Immersion Frequently Asked Questions
- Is the curriculum at EHSI the same as the other EP schools?
- Is there a cost to attend EHSI?
- Why is there a lottery for EHSI enrollment?
- If there is a lottery and my child is not able to attend EHSI during the kindergarten year, could he/she be enrolled in first grade or later?
- Is there before and after school child care available for EHSI students?
- If we do not speak Spanish, how can we help our child with homework?
- How does my child learn to read English when he/she isn’t taught English/Language Arts until third grade?
- What level of skill in Spanish will students have by the end of sixth grade?
- What if my child starts the program and it is not a fit?
- Other language immersion programs have classroom assistants who are native speakers. Does EHSI have the same?
- How do I decide if this is the best program for my child?
- How do I prepare my child for Spanish immersion kindergarten?
An enrollment cap for EHSI kindergarten is set each year. The maximum number of available seats in the kindergarten cohort may vary from year to year. If more students register than there are kindergarten seats, a lottery will be conducted. The lottery will be held in early February. Specific information regarding the lottery will be provided during registration.
In general, homework should never be new learning for a student, but rather practice of a skill or concept that has been introduced and practiced during the school day. One of the best ways to help your child is to read daily to him/her in English. When additional support is required from adults who are supporting learning at home, immersion teachers use a variety of methods to make this possible for non-Spanish speakers. English translations of homework instructions are often posted at the teacher’s webpage or in the student’s homework folder. Teachers may also designate time during the school day for students to copy assignments in their agendas, and to ask for help or clarification from their teachers if necessary. Additionally, teachers may assist in setting up a “buddy network” where students have homework buddies who can be called on for help with details of homework assignments after regular school hours.
All children need the same skills to learn to read no matter the language. Once children learn the skills, they can be applied to most any other written language. Because our students have an English background, they have a greater context in which to apply their new-found skills. For some, they will intuitively apply their reading skills from Spanish to English without a lot of formal instruction. Others will require more formal instruction before they can transfer skills. For most students this transfer of skills happens quickly. Once they learn the concept of sound/symbol correspondence in Spanish, they can easily apply this to English.
All children need a few skills that support beginning reading. Kindergarteners need to:
- Know that spoken words come apart and that letters represent these sounds by developing an awareness of words including rhymes.
- Know the names of the letters of the alphabet and write these letters.
- Understand about letter-sound matches.
- Understand the process of decoding these letter sound matches-pulling apart and pushing together sounds in words.
- Separate words into syllables and then into phonemes (word parts).
- Develop ever-increasing vocabularies.
- Understand the conventions of reading in their first language. In English—reading from left to right, from page top to bottom.
- Have a positive attitude towards reading.
All of these skills are developed when you talk about words, learn new vocabulary, read to your child and talk about the process of reading with them. Much of this learning is informally transferred to children through fun with words through games, songs, pictures, and stories.
We urge you to have fun with words and reading, but not to attempt to “teach” them to read in English. Staff will provide you with many ways you can support language development, reading, and writing skill development.
Parents are amazed when, after only two or three years in an immersion program, their child begins to show fluency in Spanish. The history for immersion schools across the state of Minnesota is that few students leave the program once they start. However, sometimes language acquisition doesn’t come easily, a learning problem appears, or the student is just not happy in an immersion setting. Also, since formal English instruction doesn’t begin until third grade, some parents become concerned about their child’s learning progress.
In order to support parent and student concerns, the district will…
- Provide information to parents to help them understand the balance between giving their child enough time to gain the full benefits of the program and the need to address concerns they see related to their child’s motivation and/or performance.
- Provide assessments in both languages to parents so they can see student progress at each grade level.
- Share state test results for a larger progress comparison. Typically, language immersion schools in Minnesota show higher overall results on the MCAs in reading and math than their district overall averages. Data continues to show that immersion students are performing at an equal or higher level than their district peers. Most research says that student performance on state and national tests doesn’t equalize until 4th or 5th grade. In Minnesota, the data suggests that this is happening even earlier. (Remember, state and national tests are given in English, and immersion students have not begun formal English instruction until mid-second grade or the beginning of third grade.)
- Work with families who are concerned with learning problems through the referral process and provide remedial support if a need is identified.
- Work with families to transition the student to the next grade in their home school if they choose to opt out of the Spanish immersion program.
In our research, we found that native-speaking classroom assistants were a vital part of every immersion program. Our goal is to have a native Spanish speaking intern for every grade level. Our international interns come to us through a program sponsored by EHSI families and are funded entirely by fundraising that is done by EHSI families. These interns are here to share their cultural background, tradition, and knowledge of the language with students, staff, and parents.
- In answering this question, it is important to weigh the opportunities that you are offering your child through this exposure to the Spanish language and its culture. Taking part in this immersion education is a unique learning experience. The following checklist will help you think through this major decision. The questions are meant to spur thinking in areas that may or may not be obvious to you. The Primary Questions all require an answer that comes close to “yes.” If you are not able to answer a question, then please call the EHSI principal at 952-975-7711. A “yes” to the second set of questions will help to ensure a truly positive experience for you and your child.
Things to Consider in Making the Spanish Immersion Decision for your Child:
- Do I believe that this learning setting fits my child’s learning needs and interests? Is the program a “match” for my child?
- Do I fully understand and embrace the language immersion concept and am I willing to work with the unique aspects of the program?
- Can I make a “reasonable—but solid—commitment” to keep my child enrolled through grade 6?
- Am I willing to learn more about my role as a parent of an immersion student?
- Am I willing to support my child’s emerging literacy skills (reading, writing, listening, speaking and viewing) by reading to and with my child in English on a consistent basis?
- Am I willing to leave our neighborhood school/facilities for the EHSI site?
Do all of the things that prepare young children for any new school experience. Be enthusiastic about a new schedule, new people, new language and learning! Read to your child daily in English. Talk with your child and encourage conversations that will broaden vocabulary and interest in the world around us. Take advantage of times when it feels natural to count everyday objects, talk about letters and words, and model for your child how you “think through” things.
During the first weeks of kindergarten teachers will consistently use Spanish, knowing that there may be exceptions based on student needs. However, from their first step into the classroom, the children are made to feel safe and secure. After a few days, kindergartners will begin to forget that their teacher is speaking to them only in Spanish. Teaching in an immersion setting is an art. Teachers use motions, pictures, actions, props, and other tools to assist student understanding of the language. History has shown us that the vast majority of children make this transition with ease.