By Jason KUROSU
A study of 700,000 English language learners in 1997 found that students in two-way bilingual Immersion classes performed better than students in other English language learner programs and in some cases, better than Native English speaker students in English by fourth and fifth grade.
This type of dual immersion program has found its way into La Crescenta. Monte Vista Elementary’s Dual Language Program, the first of its kind in La Crescenta, presents a learning environment unique to the area and unique in general, in which kindergarteners and first graders receive all their instruction between two teachers throughout the day, one who speaks to them solely in English and the other speaking solely in Korean.
Unlike the English-Spanish immersion classes featured in the Thomas and Collier study, in which the proportion of languages learned was 90% to 100%, the Monte Vista program has students spending 50% of their daily class time speaking English and 50% speaking Korean.
The two classrooms sit side by side and mirror each other in almost every way other than language. Many of the posters and charts around the classrooms are duplicates, with only the written word being the difference. Some key differences include some textbooks and cultural items more specific to either the English or Korean class.
Federal grant money, from both the American and Korean governments, has made the acquiring of these items possible.
“The grant money pays for teacher training, but also for books, supplies and traditional clothes, instruments and
other cultural items,” said Program Coordinator Rosabel Park.
Not only does it learn math, science, social studies and all the other general subjects in both languages, but the class also learns about Korean culture in much the same way that any American class would in celebrating holidays such as Martin Luther King Day, for example. On Feb. 3, the class will don traditional Korean garb and put on a presentation celebrating the Lunar New Year, or Korean New Year.
The class size is only about 30 students to this point and Park would like to see that number increase.
“We want to get the word out.”
It is the initial year of the program at Monte Vista, but success in the dual immersion program at Mark Keppel Elementary in Glendale, which has been in place since 2007, is promising for Monte Vista’s program.
“Speaking the native language at home is good, but sometimes the children resist it because all they hear at school is English. This way, they get both.”
Park will see to it that her 2-year old daughter will be in the program when she’s old enough.