Kindergarten students say ‘hola’ to new program

LINCOLN — “That was fun,” blurts out a student in Señor Jorge Moreno’s Kindergarten class. But that was the only English that could be heard Friday morning during a typical math lesson.

“Uno, dos, tres… muy bueno. Escribir uno, si, si…,” a teacher could be heard saying during the lesson.

The kindergartners learned about their numbers and how they are all shaped, a typical math lesson for the age level.

The math lesson, given completely in Spanish, was followed by a lesson on Spanish itself.

Students participate in a Spanish lesson at Morris Early Education Center in Lincoln. The Chronicle/Jennifer Antonik

Students participate in a Spanish lesson at Morris Early Education Center in Lincoln. The Chronicle/Jennifer Antonik

Students in Sr. Moreño’s class are part of a 50-student cohort at Morris Early Childhood Center enrolled in a new Spanish Immersion program.

While Sr. Moreño teaches math and Spanish lessons to the children only in Spanish, Janelle Layton teaches the group English, science and social studies only in English.

To make the program manageable between the two teachers, the cohort is split up to include two classes of about 25 students with each class attending sessions with one of the teachers for the first half of the day and switching for the second half.

Lynn Fulton-Archer, education specialist in world language through Delaware’s Department of Education, said Milford is just one of 22 schools throughout the state now offering an immersion program. Five of which offer Chinese, 18 offer Spanish.

“Everything that Milford School District teaches in Kindergarten, your child will also learn in Kindergarten. Half of it is just in Spanish,” she said during an open house for Spanish Immersion students and their families on Sept. 15.

“And they’ll have a much deeper cultural understanding of what they’re learning,” she continued.

Topics such as math and science can be easily taught in a foreign language as they are “hands on,” according to Ms. Fulton-Archer.

“If I learn about trees in Spanish, I only need to learn the terms in English to describe it. If I learn about things that float in Spanish, I don’t need to relearn it in English,” she told the parents.

Math is one of several topics taught entirely in Spanish to a select group of Kindergartners at Morris Early Education Center in Lincoln. The Chronicle/Jennifer Antonik

Math is one of several topics taught entirely in Spanish to a select group of Kindergartners at Morris Early Education Center in Lincoln. The Chronicle/Jennifer Antonik

Families of students enrolled in this new program were encouraged to continue speaking their native language at home, even when students don’t necessarily know the words to use to describe their day.

“The home language is really important. But if you’re not a Spanish speaker at home, you don’t know the right questions to ask your student. Say, ‘Tell me something you did with Sr. Moreño today,’” she suggested. “We want to help the kids transfer information, but not translate.”

Students, of which about 30-50 percent come from Spanish-speaking families, were chosen for the program via lottery drawing done by the Milford School District.

“We’re maintaining an extensive wait list because of the incredible response,” Milford School District’s Director of Elementary Education Dr. Bridget Amory said during an open house for Spanish Immersion students and their families.

Math is one of several topics taught entirely in Spanish to a select group of Kindergartners at Morris Early Education Center in Lincoln. The Chronicle/Jennifer Antonik

Math is one of several topics taught entirely in Spanish to a select group of Kindergartners at Morris Early Education Center in Lincoln. The Chronicle/Jennifer Antonik

“You guys get to blaze the trail for Milford School District. All the bumps we’ll experience together along the way,” she told parents.

The program was paid for by a grant from Delaware’s Department of Education to help fund initial supplies. The teachers, according to Dr. Amory, are funded as other teachers are based on the student count at Morris Early Education Center.

Jennifer Antonik can be reached at mc@newszap.com

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