A Great Idea for Dual Language Programs

School districts across the U.S. have begun to implement dual language programs at the elementary level. Dual language programs can be effective at developing bilingual students, but many districts struggle with implementing a dual language program across all schools. What effectively ends up happening is that many students miss out on the opportunity to become bilingual. The Pharr-San Juan-Alamo school district, a large district in south Texas, came up with a great idea. For those schools that do no have the dual language program, PSJA will be implementing a regular Spanish class, starting in the 4th and 5th grades (adding the lower grades in successive years). Their thinking is that this will level the playing field for those students who do not have the opportunity to attend one of their dual language schools. The PSJA district put out a request for proposals for Spanish curriculum in the fall of 2017, and Sonrisas Spanish was fortunate enough to obtain the contract. This May we traveled to Alamo, TX and trained 120 teachers in the use of the Sonrisas Spanish curriculum. We had a productive session, and all are hopeful that this will be an effective addition to the dual language program in PSJA.

As more and more districts adopt dual language programs, solutions like the one in the PSJA district will become more common. There are inherent challenges to dual language programs such as the one described here. Also, many districts find that apart from the language learning that occurs as part of the dual language program, students need a dedicated class or lesson specifically focused on SSL—Spanish as a second language. Just as students receive instruction in English in a typical school, instruction in Spanish can be a valuable part of the curricular program at dual language schools. It may be that as dual language programs increase in number, the need for dedicated elementary Spanish curriculum will increase as well.

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