Educators are closing the achievement gap in two languages for young elementary students.
When teacher Ana Chejin asked six first graders at new Lebanon School “Que es algo que tu o tu amigo sabe de las mariposas?” the students knew that she was asking them what they know about butterflies.
Christopher raised his hand. “Todas las mariposas tienen alas” — all butterflies have wings — he said.
Christopher is learning English as a Second Language (ESL), along with his classmates. Their classes with Chejin in their first language are important to their understanding of English. They are enrolled in the school K-2 bilingual literacy program.
It may seem strange, but focusing on literacy in the native language helps ESL students learn English as well.
If they have a strong sense of listening and speaking skills (in Spanish), that’s going to help them develop their literacy skills in Spanish faster than having to learn the oral skills in English and on top of that the reading and writing skills in English,” said Chejin, an ESL teacher.
The students begin with an hour of spanish – only instructi9on in Kindergarten, focusing on letters and sounds. Then in first grade they begin to read books and write.
“What’s really amazing is that they usually just have a very clean transition to the English,” Chejin said. “You only learn to read once and then you can transition those reading and writing skills to other languages.”