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How to Bolster Budding Language Skills

Foreign Language in the Elementary School (FLES) Programs
This is the type of language program most frequently offered at the elementary level. Taught as an individual subject like math or science, classes are typically held three to five times weekly for 20-30 minutes. FLES programs focus on listening, speaking, reading, and writing as well as the culture of the country. As noted above, students who participated in this type of program for two years showed gains in English language skills.

Foreign Language Exploratory Programs (FLEX)
Taught in a shorter time frame than FLES programs, this type of program provides an introduction to one or more foreign languages but doesn't teach for fluency. FLEX programs give kids exposure to and experiences related to another culture and provide a good basis for learning a foreign language in a long-term program. Kids will not attain fluency in this type of program.

Immersion Programs
English-speaking kids spend all or part of the school day learning their basic subjects in a foreign language. In these programs, the language is the medium for instruction rather than a subject itself.

In "partial immersion" programs, time spent in a foreign language is 50 percent of the day throughout the elementary grades. In the partial-immersion program in Fairfax County Schools in northern Virginia – one of the largest in the United States with three thousand students in thirteen schools – kindergarten through sixth grade students spend half of their school day learning math, science, and health in Japanese, French, German, or Spanish. The rest of the curriculum is taught in English. Students with six years in the program have the fluency of a five- or six-year-old in that foreign language. Studies reveal that students perform equally well in testing with the bonus of learning another language.

In "full immersion" programs, time spent in a foreign language is 100 percent a day in the early grades with English phased in anywhere from second grade to fifth grade. However, optimum fluency results when use of English doesn't exceed 20 percent a day.



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From Teacher Says by Evelyn Porreca Vuko. Copyright © 2004. Used by arrangement with Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

If you'd like to buy this book, visit amazon.com or click on the book cover.


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