¡Hola! ¿Como estas?
Pop into Gault Elementary, Branciforte Middle School or Mission Hill Middle School these days and you’re likely to hear a lot more Spanish spoken. Thanks to one-time funding from the district and generous donations, these schools are piloting new programs to teach English-only students to speak Spanish.
These new programs serve several purposes. They help build community bridges by giving English-only speakers basic skills in Spanish, providing another channel for communication between students from different cultures. The courses give students a new academic challenge; and at Gault, the program also engages English-speaking students during periods when their Spanish-speaking classmates are in intensive language support classes. The programs were developed through two initiatives: the GATE (Gifted and Talented Education) program seeking academic challenge for middle school students and the parents of Gault English-only students seeking to strengthen their school community.
This fall both Branciforte and Mission Hill Middle Schools opened with one section of Spanish 1, restoring a world language elective that has been missing from both schools for several years. Administrators initially offered the class to GATE-identified students, expecting enrollment to top out at 15-18 students—demand nearly doubled that expectation. Though electives are usually one semester and free of after class work, Spanish 1 students are actually volunteering for the year-long class—complete with frequent homework and tests.
We’re so pleased that our daughter has this opportunity as a seventh grader. We’re hoping that the class will be extended so she can continue next year!
– Katie Garner, Mission Hill parent
Chris and I are both very excited about David having the chance to take a foreign language in middle school…it is an important step in providing a well-rounded and enriched curriculum and in preparing our students for high school and college.
– Sue Grasso, Branciforte parent
The new Spanish classes at Gault Elementary grew out of parents’ concern about how to best use class time when English language learners are pulled out for intensive instruction. Looking for ways to enhance the classroom experience for all children and to draw closer connections within the school community, parents designed and advocated for this new program.
The classes, taught by Laura Smith, meet three times each week serving students in grades 1-5, with one kindergarten class also participating. Students are building skills with activities including games, music and texts, while laying a foundation for on-going language acquisition.
Most of the families at Gault Elementary speak Spanish as a native language, so this opens so many doors in so many ways. While the children who speak Spanish natively work on their English language skills, the native English-speaking children get to work on their Spanish skills. My son, Marshall, is very enthusiastic about the Spanish class this year, and he takes it very seriously, giving Mom and Dad short tutorials at the end of the day. Parents are excited about the opportunities this provides for each of their children individually, and for the community as a whole.
– Kelly Salazar, Gault Elementary parent