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Spanish Immersion shows amazing results

by: SUBMITTED PHOTO: KIRSTEN AND MARK CARNESE -  Emerson Smith, Emma Carnese and Munroe Blem participate in 'Los Tres Osos' Reader's Theater performance in the first grade Spanish Immersion classroom at Lake Grove Elementary School.Last week, 29 first-graders sat poised to begin a “Readers Theater” production before a roomful of expectant parents and family members. The children prepared for this event with their teacher, Patricia Ashworth, for more than a month, and even sent out personalized invitations to the much-awaited event.

This wasn’t an ordinary school play, though.

The entire play was read and acted out in Spanish, complete with music and songs, creative costumes and proud students who amazed audience members with their knowledge of their second language.

All of the children are part of Lake Grove Elementary School’s Spanish immersion program, introduced three years ago in the Lake Oswego School District. The enthusiasm for the program continues to grow, as the community notices many benefits the classes can bring to young minds.

I feel fortunate that my daughter was able to begin the immersion program when she was in pre-K, and every year I’ve been impressed by her teachers, the quality of the program and her Spanish language development. It is a commitment to join the program, and it’s not necessarily the best or only option for every child, but our family is grateful to have the opportunity.

What is most surprising and evident in the classrooms? The clear indication that the students are at home with a second language, because it is built into their day, and has become part of the foundation of the regular reading, arts and social sciences curriculum followed in every grade level.

The joy of knowing a second language shows on the children’s faces — particularly at times when they can demonstrate their knowledge, as they did during the classroom play. They were proud to show us what they were working on and to perform in front of an audience.

It’s an opportunity not many of us parents had when we were young. At best, some of us took high school language classes with mixed results. However, today we feel intuitively that a second language is something almost essential, if not just advantageous, in today’s complex world.

For one, being bilingual gives children the ability to communicate broadly with more people. Parents of immersion students are often surprised to find their child talking with others in their second language, or even teaching their parents how to speak it. At Lake Grove, the Spanish immersion classes help students understand just how diverse the world is and that not everyone is the same — promoting flexibility in thinking and problem solving.

Perhaps the best part of language immersion is that our children feel pride in the fact that they have a lot teach us at a very young age. I don’t speak Spanish but I’m slowly learning because my daughter’s teachers have expanded my awareness of the Spanish culture, traditions, stories, arts and music. It is fun to learn, and why not?

Plus I have the very best instructors — my 7-year-old daughter and her amazing classmates.

Alyssa Graetz is a parent with a daughter in the Lake Oswego Spanish immersion program.



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