RPS Spanish Immersion

Katherine Schiraldi, Staff

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Beginning in 2013, Rochester Public Schools has offered a Spanish Immersion program as an alternative to the more traditional kindergarten through second grade experience. The RPS Spanish Immersion program provides an opportunity for elementary students who speak English to learn in Spanish every day. The program involves giving English speaking students their education in Spanish instead of English.

In Rochester, this year-long program is for elementary students from Kindergarten to second grade. The majority of the school day is spoken in Spanish, with the same curriculum as regular elementary students. About 90% of the school day is taught in Spanish with the remaining 10% taught in English, which is typically spoken outside of the classroom.

The program puts students into a new environment as a different way of learning Spanish. This immersion method allows them to get more comfortable with the language since they are exposed to it every day.

In addition to English speakers, native Spanish speakers also have the option to participate in the program.Spanish speakers get the ease of learning in their own language, while English-speaking students get the opportunity to learn a foreign language.

Upon first entering the program, students can expect difficulties with the constant exposure to a new language, but gradually, they become more familiar with it. At first, students will speak in English, but teachers will continue to reply in Spanish. This helps students get more accustomed to the new language and helps them understand that they are in a Spanish-speaking environment.

Beginning at second grade, less Spanish and more English will be used to get students back to English-centered learning. Gradually, students will be integrated back into their original language but will still have the effects of learning in Spanish at a young age. Parents can expect to see students doing better in their Spanish classes after going through this program.

In Rochester, Gage Elementary is the only school that has the Spanish Immersion program. The immersion teachers are proficient in both English and Spanish. The program goes from Kindergarten to second grade.

According to the Gage Elementary website, some benefits of becoming bilingual are added cultural awareness, more bilingual job opportunities, strengthened communication skills, and added value to traveling experiences.