The Georgia Foundation for Public Education recently awarded a $2,000 grant to Norton Park Elementary School to help grow the school’s Dual Language Immersion (DLI) program. Out of the 40 DLI school programs in Georgia, Norton Park was one of only three to receive the grant.
Norton Park currently has DLI programs for a select group of kindergarten and first grade students, who spend 50 percent of their academic day being taught in English and the remaining 50 percent of their academic day being taught in Spanish.
Carrie Madden, who serves as a Norton Park English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) teacher, applied for the grant to add a cultural experience for her DLI students and their parents.
“Every year the Atlanta History Center has a celebration for the Dia De Los Muertos (Day of the Dead), which is a Mexican heritage cultural experience that they provide. However, because of our school demographics, our students don’t always have transportation. It is a family-friendly event. So, I thought it would be a fun activity for all DLI families involved. The event is free, but the grant would provide transportation for our families,” the ESOL teacher explained.
Madden also plans to use the grant funds to supplement the school’s parent library with dual bilingual resources that specifically tie in to grade level standards. This way the parents who speak Spanish will have access to material in both English and Spanish as will the parents who speak English.
“Also, [we will] begin a Spanish class for our English-speaking adults. We already have an English class that is in place, but our English-only parents wanted a Spanish class as well,” explained Madden.
Madden thinks her school’s DLI program helps set Norton Park apart.
“I personally think DLI is the wave of the future of where education should be,” Madden advocated. “Globally, Americans only speak English, but the rest of the world speaks two or three languages. I think this is the way education is really changing. I’m glad that Norton Park is on the up and up of the trend.”
Dr. Greg Barfield, Cobb County School District DLI Specialist, agrees with Madden’s assessment.
“[DLI programs] allow students to become bilingual and biliterate. They start at an early age and go all the way through twelfth grade,” Dr. Barfield said.
DLI programs at the elementary level like Norton Park will continue to grow one grade level at a time every school year as students move from kindergarten through fifth grade. This way, students stay immersed in the program.
One of the goals of DLI programs is for students to develop literacy skills in both English and the target language, while also attaining a high level of academic achievement that is at or above their grade level in all content areas. DLI programs also help students develop a world cultural sensitivity. Norton Park selected Spanish for its students’ target language, but DLI programs are not limited to only one language. The choice is up to the school. For more information about Cobb’s DLI programs and to see a list of all the schools with DLI programs, visit here: http://site.ccsdlanguages.org/dual-language
According to Madden, parents choose to enroll their students in a DLI program for a variety of reasons. For example, some students have grandparents and parents who speak Spanish, but their parents have never taught them the language. So, the DLI classes teach the students how to communicate with their family members.
“We have some English only speakers whose families believe that a second language is a gift to their children. We have bilingual families that have joined,” added Madden. “We have had families who don’t speak Spanish, but speak another language, and they want their child to be trilingual. We really have a diverse group of students and families.”