(Port Arthur News, The (TX) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) July 15--PORT ARTHUR -- Learning a second language is not always easy. It often requires full immersion to become fluent and proficient. That's why adults spend hundreds of dollars on language-learning software, equipped with videos, games, flashcards -- anything that might help further the instruction.
That's also why children naturally pick up the language of their parents. Every aspect of their young lives is influenced by that language -- their brains take it all in and process every syllable, every pause, every voice inflection to convey tone.
The Port Arthur Independent School District and the Texas Education Agency believe that similar immersion in a classroom -- guided by instruction and a supportive family at home -- could be the key to teaching students English as a second language.
"Research shows that students who participate in a bilingual program from the beginning are more successful later," Amy Newcomb-Jordan, PAISD Bilingual Education and ESL program teacher facilitator, said.
The Bilingual Education and ESL programs are part of the district's Multilingual Education department. Newcomb-Jordan said every student who registers at PAISD is considered for any of the district's language-learning programs.
"Every student that registers is given a home language survey," she said. "If the parent fills out any language other than English, the student is given an oral language proficiency test -- in English -- that determines whether they will benefit from the Bilingual Education or ESL."
While both programs instruct students in English as a second language, the programs take two different approaches in doing so.
"Students in the Bilingual Education program are taught in Spanish from Pre-K through 2nd grade," Newcomb-Jordan said. "The only class our Pre-K students have in English is math. Math is taught in English throughout every grade.
"Then, their percentage of Spanish classes is decreased each year through the second grade. It has an early-exit model, which means they have completely transitioned from Spanish classes to English classes by the third grade."
Newcomb-Jordan said that Port Arthur ISD uses only Spanish instruction for Bilingual Education, but the ESL classes can be used for any language. ESL classes are also offered for every grade -- not just Pre-K through 2.
"ESL classes are taught in English, but the students receive an appropriate ESL strategy depending on what their native language is," Newcomb-Jordan said. "Students in the ESL program stay in that program until they meet the exit criteria given by the state. Exit criteria are based off several factors -- not just for one piece of the student -- to make sure the student is truly ready to exit the program."
Newcomb-Jordan said that once a student is recommended for the Bilingual Education or ESL program, it is up to the parents to approve that decision and allow their children to enter those classes.
"I just really want the parents to know to not be afraid of the program," she said. "Research shows that if the child starts learning from the beginning, it's so much easier to transition into all English versus if they wait to learn once they're older. The program is the best thing for the child. If the school says that it's needed for the student, be ready to participate."
For more information on the Bilingual Education or English as a Second Language programs, call the PAISD Multilingual Education department at (409) 989-6243.
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