Language Immersion FAQ
What is Immersion Learning?
Immersion students acquire the necessary language skills to understand and communicate about the subject matter set out in the Common Core and Essential Standards for each grade level. They follow the same curricula, and in some instances, use the same materials (translated into the target language) as those used in the non-immersion schools in CMS. Your child will learn to read the second language first. Instruction in English reading and writing will begin in first grade.
What are the goals of an immersion program?
Language immersion schools have four immersion-related goals:
- To achieve competency in the second language (listening, speaking, reading and writing)
- To acquire the same English language arts skills as students in English-only schools
- To gain a greater understanding and appreciation of other cultures
- To master content areas.
Why is immersion an effective second language model?
A great deal of research has centered on second language acquisition in various school settings. Over the past 30 years, due in large part to the success of immersion programs, there has been a shift away from teaching language in isolation and toward integrating language and content.
This shift is based on four principles:
- Language is acquired most effectively when it is learned in a meaningful social context. For young learners, the school curriculum provides a natural basis for second language learning, offering them the opportunity to communicate about what they know and what they want to know, as well as about their feelings and attitudes.
- Important and interesting content provides a motivating context for learning the new language. Young children are not interested in learning language that serves no meaningful function.
- First language acquisition, cognition and social awareness go hand in hand in young children. By integrating language and content, second language learning, too, becomes an integral part of a child’s social and cognitive development.
- Formal and functional characteristics of language change from one context to another. An integrated language and content model in an elementary school setting provides a wide variety of contexts in which to use the second language.
Why should I consider enrolling my child in an immersion program?
Immersion programs are the fastest growing and most effective type of foreign language program currently available in U.S. schools. Most immersion students can be expected to reach higher levels of second language proficiency than students in other school-based language programs. Becoming bilingual opens the door to communication with more people in more places. If you want your child to be armed with the skills necessary to interact competently in an increasingly interdependent world community, then you should consider the language immersion magnet at Oaklawn Academy. Children are language sponges, and numerous studies have shown that immersion at an early age in a foreign language is the best way to ensure future fluency.
What is less commonly known is that such immersion also increases vocabulary growth in the native language and enhances overall cognitive development. Put simply, children who experience immersion learning acquire distinct advantages that go far beyond fluency in a second language. Immersion learners benefit cognitively, exhibiting greater nonverbal problem-solving abilities and more flexible thinking than their non-immersion peers. It has been suggested that the very processes learners use to make sense of the teacher’s meaning in a second language make them pay closer attention and think harder. These processes, in turn, appear to have a positive effect on cognitive development.
More than three decades of studies consistently have shown that immersion students achieve as well as, or better than, non-immersion peers on standardized measures of verbal and mathematics skills administered in English. Oaklawn Academy students learn the North Carolina curriculum while immersed in a second language. The goal of Oaklawn Academy is to produce students who are completely bi-literate and can perform at or above grade level in English and in a second language.
Are there any other advantages to language immersion?
In survey after survey, company presidents and business executives cite the ability to speak and write clearly and effectively as the most important qualification they look for in a job candidate. At the same time, however, they often complain how difficult it is to find candidates with adequate communication skills. Technology and economic interdependence have made the world a smaller place. Never before have so many people from different countries been able to come together to share knowledge or do business. And never before has there been such a need for talented and well-trained young people in all fields who are conversant with other cultures and who can communicate well in English and in another language. Oaklawn Academy is committed to addressing this need by giving children the gift of fluency in a second language. Our innovative language immersion program, already a model for other school districts around the country, is designed to produce students with exceptional language skills and prepare them to become successful members of the international community.
How will learning everything in a second language affect my child’s English language and literacy development?
Many parents are initially fearful that immersion may have a negative impact on their child’s English language development. But research consistently has demonstrated that the immersion experience actually enhances English language development. It should be noted that full immersion students’ English development may lag temporarily in reading, word knowledge, and spelling while instruction is occurring exclusively in the immersion language. However, after a year or two of instruction in English language arts, this discrepancy disappears. It is important for parents to understand that this lag is temporary and to be expected. Immersion students need consistent exposure to, and support for, English at home. Parents need to provide their children with experiences that will enhance their English language and literacy development. For example, they should read to their children every day and involve them in games and activities that complement their classroom learning. Research shows that the stronger the development of the native language, the greater the proficiency in the immersion language, so children who enter an immersion program with a strong base in English will succeed more easily than those whose English skills are not as strong.
What are the effects of immersion education?
A growing body of research on immersion education has shown that immersion students consistently meet or exceed academic expectations in the following areas: Second language skills: Immersion students by far outperform students in traditional foreign language classes. They are functionally proficient in the immersion language and are able to communicate according to their age and grade level. Immersion students build a strong second language base upon which to continue moving toward full proficiency and to develop proficiency in subsequent languages. English language skills: In the early years of English instruction, there may be a temporary lag in English reading and writing skills. By the end of elementary school, however, immersion students do as well or better than students in English-only classes. Content areas: Immersion students achieve in academic areas as well as students in English-only programs. Immersion students have well developed problem-solving skills, which leads to consistently high achievement in mathematics beginning at an early age. The achievement of immersion students in other content areas is at least equal to students in English-only programs. Cultural sensitivity: Immersion students are more aware of and show positive attitudes towards other cultures.
