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Frequently Asked Questions

Spanish Immersion

What are the benefits of an immersion program?

The following article by Julie Sweitzer, “Why Immersion?” from the The ACIE Newsletter, Volume 2, February 2001, explains the benefits.

  1. Children of today will need to be bilingual to be successful in the global society and economy of their adulthood. Today two languages are useful – tomorrow they will be required, and a third language will be desired
  2. Childhood is the best time to develop an appreciation and understanding of diverse cultures, peoples and perspectives in the world. Preschoolers are aware of differences, but the harmful prejudices develop during the elementary school ages. Consistent positive exposure and interaction are the best prevention.
  3. Humans learn language best prior to age 12. Research on brain development in recent decades have confirmed this fact, with wide discussion in the popular media. Our brains are wired to produce all sounds, but if we don’t learn to make certain sounds, we can lose that ability. (Some of us use this as a convenient excuse for our difficulty in learning another language as an adult, but it isn’t a barrier, just a reason to start young.)
  4. Children learn language by listening and repeating, and don’t have any fear of a “foreign” language. This was one of those clic! moments for me, when I realized that immersion teaching taught the immersion language in the very same manner children already learn English – by speaking and repeating in context. It is very natural for children. My children attended a university preschool, where many of the children spoke a different language at home, yet even the newest children participated fully, understood, and quickly spoke in English. Again there is research to support this concept, and schools recruiting students should make copies available, but it is a commonsense explanation as well.
  5. Academic skills are actually enhanced. Studies consistently show that immersion students do as well as or better than comparable non-immersion students in English language skills, math, science, and social studies. If you’ve studied another language, you know that those classes taught you much of what you know about English grammar. Increasingly research has also demonstrated the connections between math, music and language skills.
  6. Children are guaranteed to be challenged. Immersion learning takes extra effort from children (and parents) in that reading and writing skills need to be practiced in two languages. I was surprised to learn that nonetheless programming for gifted children can be difficult in the early years, when their minds work faster than their developed vocabulary in the new language. A successful immersion program provides both gifted and special education assistance to meet the needs of all students.
  7. Parents will be involved. In most districts, parents have to choose to send their child to an immersion school. I expected, and it is true, that the parent community would be supportive of the school, the children, and each other. Involved parents are one of the most critical elements of a successful educational program.

Sweitzer, Julie. “Why Immersion?”. The ACIE Newsletter. Volume 2, February 2001.

When did the Manheim Township Immersion Program begin?

Our program began with the 1994-1995 school year with one kindergarten class of 25 students, but immersion has been used successfully in Canada for over 35 years. Immersion schools in the United States are gaining popularity as an effective method of language learning and many have been in existence for more than a decade.

Is a background in Spanish needed?

No. The program is designed for children of families who do not speak Spanish. Teachers consider this fact when they communicate with parents and assign homework.

How do children learn English?

In third grade, all students receive 45 minutes of explicit English instruction. This includes Reading, Spelling, Grammar, and Writing. Reading strategies are strengthened. Students work on spelling rules, parts of speech and some basic writing skills.

In fourth grade, all students receive 45-50 minutes of explicit English instruction. Reading skills are strengthened with a focus on comprehension strategies. Students also receive spelling instruction and writing instruction focusing on longer narrative and informative pieces.

In fifth grade, students receive 60 minutes of explicit English instruction. Writing informational and persuasive pieces and refining spelling and grammar skills are given the greatest focus. Reading comprehension and vocabulary development is also reinforced.

Students will acquire the same English language skills as the students in English-only settings. At every grade level, reading to and with the child at home, in both English and Spanish is imperative for the child’s language development.

How does the district monitor the academic performance of immersion students?

All Immersion students participate in the same standardized tests in English as non-Immersion students. This includes district curriculum-based assessments, state standardized assessments, and nationally-normed achievement tests. Additionally, Immersion students take many curriculum-based assessments in Spanish that assess their mastery of the Manheim Township curriculum. Some examples of assessments taken in Spanish are math module tests, weekly spelling tests, and reading assessments.

Are the Nitrauer immersion teachers native Spanish speakers?

Some Nitrauer teachers are native speakers, although this is not a requirement. Teachers must have a Pennsylvania elementary teaching license and be highly proficient in Spanish. Our teachers have traveled or lived abroad and have an excellent understanding of other cultures and the value of global education. In addition, two part-time aides who are fluent in Spanish, assist with the program.

What level of skill in Spanish will students have by the end of sixth grade?

The goal is for students to speak Spanish fluently. They will also have strong enough reading, writing, and listening skills to master the core academic subjects in Spanish.

How do I register my child for the Manheim Township Spanish Immersion Program?

Please refer to the Manheim Township Immersion Program Admission Guidelines available here.