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Higley kindergarten students begin to absorb second language in Spanish classrooms

Higley kindergarten students begin to absorb second language in Spanish classrooms
Colorful posters on the wall and neatly arranged desks fill a kindergarten classroom at San Tan Elementary School in Gilbert. But this class has something a little different: there’s Spanish along the walls.
San Tan Elementary School in the Higley Unified School District offers Spanish in the Dual Language Program this fall.
The Dual Language Program provides students with the opportunity to learn the curriculum partly in English and partly in Spanish. Higley Unified School District also offers Mandarin at Coronado Elementary School.
San Tan currently has two kindergarten classes with 26 students each. The program has two bilingual teachers. The model allows students to spend half the day with one teacher learning about math and reading and the other half with the other teacher learning about science and social studies.
The teachers speak English 80 percent of the time and Spanish 20 percent of the time when teaching social studies and science, while reading and math are evenly split between both languages.
Dual Language Program teacher Araceli Moore performs a lot of oral activities in the classroom. Students watch videos and say letters and numbers out loud as they appear on a projector screen. Moore emphasizes pronunciation of the language.
“The kids came in knowing no Spanish,” Senora. Moore said. “As of now, they can count and identify numbers to 20. They know their vowels, their colors and some syllables. I believe that they are making good progress being that they had no previous knowledge.”
San Tan Elementary Principal Ray Mercado said there will be informational meetings in November and December for parents interested in joining the program next school year.
According to Mr. Mercado, it is important for children to learn a second language early in their education because research shows that bilingualism supports higher academic achievement, greater self-efficacy, increased linguistic awareness, higher scores on SAT and ACT, improved cognitive development and problem solving abilities.
The program is still growing and Mercado is looking into opportunities to engage with local community colleges, as well as Arizona State University.
“A lot of the students in the program do not come from Spanish speaking families,” Mr. Mercado said. “And they are already absorbing the language only a few weeks into school.”
The program is gaining interest. A parent who is moving back to the Gilbert community reached out to Mercado about the program from out of the country.