THE IMMERSION MODEL
What is language immersion?
An immersion program is not about learning the language only, but rather learning through that language. It is an approach to second language instruction in which teaching and learning of core content occur in a language other than English. This means that the target language is the medium of instruction for the teacher and of learning for the students.
What are the goals of the Chinese immersion program?
The goal of the immersion program is to develop students’ Chinese proficiency, English proficiency, intercultural competence, academic performance and social-emotional wellbeing.
What are the benefits of dual immersion?
The benefits are well-documented. First and foremost, immersion students have the chance to develop intercultural awareness and global perspectives that are often undeveloped until much later. Additionally, students exhibit increased cognitive skills such as pattern recognition, higher order thinking, problem-solving, processing, spatial reasoning, print awareness, and sophisticated analytical skills. Academically, students achieve higher test scores in English, math and science and perform better on college entrance exams.
How will learning Chinese impact my child's English learning?
Research has shown that learning Chinese has a value added effect on a child’s first language, English for most students. Further, students who achieve high levels of second language proficiency also achieve high levels of English language skills and metalinguistic awareness.
What are the benefits of language immersion?
- Enhances cognitive skills
- Increases cultural competence
- Better prepares students for the global community where a second language is an asset
- Improves performance on standardized tests
- Teaches second language skills
IMMERSION IN BLUE VALLEY
What does immersion look like in Blue Valley classrooms?
Blue Valley Schools uses a dual language immersion model in which students are co-taught by two full-time classroom teachers, spending half of the day in the target immersion language and half of the day in English. Dual language immersion allows students to develop listening, speaking, reading and writing skills in two languages, building academic fluency in both English and the immersion language.
What immersion sites and program options are available in the district?
Blue Valley Schools’ inaugural language immersion program began in the 2017-18 school year at Wolf Springs Elementary. A second Chinese Immersion site, Valley Park Elementary, welcomed its inaugural class during the 2018-19 school year. The district continues to listen to community feedback and is committed to cultivating global learners. The Chinese language has strong community interest, is a critical language and offers students a global focus.
Will transportation be provided to transfer students participating in the immersion program?
Transportation will not be provided by the district to students who live outside of the Wolf Springs Elementary boundary and transfer to the school to participate in the immersion program.
If my child participates in Chinese immersion, will he/she still take elementary Spanish class?
Students enrolled in Chinese immersion will not participate in the elementary Spanish curriculum. Immersion in the Chinese language fulfills their elementary Global Language education component.
If my child does not participate in immersion, will he/she still receive Global Language education?
Students who do not participate in the immersion program will attend Spanish class like all other district elementary schools.
What happens in middle and high school after completing the elementary immersion program?
As the program develops and students complete the elementary immersion curriculum, the district plans to implement continuing immersion programs at the middle and high school level.
If my child participates in Chinese immersion, how long does the program last?
Blue Valley’s immersion program begins in kindergarten and families will be asked to make a long-term, multi-year commitment to immersion education. The district plans for participating families to make a K-12 commitment to the immersion program.
Will my child really learn Chinese for half the day?
Your child will be in a Chinese classroom for half the day. Part of this time is dedicated to Chinese language arts, however the immersion program is not about learning the language only, but rather learning through that language; therefore Chinese instructional minutes are spent learning the same math, science, and social studies standards as non-immersion students, only in the Chinese language.
What should be expected once my child starts an immersion program?
Transitioning into a new class or into a new school can present new challenges for all students. These transitions can be supported by both the school staff and parents collectively. In the first weeks, immersion students might require additional support and encouragement as they acclimate to learning in a second language. Beginning on the first day of school, students will be instructed in the target language.
ELIGIBILITY AND APPLYING
Do I have to be a Blue Valley resident to apply for the immersion program?
Yes. Blue Valley Schools asks all families enrolling for the first time to provide proof of residency (a purchase contract/lease or utility bill). Families selected to participate in the Chinese Immersion program will be asked to provide documentation to the school.
Who can participate in the immersion program?
Blue Valley’s Chinese immersion program begins in kindergarten. Students must be five years old by Aug. 31 to be eligible for the program per state of Kansas regulations. Students cannot be current kindergarten students at the time of application.
