Kindergarten Class In Spanish

According to this incredibly biased story, all American parents wants their 5 year olds to learn about Latin America and speak Spanish.

Circle time in Laura Gelderloos’ kindergarten class at Harper Elementary School in Wilmette is a little bit different this year. The 5-year-olds, chins poking up as they follow her animated expressions, are singing in Spanish.

The class is part of a foreign-language initiative to bring Spanish instruction to every kindergarten, 1st- and 2nd-grade class in the district’s four schools.

On the first day of the 20-minute class, there was an English explanation. On day two, “we’ll only speak Spanish,” Gelderloos tells her charges. “You’ll see. It’ll be easy.”

The Wilmette foreign-language program, similar to ones in Chicago, Evanston/Skokie and other school districts, is being hailed by parents and teachers for introducing Spanish language and culture to pupils whose connection to Latin America has been limited.

The emphasis on language in elementary schools is happening nationwide, even as some districts have to make tough choices on what to offer because of the demands of the federal No Child Left Behind Act for higher reading, writing and math standards.

There are no recent figures to document the increase in foreign-language instruction in elementary schools. The most recent study by the Center for Applied Linguistics shows a 40 percent increase in the number of schools offering elementary foreign-language programs from 1987 to 1997. In 1987 about 1 in 5 elementary schools reported teaching other languages. A decade later, about 1 in 3 schools had such programs. Spanish and French continue to be the most common languages of instruction.

Nancy Rhodes, director of foreign-language education for the center, sees the demand but also the countervailing pressures.

“On one hand, you have people reacting to 9/11. They want their children more aware of what people are doing around the world. But you’ve also got this other force–the No Child Left Behind law,” she said, referring to the 2002 act that places federal benchmarks on student achievement.

“A lot of principals and superintendents are thinking, `If we have to push math and reading, we’ve got to cut something.’ And often language needs are what get cut,” Rhodes said.

The District 39 program, which will add a grade each year, offers cultural lessons along with language immersion. Words, numbers and colors–all standard curriculum in a kindergarten class–will be taught in Spanish, and pupils also will learn about Guatemala and its Mayan culture. First graders will study Mexican history, and 2nd graders will learn about Peru and its butterfly regions, a regular 2nd-grade subject.

The effort is drawing measured praise from teachers who point out they will be losing 100 minutes of instruction each week for the daily Spanish classes in 1st and 2nd grades.

“Change is always hard, but so far it’s working,” said 1st-grade teacher Kathy Hofschield. “Multiculturalism shouldn’t be considered an extra but an extension of what we already teach.”


2 Responses to “Kindergarten Class In Spanish”

  1. mark Says:

    what was biased about this story? And where did it say something about every parent wanting their children to learn spanish and about latin america?

  2. Watchdog Says:

    I suspect the reason they picked Spanish to teach the 5 year olds is because the majority of the kids in that school are anchor babies of illegal aliens. They don’t speak English at all. This article intentionally leaves out any mention of the word bilingual education but that is what it is all about. Bilingual education doesn’t work. We’ve already tried it here in Los Angeles where entire schools are built for the children of illegal aliens. Those kids need to learn English.

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