Monday, February 7, 2011


Math is more of a universal language. In our program and in Kindergarten, in general, we start with the basics. Counting, recognizing numbers, shapes, colors, writing numbers, and patterns. This is the subject area where we see the most transfer of knowledge. If you know what 5 means in English you can easily understand that it means 5 in Spanish(it is called something different but the value of 5 didn't change because of the language). In Math, we use a lot of songs to help students remember. They love our count to 100 song. Sometimes when they get stuck I remind them of the song and that helps them. Can you say the ABC's without the song in your head? In our assessment of the children's knowledge, we don't care which language they can demonstrate that skill in for us to know that they understand it. Usually the second language is just slightly behind the primary language. For example, one of our students' counted to 15 in Spanish and then I asked him to count in English and he counted to 12. I also believe that our math learning is much more hands-on than "reading".

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Reading in Dual Language

children's books donated by random acts of kindness

So, one unique thing about our Dual Language Program is our reading block time. We have the students grouped into their native language groups.  We feel that the students need a good basis in their primary language to learn letters and letter sounds. Then they can learn strategies to use while they are reading and they are not spending as much energy on understanding the vocabulary of what they are reading. Imagine you were given Chinese and asked to read it but you only knew a few words(orally). You will probably spend most of your time decoding(trying to sound out) what the word is and you won't understand the whole story you were reading because you spent most of your energy on reading and not on comprehension. This seems to be very successful for us and we do have children who come to us already bilingual and we then give them reading instruction in both languages. Other students are given the opportunity to learn to read in the other language when they can show competence in reading (reading with only a few errors and comprehending what they read). Our goal is to get them well on their way in reading and then introduce the other language when they have already acquired some of the basic vocabulary they need to begin reading. We know that certain skills transfer in reading(English & Spanish) like reading from left to right, top to bottom, and spacing between words. I get so excited when we get students to the point that they can get reading in the other language. Don't you wish you could speak let alone read in another language? Question for you to ponder: Is my Oral vocabulary the same as my Reading vocabulary and how does that translate into my Writing vocabulary?

Starting out the Year

I am the English teacher in our Dual Language Kindergarten classroom. So I teach in English to two groups of children. We call them the Lions and the Tigers. So I have the Lions in the morning and then we have the children switch rooms and I have the Tigers in the afternoon. Each quarter the children switch homerooms so that they will have those subjects in the opposite language! I know it is confusing but it really does work. The first two weeks of school we have the students in language groups based on their 1st or dominate language so we can explain rules, get them in a routine, and do some assessments. After the first two weeks the Spanish teacher and I get together and start deciding who should be a Lion and who should be a Tiger. We choose children who are good oral speakers to be the role models for each group. We also talk about students who are shy and who are a little naughty and place them in equal groups. (At least we hope so!) During those two weeks we do many activities with the children in both languages so that they realize that we are both their teachers and the rules are the same in each classroom. We are a 50/50 Dual language school. So that means that each child receives half of their instruction in English and half in Spanish. We have an equal mix of children (half are English speakers and half are Spanish speakers) and we also try to get an equal number of boys and girls. Are you confused yet? Well you should be! I can't tell you how much work it is but I absolutely LOVE it and the students are making wonderful progress!