Señora Tinker’s first-grade class starts out as all LCA first grade classes start: joyous (and sometimes sleepy) “Good mornings.”
The difference is that in Mrs. Tinker’s classroom everything is conducted in Spanish. The students are greeted with “Buenos dias” and “¿Como estas?” and they respond in a similar fashion. All the morning routines–pledges, weather, calendar, and worship–are there, only the excitement is en español. Vivian Hubbard, in Mrs. Tinker’s class, declared, “There are so many good songs that we can learn in Spanish. Learning a new language is FUN!”
Legacy is the first Christian school in the Metroplex to offer this innovative immersion program through a partnership with add.a.lingua, an organization distinguished by their excellence in immersion education in Christian schools. The program launched in August 2019 with classes in kindergarten and first grade. During the 2020-2021 school year, LCA will extend the program to include 2nd grade. “Spanish Immersion has changed the dynamics of the entire first floor. Those teachers are so engaged and animated and the children are excited about learning. It has increased everyone’s interest in learning a second language,” shared Celeste Cordon, Legacy’s Director of Admissions. Ultimately, Spanish immersion will continue through Middle School, advancing a grade level each year.
Students are expected to speak exclusively in Spanish from the onset, which may seem like high expectations for such an age. However, a simple walk through the halls provides evidence to the contrary, as students communicate joyfully and with surprising ease in their new tongue. “I love hearing the conversations that students have during recess. I am amazed at what they have already learned, and I have even been able to pick up some Spanish myself!” shared first-grade teacher Mrs. Atkins. Maintaining Spanish as the classroom language extends to the principals, staff members, and even parents who visit the classrooms, reinforcing the importance of fully immersing oneself in the language. Students do receive instruction in English through specials like art, music, chapel, PE, and science.
In a typical day in Señora Rodriguez’s kindergarten class, the students are learning the alphabet. In Mrs. Berridge’s class just across the hall, the students are also learning the alphabet. In English, they are learning the alphabet the way most Americans have learned it, from A-Z. In Señora Rodriguez’s classroom, however, they are taught by syllable. They start by learning the vowel sounds, then the consonant sounds, and finally learn to blend those together to form words. As in the English-instruction classrooms, the students will do “the Daily 5,” where they read to themselves, read to a partner, do word work, write, and listen to reading. These activities help with fluency and vocabulary development in literacy.
It is important to understand that immersion students are learning in the same manner as their peers. To an adult, it might seem challenging or frustrating to fathom a person simply picking up a language, but that is exactly what these students are doing. They are not mentally translating phrases and words from English INTO Spanish, they are learning purely in Spanish. Try to envision a first-grader bringing home a list of high-frequency words. Would a parent sit with their child and try to explain to them what the word “house” or “I” means? The student either already knows the word or a parent might use conceptual cues or pictures to convey the meaning. In that same vein, when Spanish immersion students bring home their high-frequency word lists, it is just “yo” or “la casa.” No explanation is needed. It is exactly this type of understanding at the ground level that differentiates LCA’s Spanish immersion program from a traditional bilingual program, wherein the students divide their time between learning in English and Spanish.
The potential benefits for immersion students are immeasurable. Research covering more than 40 years of language immersion instruction reveals that these children receive a variety of cognitive advantages such as mental flexibility, nonverbal problem-solving abilities, and enhanced critical thinking skills. As they master a second language, students also expand their sense of cultural empathy and understanding. Bill McGee, Head of School, reiterated this point, “Our Spanish Immersion program is really an extension of our school’s mission, which is to develop strong leaders with biblical convictions. Becoming fluent in a second language will equip them to be confident Christian leaders and position them to be effective communicators in more than one language and across cultures.” Michelle Rosas, mother of an LCA first-grade immersion student, has already witnessed the program’s impact, “In addition to the language, incorporating the cultural aspect has really advanced my daughter’s perception of a worldview that there are other people out there who are different – yet we are similar in so many ways.” These students are creating social capital as they develop an aptitude to form diverse relationships with people of other cultures from around the world.
It truly is a gift.
Legacy Christian Academy is Frisco's preeminent Pre-K through 12 Christian school committed to educating students in a college preparatory environment balanced in academics, athletics, and fine arts–all within the context of a biblical worldview. For more information on Legacy, visit our admissions page.