Spanish Immersion

Growing in Understanding

We offer a unique K-12 Spanish Immersion Program, with grades K-8 at Locust Grove and continuing on to grades 9-12 at the High School. The goal of our program is for English-speaking students to become proficient in reading, writing and speaking in the Spanish language.

The Spanish Immersion (SI) program of Lancaster Mennonite School seeks to create bilingual students who meet the same academic standards as students in the English program. The program begins in Kindergarten and enables students to develop proficiency in speaking, listening, reading, and writing in both Spanish and English. Students will also grow in their understanding and appreciation of Spanish-speaking cultures. This program will prepare students to be lifelong learners who are transformed through Christ to change our world.

As a missional center for the church, our vision includes the belief that learning another language and culture is crucial to being a missional church both locally and globally. Through language and culture we are able to join God at work bringing healing and hope to the world that God loves.

Why Immersion?

Many countries around the world have embraced the immersion model for decades since learning two, three or even four languages in considered normal. In the last few years, the immersion model of learning has begun to grow in the United States with more schools adding programs.

Immersion programs are the fastest growing and most effective type of world language instruction currently available. The goal of language immersion is for students to become proficient in another language while developing increased cultural awareness.

The immersion model uses the entire school day to instruct students in another language. Academic subjects are taught in Spanish rather than simply teaching about the language itself. All of this produces much more proficient language results compared to a typical Spanish instruction class. Students develop native-like proficiency by the time they complete the immersion program.

Why Spanish?

According to the latest census data, almost 58 million people in the United States speak Spanish. This translates to 18% of the population. Around the world, over 477 million people speak Spanish as their first language and 74 million people consider it their second language (Ethnologue).

What does it offer?

The immersion program begins in Kindergarten and continues through high school. In K-5th, all content instruction is in Spanish. In 3rd-5th students have a daily English class that focuses on strengthening writing and spelling. In 6th-8th students switch to the maintenance phase and have two daily classes in Spanish and the rest in English. In high school, a yearly elective is offered for immersion and heritage speakers. The program culminates with AP Spanish. Students that remain in the program can expect to attain fluency in Spanish.

What about English?

Reading instruction in English is to be done in the home. There will be no direct English literacy instruction in K-2nd. Parents should recognize that there may be an initial delay in acquiring English literacy. Also, parents need to understand that they are responsible for developing their child’s English literacy through direct practice at home by reading to their child and having their child read to them. By fifth grade most immersion students perform as well as — or better — than their English-only peers. It is important for parents to expect and accept a short-term lag in order to achieve the long-term benefit of dual literacy.

Typical Day

The first year of immersion involves lots of songs, movement, and hands-on activities that keep students engaged and having fun while they learn. Teachers make their lessons comprehensible by using pictures, gestures, repetition, and modeling. All LM classrooms have interactive whiteboards that allow technology to be used each day to further language learning.  The first few weeks may be challenging for some students, but children will quickly adapt to being immersed in another language.

Parents' Role

Families are asked to make a long-term commitment to the Spanish Immersion Program. A long-term commitment is necessary for the child to experience the ​full ​benefits of the program.​ Also, ​like all parents, parents of children in the Spanish Immersion Program must provide experiences that help their child develop English language skills, including reading to their children in English and having their children read to them in English.

Benefits of Spanish Immersion

  • Builds empathy and social skills
  • Strengthens brain connections and problem solving
  • Increases understanding of other cultures
  • Develops cross-cultural skills and global perspectives
  • Broadens career opportunities
  • Enables conversation with 80% of the world (as English AND Spanish speakers)

People who learn a second language from a young age have better problem-solving and critical-thinking skills, as well as more perseverance and follow through because their frontal lobe is constantly being put to work.

Start Young

The young child’s brain is developmentally ready to learn language. There is a window of opportunity in which the brain is most receptive to new language acquisition, which allows children to learn another language much like they learned their first. Most children become highly proficient in their new language, typically far better than those who begin to learn a new language later in life.

There are different variations of immersion programs but most schools choose to follow an early immersion model that begins in Kindergarten. Students that begin at this early stage develop both fluency and literacy in another language without any detriment to their English academic skills (Cummins, 1998). At this early stage, children follow a “natural” language-learning model that imitates how they learn their first language. They first develop language through receptive skills, like listening, before moving on to productive skills, like writing and speaking. Also at this early stage children tend to have less anxiety in relation to language learning and view learning in another language as simply, “going to school”.


Most students will begin to become more fluent and confident in their ability after only two to three years in the program (Fortune and Tedick, 2003). By the end of fifth grade, most students will be considered to be both bilingual and bicultural and will then enter into a maintenance stage of language learning.


