pilot. This will allow us to focus on only one grade level for our first year and build a program tailored to the needs of kindergarten.
    • With the focus on kindergarten, a subcommittee comprised of kindergarten teachers from each school met to iron out details and plan ahead for the fall.
    • Multiple meetings with our two newly hired World Language teachers helped to further refine the logistics of the program, start developing the curriculum, and begin collaboration.
language on a blackboard with a teacher in front of students
  • Here’s are key details of the elementary world language program:

    Language 

    Because Spanish is widely spoken in California and with a growing number of speakers worldwide, as well as to support the middle school program, we have selected Spanish for the elementary program.

    Equity across the district 

    Spanish classes will be implemented in a consistent way across all elementary schools.

    District commitment 

    The district is committed to ensuring the program is sustainable over time.

    Goal of the program 

    Our goal is to provide students with exposure to Spanish, with a focus on communication.

    High quality teaching 

    The program will offer high-quality instruction with engaging lessons and well-designed units.

    Dynamic teachers 

    Skilled, credentialed teachers with experience teaching Spanish will be integral to the program’s success.

    • Sasha Vargas, MVSD teacher with an extensive background in bilingual education, will be teaching Spanish classes at Old Mill, Park, and Strawberry Point.
    • Erica Poccia, who comes to Mill Valley with nearly a decade of experience teaching Spanish in elementary schools, will teach Spanish classes at Edna Maguire and Tam Valley.

    Collaboration between teachers

    In order to connect content from the classroom into the language program, time has been built into the Spanish teachers’ schedule for collaboration opportunities with kindergarten teachers. There is also dedicated time for collaboration between the two Spanish teachers each week.

    Integration

    Concepts from different content areas can be integrated in the world language program (e.g. art, music, science, social studies), thereby enhancing the curriculum and deepening student learning.

    When classes will begin and at which grade levels

    Classes will start in fall 2018 with a pilot program at the kindergarten level.

    Schedule of classes

    Spanish teachers will be working on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays.

    Number and length of classes

    Students will have two Spanish classes each week. Each class will be 30 minutes.

    Location of classes

    Each school has a designated classroom where Spanish classes will take place.

    Model for Grouping Students

    The half-class model will be used for the program. Two half-classes from two different kindergarten classrooms will be paired together. Half of each class will stay with the classroom teacher, while the other half of each class will attend Spanish class in a separate location.

    Funding 

    The program will be program funded by Kiddo! donors.