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Kindergartners, first-graders to start Spanish lessons in January

MADISON – Starting in January 2014, kindergarten and first-grade students in Madison City Schools will learn to speak Spanish.

(CONTRIBUTED)
(CONTRIBUTED)

The goal is “to grow the program to other grades. Spanish is the language of choice based on parent/teacher surveys that were done in spring,” public relations manager John Peck said.

“Studies show foreign language study increases critical thinking skills and creativity and can even improve performance on math tests,” Peck said. “Being multilingual will also better prepare today’s students for the global marketplace of tomorrow.”

At a recent school board meeting, elementary instruction coordinator Judy Warmath said the language curriculum will “enhance the development of higher-order cognitive skills in reading, writing, speaking and listening in English and Spanish.”

Another goal is to support content area instruction with awareness of cultural diversity. “While Spanish is the language for the elementary program, all languages and cultures will be promoted,” Warmath said.

Warmath cited research that found young learners have “a natural curiosity” for ventures like learning a new language. In addition, the youngsters are open and accepting of different ethnicities and foreign language speakers.

First-graders will study Spanish for 30 minutes each week, divided among 15 lessons on Monday-Thursday. Kindergartners also have 30 minutes of instruction but spread over three weeks on Fridays in five lessons, Warmath said.

Spanish instruction will begin Jan. 10, 2014. “The focus will be language exploration and fun,” Warmath said.

The district’s vision statement, “Empowering Students for Global Success,” is “also the basis for curriculum decisions,” Peck said.

Madison educators recently visited Mountain Brook Schools to review its language program. “Our survey was quite convincing to offer foreign language in elementary,” Peck said.

Foreign language instruction in early elementary grades is one of recent initiatives that the Madison Board of Education and Superintendent Dr. Dee Fowler have approved. Other plans include summer math programs, eliminating learning gaps between grades and classes and partnering with research system experts to organize student data for easier analysis.

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