Elementary and Secondary Levels

U.S. Elementary and Secondary Immersion Survey

In 1994 a questionnaire was mailed to 140 immersion schools in the U.S. to collect information on a number of key program dimensions including:

  • demographics
  • program structure
  • hours of instruction in the target vs. native languages
  • articulation
  • language and cultural background of students/administrators/faculty/staff
  • estimated language proficiency of administrators/faculty/staff
  • parental support
  • use of aides
  • who teaches English
  • social and academic language use
  • tests and curricular materials
  • professional development
  • assessment
  • program evaluation

The results of this survey are available in:
Fortune, T., & Jorstad, H. L. (1996).
U.S. Immersion Programs: A National Survey. Foreign Language Annals, 29, (2), 163-190.

Language Use and Acquisition in an Elementary Spanish Immersion Program in a Large Midwestern City

Research conducted in a fifth-grade classroom looked at these primary research questions:

  1. what languages are used by students in immersion classrooms for academic and non-academic topics?
  2. how do students use the irregular preterite in Spanish?
  3. how much vernacular vocabulary in English or Spanish is used by students when conversing in the classroom on academic or non-academic topics?
  4. what factors are related to the language choices made in 1 and 3 above?

A dissertation based on the data collected was completed in 2000. In February 2001 this dissertation was also published as CARLA Working Paper #18, "Impact of Interlocutor and Task on First and Second Language Use in a Spanish Immersion Program", By Maggie A Broner.

An overview of this research was published in the ACIE Newsletter, June 2000.

Getting the Big Picture of Language Immersion Education by Working with Teachers on a Micro Level

The purpose of this study was to enlist practitioners in language immersion programs in the identification and elaboration of issues and challenges in immersion language teaching. Through focus groups and extensive individual interviews, six elementary Spanish language immersion teachers in three school settings (a suburban full immersion school and two inner-city magnet programs, one partial and one full immersion) served as informants. Five major themes emerged: the primacy of language, the balance between language and content, the spectrum of learners in immersion programs, and the sociopolitical context of immersion schooling. Within each of those themes teachers describe the particular challenges of immersion teaching, and illuminate the complexity of immersion classrooms on a micro level. In a complex setting where the learning of curricular content and second language acquisition are expected to develop concurrently, teachers are in a unique position to add to our knowledge of immersion schooling.

A Research Synopsis (PDF) (requires Acrobat® Reader) is available from this site that briefly summarizes this research conducted by Constance L. Walker and Diane J. Tedick at University of Minnesota as part of a research project of the National Language Resource Center at CARLA. An article on this research written by Walker and Tedick is included in the Modern Language Journal, Volume 84, Number 1. The synopsis is excerpted from a presentation made by the authors at the University of Minnesota in November 1999.

Developing Content Curriculum for Language Immersion Education:
A Group Studies Abroad Project to Develop Science Curriculum for U.S. Spanish Immersion Programs

With support from the USDE Fulbright-Hays Group Study Abroad Program, a group of Spanish teachers, under the direction of Professors Diane Tedick and Constance Walker at the University of Minnesota, traveled to Ecuador in July 1999 to study issues of biodiversity and environmental protection in Spanish. Based on their research, the immersion teachers worked together with the project leaders to create a high quality science curriculum for use in Spanish immersion programs around the country.

The objectives of the project included:

  1.  the development of Spanish-language science curriculum by immersion language teachers for use in instructional settings at levels K-8; and
  2.  dissemination of curricular materials to teachers and schools in the United States which offer Spanish-language immersion education or bilingual education programs.

The project leaders worked with a group called CIMAS (Centro de Investigaciones en Medio Ambiente y Salud) in Quito, Ecuador. CIMAS is well-known for its work with the Minnesota Studies in International Development (MSID) through the Learning Abroad Center at the University of Minnesota.

In July 2002, the curriculum guide was published as CARLA working paper #22 Bringing the Biodiversity of Ecuador to Spanish Immersion Classrooms by Diane J. Tedick and Constance Walker with Spanish Immersion Teachers.  This unique Spanish-language science curriculum is tailored for K-8 immersion classrooms.

An overview of this project was published in the ACIE Newsletter, December 1999.

Learning Language in a Non-school Environment: The Case of the Language Immersion Village

One approach to enhancing language learning is the language camp or "village" experience. The rationale for promoting such programs is that they may be uniquely structured to allow for the development of different kinds of language because they provide more than classrooms in the woods. Rather, they are intended to offer a residential, mini-village experience in an alternative setting/context, as well as putting emphasis on alternative instructional practices. The issue for research, then, is to explore the similarities and differences between such language villages and an immersion school experience, and ideally to identify what is unique about the language village setting as a language/culture learning program.

The research that is being envisioned would identify one language camp program that has a strong track record for providing language skills for learners, and proceed to conduct a rigorous study intended to identify what contributes to language acquisition. The ultimate goal would be to apply insights from studying this special environment to teacher education and to further enhancing current language classroom situations.

A full overview (.doc) of this research project is available.

Expressing Cognitive Operations Through the Language of Immersion

This research aimed to promote the development of more complex academic language and linguistic structures by giving immersion students the opportunity to enhance their inner voice in that language. Since the development of L2 inner voice in elementary immersion students has not been investigated to any extent, this study set out to determine how the enhancement of the students L2 inner voice in the immersion classroom might influence linguistic knowledge and the ability to comprehend and produce language. It was posited that it might be possible to stimulate increased use of the immersion language by students while also enhancing the academic vocabulary and grammatical structure of the language that they use for specific tasks. More specifically, the pedagogical intervention included: (1) modeling by the teacher and the research assistant (RA) in the use of Spanish academic language to solve problems in science and history, and (2) supporting the students in developing their own L2 inner voice in Spanish through modeling and follow up activities.

A full report of the research has been published as a CARLA Working Paper and is available as a PDF document. (Requires Adobe Reader)

Enhancing Academic Language Proficiency in a Fifth-Grade Spanish Immersion Classroom
by Andrew D. Cohen & Tania Gómez
CARLA Working Paper Series Technical Report · September 2004

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