Spanish Immersion

Legacy is pleased to announce the launch of a Spanish immersion program for the 2019-2020 school year for grades PreK-4, Kindergarten, and 1st Grade. Legacy is once again at the forefront of Christian Schools by offering this innovative program and opportunity that will fulfill our mission to “develop strong leaders with biblical convictions who are equipped to succeed in college and beyond.” What better 21st-century leadership preparation than to equip our students to embrace diversity and empathy while embracing the transformative life benefits of being bilingual.  

Legacy will be the first Christian School in the metroplex, and only one of a handful in the entire country to offer a Spanish immersion program for grades Pre-K4, Kindergarten, and 1st Grade. Legacy will be partnering with the experts at Add.a.lingua, an organization distinguished by their excellence in Spanish immersion education in Christian schools across the country.

We will offer one section for each of these grade levels alongside our English program. Ultimately the Spanish immersion program will extend through Middle School, as we advance the program one grade per year.

Why Spanish immersion?

Imagine your child having the ability to speak in more than just one language! Research indicates that learning a second language at an early age allows for greater native language competency and academic success.

The goal of the immersion program is to produce bilingual students who are high academic achievers, proficient in Spanish, and both knowledgeable and appreciative of other Spanish-speaking cultures.

An additional goal of the program is to further develop one of Legacy’s core values, Imago Dei. This Latin phrase translates to “Image of God”. As the creation account in Genesis reveals, God created the Heavens and the Earth and created all mankind uniquely in His image, male and female.  

At Legacy we celebrate the enormous value and diversity of all mankind and desire to equip our students to serve, share, and receive Christ-like love with and from speakers of other languages.

Immersion Program Overview & FAQs

How can I learn more about the Legacy Spanish immersion program?

Please make plans to attend one of two informational sessions:

Wednesday, December 12th in the Upper School Learning Commons

8:15 am or 7:00 pm

How language immersion works

At Legacy Christian Academy, in the Spanish immersion section children as young as four-years-old will be fully immersed in the Spanish language.  Students become bilingual by learning the subject content in Spanish which includes Bible, History, Language Arts, Science, and Math. All instruction, discussion, and social interaction is in Spanish, 100% of the time. From the start, 100% of the language spoken by the teacher inside the classroom will be Spanish. Art, Music, Chapel, PE and recess will remain in English. Beginning in 3rd grade, students will receive some English-specific instruction, totaling only around 3 hours a week. This English-specific instruction focuses on some differences between English and Spanish grammar.  The first English instruction is taught in 3rd grade. The model of the program is referred to as an early total one-way immersion program and is considered dual-language immersion.

During the preschool years students are learning a tremendous amount of vocabulary. During Kindergarten, students begin to speak with increasing fluency as they also learn to read, write, work math problems, and study science all in Spanish. In third grade, students begin English instruction through the designated content area, typically History.  The Language Arts curriculum is different for Spanish immersion. Since literacy is taught in the immersion language, students receive explicit grammar instruction. The frameworks we use for our explicit grammar instruction come from add.a.lingua. The experts at add.a.lingua provide professional development and support and assistance with implementation of their research-based immersion model. The three-fold goal of the immersion program is to: Expect language, Empower students, and Embrace culture.  Although immersion models differ, Legacy’s early total one-way immersion model is the most effective for developing high levels of proficiency in both Spanish and English. 

While immersion is natural for children, parents are amazed when they see what their child can do.  Parents of Spanish immersion students often comment on the ease with which their children switch in and out of both English and Spanish.  The students are comfortable with studying in Spanish, comfortable with their Spanish and English speaking friends, and comfortable with their teacher.

I speak zero (or little) Spanish. How can I support my child at home?

The most important thing a parent can do is to read to your child in English. This does NOT mean that you teach your child to read in English. If you can commit to reading to them in English and exposing them to English in a variety of social settings, you can trust the immersion model and that your child will read at or above grade level in the immersion language and in English. In addition, immersion teachers are cognizant in making sure the work they send home is clear and, if needed, parents are given additional ideas of what they can do to support their child.

