Inside a Kindergarten Dual Immersion Classroom: Our Spanish Bilingual Education Journey
I started researching our bilingual education options when my first child was still a toddler. I knew in my heart that if my kids had any hope of mastering even a beginners level of fluency in my family’s native language, it would have to come from a school setting. My research concluded that dual immersion education was not an option where we lived – not in public education or the private section – so we moved.
We sold our home and many of our belonging and moved back to California, where our extended family lives and where Alina would join a Kindergarten classroom of a dual immersion program. Our Spanish bilingual education journey had begun!
Our Spanish Bilingual Education Journey
At that time, years ago, I searched for images of what a dual immersion kindergarten classroom looked like and couldn’t find a thing. I wanted to visualize where my baby would potentially spend her days flourishing and evolving! It’s hard to believe that my baby is now 6 years old and her kindergarten year is nearly complete.
There has been exactly zero times we have regretted our decision to pursue bilingual education for our children; not one single day. Actually, other than marrying my husband, I’ve never been so confident in a decision in my life. As I walk on campus and hear the sounds of my childhood intermingled with the conversations of my teenage years; as I chat with the Kindergarten teacher and she corrects my conjugation of a verb; when abrazos y besos son normal. That’s when everything feels right.
For those considering this education journey themselves, know that the program is everything we hoped it would be for our child. Her school is on a 90/10 track (meaning her day is 90% Spanish and 10% English). The kids have two teachers: a Spanish teacher and an English teacher. The Spanish teacher never breaks out of the language and never communicates with students (or parents, within ear shot of the kids) in English. Students gets approximately 30 minutes of instruction in English (Social Studies). In the beginning of the school year, this time was used to communicate the rules of kindergarten and other operating type messages.
Her language abilities are rapidly improving; she’s reading above grade level in Spanish; she engages in simple Spanish conversations and can comprehend what is read to her; she understands or can deduced directives in Spanish at a much higher rate than she can speak it. But the BEST part of our bilingual education journey is this: SHE LOVES SPANISH!!!
Inside a Kindergarten Dual Immersion Classroom
A Kindergarten dual immersion classroom looks very much like a standard one. The alphabet is slightly different, in that there are additional letters, so there is a huge focus on learning the ABCs early in the school year. Honestly, my girl was already reading by the time she started school and, if not for learning an entire new language, would not have been challenged sufficiently in a traditional setting. I’m so grateful to her teacher for constantly pushing her to improve.
Reading in Spanish is SO much easier than in English – everything is phonetic! Alina does extremely well on her weekly spelling tests and can read exceptionally because her teachers have taught her to sound out each syllable. Every night we work on comprehension, which will come as her vocabulary improves.
In the second half of the year school year, the kids are working on sentence creation and expanding their vocabulary. They are encouraged to sound out new words and write them. Only now are they teaching conjugation of certain verbs (this week it’s puede and puedo), but only in yo and tú. The kids are being taught (and are now graded) the proper usage of accents and Ñ.
Our teacher is a huge advocate for art and utilizes it to improve vocabulary beyond commonplace language. This month, like Kindergartens in many classrooms would do at some point, our kids are exploring the wonders of farm life… they’re just doing so in Spanish!
I could talk your ears off about the benefits that my family has experienced from dual immersion education. When we started on this bilingualism journey, I had no idea the effects would be so beneficial. I had hopes…. but I truly had no idea how amazing this ride would feel.
Above all else though, I love that my children are learning to love a language not familiar to them. I love that they can now hear through accents. I love that they go to school with kids that accept and expect diversity. I adore when my little girl sings to me in Spanish. I cry when I think of how proud my Papi would be of us. I’m honored to be married to a man that values the ownership of Spanish as much as I do.
This education route is not right for everyone, but it was 100% worth every sacrifice we made.