The Spanish Immersion Program will follow the the same curriculum that is in place in LM English classrooms, except that classroom instruction will be in Spanish. Teachers work hard to make the Spanish comprehensible, even for beginning students. In the early grades this includes the use of songs, useful phrases, chants and rhymes, and carefully structured days with familiar routines. As students progress in the program and their comprehension improves, less supports are needed. In the first two years of the program, students may communicate with the teacher and each other in English, but are encouraged to use Spanish. After these initial two years, students are required to use Spanish. Classroom decorations and learning tools are all in Spanish as well. Specials in music, art and physical education art taught in English.

Spanish Immersion students reflect on the benefits of Spanish Immersion and learning another language. Lancaster Mennonite offers this program starting in kindergarten and going through High School. The Spanish Immersion program creates bilingual students with proficiency in speaking, listening, reading and writing in both Spanish and English.

Thanks to Spanish Immersion my 3 kids are fluent in Spanish!

I am very impressed with the Spanish Immersion Program at Locust Grove. I have my 3 of kids there (K, 3rd & 5th Grade) and they are very fluent in Spanish thanks to the school and other factors. What I like the most is that my kids are also doing great with their English grammar, reading and writing, therefore they are learning a great deal on both languages.

Cynthia Kettering

Parent of Child in Spanish Immersion Program

Our daughter is thriving!

Our daughter is not only acquiring the vocabulary, but she is functional. This can be seen in the way she communicates over the phone with my parents and other family living in Argentina. She can express ideas and put thoughts together in order to coherently communicate rather than learning a word here or there and having to think really hard how to put together a sentence. We see her able to translate her thoughts clearly, and in detail to my parents, and able to handle follow up questions, and explain for clarity.

She doesn't see things as happening in one language or the other, she let's life happen and uses these tools to explain to everyone her experience. My husband was concerned about math comprehension as she got older, but she sees numbers as another way of communication of different relationships, and understands the answer is, and the choice of language to answer in is for the listener, and isn't related to understanding the equation.

Honestly, we are very impressed with how grounded and functional the learning has been, and how she seems to thrive in the figuring out of things that may daunt others at this age, she simply asks why, and we set out to find out.

Patricia Barnes

Parent of Child in Spanish Immersion Program

Spanish Immersion Teachers

Grade Level Program Overview

Kindergarten, 1st and 2nd grades

Students are fully immersed in Spanish. Language Arts and Math will both be in Spanish. Bible and specials classes (music, gym, and art) are in English. Beginning in 1st grade, students speak Spanish in the classroom.

3rd, 4th and 5th grades

Students continue to be immersed in Spanish with the addition of Language Arts in English to develop proficiency in both reading and writing. This English instruction is approximately 30 minutes in 3rd grade, 45 minutes in 4th grade and 60 minutes in 5th grade. Bible is also taught in Spanish.

6th, 7th and 8th grades

The middle school grades offer the maintenance phase of the Immersion Program. Students will have 90 minutes (2 periods) per day of instruction in Spanish to ensure their continued proficiency. This includes both Language Arts and Social Studies in Spanish. Students will receive a separate Language Arts period in English.

9th, 10th, 11th, and 12th grades

The maintenance phase continues in the high school with the goal of developing higher-level Spanish proficiency. There are two courses offered on a rotating basis that incorporate literature, art, media, and music to improve oral and written language skills. Both courses continue to develop language proficiency while incorporating service and community engagement. One course focuses on Central America and the Caribbean and the other focuses on South America. The courses are open to qualified native speakers as well as students from the Spanish Immersion program. The program culminates in a year-long AP Spanish course. Students have opportunity to participate in cross-cultural trips. All courses are counted for World Language Credit.

Central American and Caribbean Culture

This course, for students coming from Spanish Immersion as well as native speakers of Spanish, will further students’ language skills through study of Central American and Caribbean cultures. Through reading literature, working with Spanish grammar in speaking and writing, examining media, and experiencing food, dance, and other cultural touchstones, students will continue their Spanish language and cultural learning. A significant component of the course will be to connect with local Spanish-language agencies and communities for service and learning. This course, along with South American Culture will lead to AP Spanish.

Grades 9-11 full year, 1 credit, Offered 2019-20

South American Culture

This course, for students coming from Spanish Immersion as well as native speakers of Spanish, will further students’ language skills through study of South American cultures. Through reading literature, working with Spanish grammar in speaking and writing, examining media, and experiencing food, dance, and other cultural touchstones, students will continue their Spanish language and cultural learning. A significant component of the course will be to connect with local Spanish-language agencies and communities for service and learning. This course, along with Central American and Caribbean Culture will lead to AP Spanish.

Grades 9-11 full year, 1 credit, Offered 2020-21

Expectations for Parents

  • Be informed about the immersion program
  • ​P​romote language learning in your child​
  • ​Read daily in English with your child
  • ​Ensure your child attends school regularly
  • ​Provide experiences to enrich Spanish skills and culture

Register for Spanish Immersion

Parents who are interested in enrolling their children should complete a Commitment Form to reserve a place in the program. Enrollment will not be considered complete until the school’s regular application form is completed, submitted and accepted, along with a $100 registration fee.