Teaching future teachers (see slide show)
Dual-language program offers insight, experience
“You might be a very proficient Spanish speaker and never have discussed rocks and minerals like you do in science lessons,” said Johnson, an assistant professor of education at WSU Tri-Cities. “I’ve learned a ton of school language and teaching language in the program.”
Kennewick dual-language teacher Blanca
Harvey engages her students as WSU
Tri-Cities faculty member Eric Johnson
In the Kennewick dual-language classes, half of the students are native English speakers, half native Spanish speakers. So many parents want to enroll their children that the district set up a lottery system to determine who is chosen for the 26 dual-language spots that open up each year at both Hawthorne and Edison elementary schools.
Teachers who work in dual-language programs must be able to read, write and speak the second language. In Kennewick’s program, reading and writing are taught in Spanish and math/science/social studies are taught in English, up until third grade. At that point, the languages and lessons are switched.
Dual-language programs can feature any combination of languages - one of Johnson’s students is fluent in Russian - but in central Washington, with its large Hispanic population, the Spanish/English combination is in demand.
Spanish was the first language of WSU senior Jasmine Ola, one of the Hawthorne program volunteers.
“Fourth grade was the first time I was in an all-English classroom,” Ola said, recalling the stress of being confronted with lessons in an unfamiliar language. Now, she understands that stress from several perspectives.
“My brother is in fourth grade, and my sister and I go to parent-teacher conferences with my mom.”
Her reaction to working with the dual-language students and seeing them thrive: “I love it.”
The Kennewick program is five years old, so there are dual-language classes for students in kindergarten through fourth grade. Program facilitator Abby Cooper said it will be up to the school board whether to continue dual-language classes through high school, as Washington schools in Sunnyside and Grandview have done.
“We would love to have a K-12 program,” Cooper said.
Cooper earned an undergraduate degree in Spanish, but didn’t become fluent until she started to converse with the district’s Hispanic parents. She is helping increase the number of qualified instructors by teaching a graduate-level course in ELL teaching methods at WSU Tri-Cities.
On a visit to teacher Blanca Harvey’s fourth-grade class at Hawthorne, Cooper pointed with pride to a student answering a question in rapid-fire Spanish. He could pass for a native speaker, she said, even though he’s from an English-speaking family.
discusses a math lesson with dual-language students.