Delavan-Darien preparing for dual-language changes

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Catherine W. Idzerda
Saturday, February 15, 2014

DELAVAN--Estamos listos para estudiantes.

We are ready for students.

That's the message from the Delavan-Darien School District, and it's appropriate that it comes in two languages.

For more than a year, the district has been creating a Spanish-English dual-language program in 4-year-old kindergarten, kindergarten and first grade.

The community, it seems, is ready for dual-language instruction.

“The response has been overwhelming,” said Ron Sandoval, director of bilingual school and community education. “In the past, I've really had to pull in the Hispanic families; I've really had to pull the Anglo families to come in.” 

Not in the Delavan-Darien School District.

As of the second week of February, the district had enough students for one class of 4-year-old kindergarten, almost three classes of kindergarten and two classes of first grade.

The dual-language program will be a part of the district's offerings for the 2014-15 school year.

Each class will have 18 to 20 students, with a cap of 24 students total. Each class will be made up half Spanish-speaking children and half English-speaking children.

The program also caught the attention of ¡Adelante! the weekly news show on Milwaukee Public Television. Sandoval and District Administrator Robert Crist were interviewed on the program. It is scheduled to air in the next several weeks, but no date has been fixed yet, district officials said.

Delavan-Darien continues to admit children to the dual language program. Although sign-up officially ends March 3, the district is prepared for latecomers, transfer students and procrastinators.

The district has enough teachers who can teach in single-language or dual-language classrooms. Classrooms and staff can be adjusted accordingly, Sandoval said.

Teachers who have the training to teach in dual-language classrooms have been teaching in traditional classrooms or working with students who speak English as a second language. If the district has an influx of students interested in the dual-language program, those teachers can be moved as needed.

Parents who are interested in dual language instruction can place their children in a classroom where 50 percent of instruction is in English and 50 percent in Spanish or a classroom of 90 percent Spanish and 10 percent English.

Students will be taught literacy skills such as reading and writing in both English and Spanish, but other subjects will be taught in one language or another using a technique called “total physical response.”  The technique uses movement, music, images and interaction to teach children who are immersed in a second language.

By fourth or fifth grade, all the bilingual classes will be 50 percent in English and 50 percent in Spanish.

The goal is to make students bi-lingual, bi-cultural and bi-literate, Sandoval said.

Research has shown that students in dual-language programs do better on state tests by fourth or fifth grade, Sandoval said.

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