Kids sought for dual language learning

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Daly Romero, center, sings a song with her students about telling time Wednesday at Martin Millennium Academy in Tarboro.


Staff Writer

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Nash-Rocky Mount Public Schools is now recruiting kindergarten students to embark on a new global adventure as the school district begins dual-immersion classes at four schools in the coming year.

Bailey Elementary, Coopers Elementary, Middlesex Elementary and Winstead Avenue Elementary schools will be going global during the 2017-18 school year.

A global ready school is one that thoughtfully and intentionally incorporates global content into the grade level curriculum, said Eddie Hicks, director of curriculum support at Nash-Rocky Mount Public Schools. The global school setting is designed to increase students’ knowledge of world geography and give them a greater understanding of many diverse peoples, civilizations and cultures.

As part of the global school programming, Nash-Rocky Mount Public Schools will be offering one dual-immersion Spanish language kindergarten class at each of the four schools. 

“Foreign language learning is a powerful academic tool,” Hicks said. “Testing at other schools using this concept shows that students in dual immersion language programs generally perform higher than peer groups in traditional classes at the same school. What is more striking is that these academic gains cross all socio-economic groups.”

Though it may seem counter-intuitive to teach Spanish classes to 5-year-old students, Hicks said research shows this is the perfect age for such learning.

“Young children pick up language skills much faster before the language centers in their brains are fully formed,” Hicks said. “Spanish is a good language to teach because English and Spanish share more than 70 percent of the same cognates.”

Though the dual language immersion concept is new in Nash-Rocky Mount Public Schools, it is not new to the Twin Counties. Martin Millennium Academy in Tarboro is in its third year as a global ready school and now offers dual immersion classes in kindergarten through third grade.

“Martin Millennium is a school that has influenced much of the development of our program because they have done such an outstanding job,” Hicks said.

Jennifer Craddock, global coordinator for Edgecombe County Public Schools, said the third-grade students in the program already have shown increased proficiency on the third-grade beginning-of-year tests.

Teachers for the classes are hired through a company called Participate, formerly called VIF, the same organization Nash-Rocky Mount Public Schools will be using in launching its program. In Edgecombe County, Craddock said the teachers are all native speakers of Spanish hailing from Columbia, Venezuela and Costa Rica.

Craddock also said the dual immersion program has proven popular with parents.

“More parents are interested each year,” Craddock said. “We only have one immersion slot open here for next year.”

Nicola Ward is the parent of a first-grade student in the dual language program at Martin Millennium Academy.

“We are really happy with our decision to enroll Gavin in the dual immersion program,” Ward said. “This is a great opportunity for him to become bilingual; but it is also a great opportunity for him to excel in all academic subjects.”

Ward said -Gavin encountered a few problems with reading in kindergarten, but he is on track now.

“Gavin first learned his vowel sounds in Spanish in kindergarten and he had a little trouble differentiating between English and Spanish vowel sounds for while, but now he has got it,” Ward said. “I am fully confident that by the time he is tested in third grade, his reading will skills will increase.”

Parents of Nash-Rocky Mount Public School students who wish to enroll in Spanish-speaking kindergarten classes can attend orientation and registration events at schools at 6 p.m. Thursday at Winstead Avenue Elementary School and at a time to be determined on April 12 at Coopers Elementary School.

For more information about the Nash-Rocky Mount Public Schools dual immersion program or to get an application, go to http://www.nrms.k12.nc.us/Page/2065