Assignment: Education-Spanish Immersion

The Spanish language has been a part of the curriculum at North Woods International school since 2005. But starting next fall, the talk of the town revolves around a new Spanish immersion program at North Woods.

“What that means is for about half of our day we’ll be teaching the daily subjects in Spanish,” said Tami Hillestad, North Woods International School third grade teacher. “So, we’ve chosen to teach math, social studies, science. We’ll be doing our morning routines and our morning meeting in Spanish. And then we’ll still have our Spanish lesson every day.”

The Spanish immersion program will be offered in one class at each grade level in grades kindergarten through third. In these classes, 45 to 50 percent of the student’s day will be taught in Spanish.

“At first, it will be a little challenging for the kids until they pick up on it, but students, as we know, are sponges,” said Sandy Brauer, North Woods International School principal. “They learn quickly, and they will become immersed in the language and understand the language in a very rapid pace because that’s the language of instruction.”

Now, if the idea of your child learning core subjects in a second language has left you a little speechless Mrs. Hillestad says her third grade class will be learning the same material as their peers.

“We’ll have a normal third grade day just like every other third grader,” said Hillestad. “We will follow district curriculum except my students will be using different materials that are all in Spanish. I will be speaking all in Spanish. Our bulletin boards will be in Spanish. Everything will be in Spanish.”

And educators say the universal language of hand gestures and body movements will help students comprehend the lessons.

“The teacher will do lots of gestures and use lots of numbers and do lots of things to make sure the kids do understand,” said Brauer.

“It’s pretty easy now because I know the actions and I can figure them out right away,” said Jonah Gruen, North Woods International School second grader.

And research shows there are big benefits to teaching a second language at a young age.

“We know having students exposed to language at a very early age is the best time because students brains are most ready to learn another language the younger the student is,” said Brauer.

The goal of North Woods International School is to develop global competence in their students. And with Spanish soon to become the largest second language in the United States… teachers at North Woods are using the language to make other cultures not so foreign.