Why does the program model at LCA insist on teaching students to learn to read and write in Spanish before English?

Most children growing up in homes in which at least one parent is a native English-speaker acquire English syntax (structure/grammar) and basic vocabulary through interaction with caregivers, relatives, and media by the time they are of school age. Because of time spent in the English language outside of school, the classroom can then become the environment in which immersion students expand their Spanish vocabulary and acquire Spanish syntax. Interactive classroom read-alouds and guided reading groups allow immersion students to add to vocabulary they have already acquired by listening and responding to their immersion teachers during class time.

Additionally, reading skills such as learning to scan sentences from left to right, decoding or deciphering meaning from context or pictures, looking for semantic clues, are all transferable between many languages. Students who learn to read first in Spanish transfer those same skills to English and are ultimately able to then attain grade-level reading competency in two languages rather than just one. Students are formally taught to read in Spanish in the immersion program. Because English and Spanish share similar features (reading from left to right, many letters share sounds, the alphabet is similar, etc.) some students will learn to read in both languages simultaneously. Other students might be reading in English before stepping foot in their classroom or might begin reading in English first, even though they are in an immersion setting. Either way, the transition between reading in one language or another is smooth.  Many parents worry about their children’s ability to read in English. In immersion programs children learn to read in both languages without direct English instruction. Test scores in both languages are good—in fact, at schools who use add.a.lingua’s Spanish immersion model, when immersion students take the third grade ISTEP and IREAD in English, their scores often beat their mono-lingual peers!

Why is dual language immersion most effective beginning at a young age?

Babies are born as “world citizens,” able to distinguish any sound in spoken language.   Babies never receive formal language instruction at home; they watch, listen, and start talking. immersion works on the same principle. Young children’s brains are wired for language-learning, so they experience Spanish immersion much like they are still experiencing in their English-speaking homes. They watch, they listen, and they begin to speak. Toddlers learn through interaction with their families and their immediate surroundings. School-age children make sense of new concepts by relating those new concepts to what they already know. The human brain is more open to linguistic development prior to adolescence and students therefore more easily attain higher levels of proficiency and more native-like pronunciation. Research suggests that learning a second language allows students to more easily attain additional languages. 

Why is Spanish a good choice for an immersion language?

In the United States, 1 in 7 persons is Hispanic. By 2020, Hispanics are expected to account for half of the growth in the United States’ labor force. Spanish is the second most widely spoken language in the world. Spanish is a “gateway” language that allows students to learn the syntax and orthography of a Latin-based or Romance language, thus fostering metalinguistic awareness and allowing students to more easily master academic vocabulary in English, of which many have Latin origins.

The research on bilingual education and multi-lingual children

Students in Canada and Europe have benefitted from language immersion programs for years and frequently graduate high school with fluency in three or more languages.  Research from these countries and the United States demonstrates the benefits of bilingual education.

Beyond the practical aspect of speaking multiple languages, bilingual education improves key elements of brain performance. Learning a second language at a young age changes the development of a child’s brain, particularly in the areas of right-brain/left-brain integration and executive function, which includes working memory, mental flexibility and self-control.  Students in language immersion programs demonstrate higher levels of resilience and perseverance then their peers in monolingual classes. They also demonstrate greater creativity in problem solving, which makes sense when we consider how they’ve learned. On a daily basis, students in language immersion programs have to find creative ways to make themselves understood in a new linguistic and cultural context. And, unsurprisingly, students in immersion programs tend to be more flexible and culturally sensitive.

Benefits to learning a second language
  • A positive effect on intellectual growth.
  • Flexibility in thinking, greater sensitivity to language, and a better ear for listening.
  • Enhancement in understanding native language.
  • Greater ability to learn additional languages.
  • Appreciation of other cultures and global perspective.
  • Increased career opportunities.
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