Boise program teaches kids to learn in two languages

Boise program teaches kids to learn in two languages

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by Natalie Podgorski

KTVB.COM

Posted on May 7, 2012 at 11:22 AM

Updated Monday, May 7 at 11:55 AM

BOISE--  In elementary school, students are taking in a lot.  They are learning how to read, write and do math, and in Boise a small group is doing it in two languages.

At Whitney and Whittier Elementary School, students can enroll in a dual language learning program.  Students split their time equally between learning in English and learning in Spanish.

"You get kids that don't have more than one language and they come in and by the end of the year they are speaking and reading in a second language," said Linda Beasley, a first grade teacher at Whitney Elementary.

The students start the program in kindergarten.  About half of the incoming students are native English speakers and half are native Spanish speakers.

"At first, at school you don't really know Spanish much," said second grade student Tyler Stone.  "Then it is hard to know all those words and know what they mean."  After three years in the program, Tyler is reading and diagramming sentences in Spanish.

Beasley says the students success is remarkable to watch.  "You learn your second language in this kind of a program the same way you learned your first language."

The classes that are taught in Spanish are taught by native speakers so the students have authentic accents.

Principal Jean Lovelace says the program does more than teach the students a second language, it helps students learn different cultures and build greater brain connections.

"That helps them later on with problem solving, kind of complex things that they will have to think about when they get older," said Lovelace.

Lovelace says this program isn't for everyone, especially students with speech difficulties.  But for some students it may be the perfect fit.

"For the bright student, for the kiddo who needs a little challenge, for the kiddo who's parents are willing to kind of take a risk and watch them achieve in two languages it is a great benefit," said Lovelace.

Next fall will be the fifth year of the dual language program at Whitney Elementary School.  Already, there is a waiting list to get into the program.

Traditional, monolingual, classes are still offered at Whitney.

Students can apply to be in the Whitney or Whittier Elementary School programs without living within the school's boundaries.

The program starts with kindergarten but each year a few first graders are allowed into the program.  After first grade, students can't get into the program because there is too much vocabulary for them to catch up on.

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