Students who will be attending Valley Park Elementary (VPE) must reside in the VPE attendance boundary to be considered for the VPE program. All other students' applications will be entered into the lottery for the Wolf Springs Elementary (WSE) program. Up to one-half of immersion student spots at WSE are reserved for students coming from the Blue Valley Southwest attendance area. Transportation will not be provided to students who transfer to participate in the immersion program.
Heritage speakers can apply but will be treated equally with no preference provided. Preference will be given to siblings of current immersion students, regardless of home school. Students with special needs are also welcome to apply. The IEP team, along with other district administrators, will work with the family to determine if participation in an immersion program best meets each individual student's needs.
How can I get more information before applying?
Before applying, it is highly recommended that you attend one of the annual information sessions for prospective families. These meetings are generally held in early February. The Blue Valley immersion website will be updated once meeting details are finalized.
How do I apply for my child to participate in the immersion program?
An online application is typically available mid-February through mid-March. Participation in the program is determined by a lottery system.
If my child is not admitted to the program in kindergarten, can he/she join the program later?
In order to maintain the integrity of the immersion program and ensure participating students are developing in their language skills at a similar pace, students will not be admitted into the immersion program after their kindergarten year. Students who are not admitted to the program but are interested in studying the target language can look at Global Language elective offerings at the elementary, middle and high school level.
How can I support my child if I don’t speak Chinese?
Whether you speak Chinese or not, the best way to support your student is by creating a supportive learning environment in the language of the home. This literacy-rich foundation is built as you read, write, listen, and talk to your child in your own language and culture, building a bond of learning with them. In addition, showing enthusiasm for other languages and cultures sets a positive tone for rich exploration and dedication to this program. For more details, please reference THIS DOCUMENT.
When will my child be able to speak Chinese at home?
Please reference the proficiency targets document, which summarizes the targeted proficiency levels in listening, speaking, reading and writing in each grade level. In the Kindergarten year, students will very much survive on memorized phrases and parroting the teacher. In grades 1, 2 and 3, they will begin to create their own simple sentences on specific topics and engage in simple conversations. In the final two years, students will become more confident in expressing themselves unprompted, more complexly in new, creative manners over many topics. Realistically, students in elementary immersion will not achieve advanced language skills, however they will still be highly functionable on a wide variety of topics.
What is proficiency?
Proficiency is a description of what a person can do with language in terms of speaking, writing, listening, and reading in real-world situations in a spontaneous and non-rehearsed context. For each of these 4 skills, individuals will be classified as novice, intermediate or advanced. Because proficiency falls on a continuum, a proficiency test has no passing score. Rather, results indicate the level of language complexity that an individual has in the target language.
What is the purpose of proficiency testing?
As Blue Valley Dual Language Immersion grows, the district commits to regularly evaluate our program in order to maximize practices that best meet the needs of our learners.
To this end, the district will collect data annually via the STAMP, a language proficiency test. This grade-level data will highlight programmatic strengths as well as areas where we can further adapt, refine and adjust our practices. This data will influence and guide decision-making related to resource selection, pedagogical practices, professional development, etc. In addition, this data will yield a holistic representation of the language development of cohorts as they age through the program.
When does proficiency testing occur?
The STAMP (Standards-based Measurement of Proficiency) will be given to immersion students every other year beginning in 2nd grade. It is not common practice to administer proficiency exams earlier than second grade.
How long is the STAMP test?
2nd graders will take the 2Se, which includes listening and speaking, and takes about 45 minutes to an hour. 4th graders will take the 4Se, which includes listening, speaking, reading and writing, and takes about 1.5-2 hours. Students will be given breaks between sections.
Will I receive test scores?
Test scores will be shared with parents, which we hope provides valuable feedback on their individual child’s language skills. STAMP scores are reported by skill (listening, reading, writing, speak) on a scale of 1-7, representing a benchmark proficiency ranging from novice-low to advanced-high. More details related to STAMP scoring can be found on the Avant Assessment website.
This FAQ was partially adapted from the following sources:
Chinese Language Learning in the Early Grades: a Handbook of Resources and Best Practices for Mandarin Immersion. Asia Society, 2012.
ACTFL Proficiency Guidelines 2012, www.actfl.org/resources/actfl-proficiency-guidelines-2012.