Friendly/Unfriendly Immersion Practices

The ACIE Newsletter, February 2004, Vol. 7, No. 2

Thanks to Karen Pedersen, principal of Emerson Spanish Immersion in Minneapolis, MN, for her thoughts about the kind of practices that encourage or discourage the growth of second language proficiency within the context of an immersion school. Her ideas were further expanded by the members of Minnesota Advocates for Immersion Network, a consortium of immersion educators in the Twin Cities area.

Unfriendly Practices: State/District Level

Friendly Practices: State/District Level

Admissions: Admission of monolingual English speakers after grade 2

Teacher recruitment and hiring: Little/no flexibility from state for teacher licensure waivers to recruit native speakers

Staffing: Support personnel are monolingual; collective bargaining issues that sometimes force immersion schools to employ monolingual district employees

Curriculum: District level decisions that do not take immersion into account, do not budget for materials in L2

Staff development: District staff development days tied up with non-immersion training for teachers

Admissions: Uphold policies (like only placing students who choose program and maintain balance of language-dominance in dual-immersion program)

Teacher recruitment and hiring: Provide legal advice regarding visa issues for teachers coming from another country; policy of “early hire” for immersion schools

Staffing: Extra funding to hire support staff who are bilingual

Curriculum: Implement content area curriculum that exists in L2 rather than adopt materials that have to be adapted/translated

Staff development: Exemption from some required district staff development to be replaced with immersion specific training

Unfriendly Practices: School Level

Friendly Practices: School Level

Language use: Signs, announcements in English; unlimited parent access to classroom disrupting use of immersion language

Specialists: Monolingual staff feel marginalized when bilingual staff is speaking immersion language

Classroom-community connections: No attention to such connections

Staff development: No acknowledgement of need to have immersion-focused staff development

Language use: Signs, announcements in immersion language; limited involvement in the classroom of parents who do not speak the immersion language; established procedure for evaluating immersion language proficiency of teaching candidates; conduct staff meetings in immersion language; native speaking teaching assistants to model language use

Identify themes in the specialist’s curriculum (art, music, phy ed, etc) where culture learning can be incorporated.

Classroom-community connections: Service-learning projects with speakers of immersion language to increase motivation to use the language; use of technology to access a real audience for students’ work; travel opportunities for older students with family stays

Staff development: Mentoring for new teachers by someone with high L2 skills to mentor both instructional practices and language use; chaperone student travel to improve own language skills


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