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Multitude of Approaches Typify 'Two-Way' Immersion Method

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"Two-way" bilingual programs vary from district to district, school to school, and class to class.

In a 1st-grade class at the James F. Oyster Bilingual Elementary School in Washington, one teacher helps children build letters and sounds into words in English while another leads a similar lesson in Spanish. The groups, separated by a divider, switch teachers after 45 minutes.

In other subjects and grades, students receive instruction on alternating days in Spanish and English or study a discipline in one language one semester and the other the next.

At the Inter-American Magnet School in Chicago, some classes are taught every Tuesday and Thursday in Spanish, while in other instances children learn one lesson in Spanish and the next in English.

In a pilot partial-immersion program at the Francis Scott Key Elementary School in Arlington, Va., 1st graders study Spanish-language arts, social studies, and science in the mornings and English-language arts and mathematics in the afternoons. The scheme is reversed for 2nd graders.

Instructional Modes Vary

While some dual-immersion bilingual programs provide roughly equal doses of English and another language beginning in the early grades, others start off teaching predominantly in the second language and add more English instruction over time.

In a bilingual-immersion program serving about 400 children in three San Diego schools, limited-English-proficient and English-proficient kindergarten and 1st-graders study all subjects in Spanish except for English-language arts.

By the time they reach the 4th grade, however, their curriculum offers equal amounts of both languages.

In the early grades, the program essentially provides "bilingual education for language-minority students and language immersion for English-majority students," says Tim Allen, director of second-language education for the San Diego city schools.

The state's bilingual-education office is promoting that model for other schools exploring two-way programs throughout the state, says David Dolson, assistant manager of the California education department's office of bilingual education.

About 24 California school systems have expressed interest in addition to the 8 to 12 with programs already under way, he says.

Activities Elsewhere

Bilingual-education administrators in other states also report increased activity and interest in two-way bilingual education.

The New York Education Department, which is now funding 14 two-way bilingual projects and six planning grants, has increased its budget for such programs from $1 million to $2.3 million since 1984.

Massachussetts has launched four new programs in the last few years.

Successful approaches cited in a recently published directory of bilingual-immersion programs include efforts that:

Offer the curriculum for at least 4 to 6 years;

Focus on academic subjects as well as language development;

Teach language arts in both languages and coordinate language-arts and subject-matter curricula;

Provide sustained periods of instruction in each language and avoid "language mixing;"

Include equal proportions of native-English and non-English speakers in the program or do not exceed ratios of 33 percent to 67 percent of either pupil group.

Encourage minority and majority students to work and practice their language skills together.

Of 30 two-way programs identified in the directory, 22 are in elementary schools, 5 in preschools, 2 in middle schools, and 1 in a high school. Most offer instruction in Spanish and English, but one uses Arabic, and another uses Greek as the second language.

The programs generally involve a few grades within a school and enrollment is voluntary.


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