How will my child understand what to do in the classroom?
In the beginning stages of learning the language the teachers will use exaggerated hand and facial expressions to illustrate what they are saying. Keep in mind that many, if not all, the other children in the classroom will be in the same position. The teachers use songs, stories, and activities to help build vocabulary and an understanding of the second language. Language learning is carefully structured to ensure that instruction is comprehensible.
What can I do to support my child’s immersion experience if I don’t speak the second language?
Like all parents, parents of children in immersion programs should maintain an active role in their children’s education by providing experiences that help develop their English language skills and enhance their cognitive and affective development. Parents should read with children daily in English and engage them in activities where they need to apply what they are learning in class. Parents should also communicate with the teachers on a regular basis about their children’s’ academic, social, and language development. They should become well informed about immersion education, make a commitment to keep their child in the immersion program, and support their children’s use of the immersion language outside the school context, for example, by providing reading materials in the immersion language at home.
What common issues should I expect and how do I handle them?
Be prepared for the fact that your child will initially be confused and even frustrated. They will likely be very tired at the end of the day, as language learning is cognitively demanding. This reaction is very normal for first- time immersion learners and can last from two weeks to two months depending on the child’s age and basic language ability. Children are generally very resilient and will soon feel comfortable with the second language.
Here are some common concerns.
- Slow initial performance. Your child may initially learn to read and write English at a slower pace than students in single language schools. Parent involvement is essential at this stage to encourage English reading at home. Once this temporary stage has passed, most immersion students perform at or above grade level in both languages.
- Homework help. Parents who do not speak the second language may feel frustrated at times because they don’t know exactly what their child is doing. If you are concerned about your child’s progress, do not hesitate to call and ask to have a conference with his or her teacher. The teachers are anxious to help you understand and participate in your child’s education. There are also websites in French/English and Spanish/English that are helpful to many families.
- Well-meaning friends and family. Well-meaning friends, neighbors and relations may be critical and unsupportive at first. You may be told that what you are doing is not in the best interest of your child. When people see that your child doesn’t forget his native language, does learn to read in English and does keep up with the neighborhood children, they will be assured that you made the right decision.
What if my child is already enrolled in an English-only elementary program?
Research indicates that it is easier to learn a second language at a young age. In order for children to gain the greatest benefit, they should begin the program in Kindergarten and continue through high school.
However, Oaklawn Academy offers an opportunity for entry into Spanish late immersion programs for students in first and second grade. Families should contact Oaklawn Academy to schedule a conference with school staff prior to making application to a late language immersion program.
How many immersion programs are there in the U.S.?
According to the most recent survey by the Center for Applied Linguistics, there are 242 schools in 28 states that offer total, partial or two-way immersion programs in 11 different languages.
Why should I choose Oaklawn Academy?
Oaklawn Academy is a unique community of K-8 students exploring the adventure of learning in a truly international, multilingual environment. Parents, students, teachers, staff and volunteers work tirelessly to make Oaklawn Language Academy an exciting place to learn.
At Oaklawn Language Academy we believe that learning a second language will help your child in life. Knowing another language not only enhances their overall cognitive development and problem-solving ability but also provides them with a valuable job skill later in life. Being multilingual will give your child a distinct advantage in an increasingly diverse and global society.
Who are the teachers?
The foreign language teachers at Oaklawn Language Academy are native or near native speakers; many come from countries around the world, bringing diversity not found anywhere else in CMS schools. They have met the high professional standards of their home country, plus all NC teacher-licensing requirements.
Is Oaklawn a uniform school and what is the policy?
Yes, Oaklawn Academy is one of many CMS schools that have adopted school uniforms. Our uniform code is as follows:
Navy blue or khaki pants, shorts, skirts, jumpers - solid colors. White, navy, or khaki tops - solid colors. Oaklawn Language Academy shirts and CMS Language Immersion shirts are also appropriate for uniforms. No logos, pictures, or writing on clothing. No denim or jeans (except on designated days). No tank tops, tube tops, or wrong-sized clothes. No policies on shoes (regular shoes or sneakers are fine) except sneakers are required in the gym.
You can buy these uniform components at reasonable prices at any department store. You are not limited to any particular brand of clothing. Please call us if you need assistance getting a uniform.
What time does school start and end?
School starts at 9:15 a.m. and concludes at 4:15 p.m. This is subject to change annually by CMS. Children can enroll with CMS for the before and/or after school program held at Oaklawn.
What specials are offered at Oaklawn?
Currently Oaklawn Academy offers art, music, PE, technology and media center (library). For more information on these programs we encourage you to visit the website. Although these specials could change from year to year pending CMS approval, we anticipate continuing these programs for many years.
How do I learn more?
Please visit Oaklawn Language Academy, you may ask to talk to parents who have experience with language immersion. The World Wide Web is full of information; a good starting point is the National Network for Early Language Learning/Center for Applied Linguistics at http://nnell.org/.
We invite you to learn more about joining the Oaklawn family by contacting us today.