Spanish Immersion

Developing Bilingualism and Cultivating Global Citizens

We offer a unique Spanish Immersion Program for grades K-12 that equips English-speaking students to read, write, and speak in the Spanish language.

Beginning in Kindergarten, immersion students spend their day learning in Spanish. Our immersion program uses language as a tool to learn content rather than just another content area to study. Spanish Immersion students meet all academic standards of Lancaster Mennonite School while becoming proficient in the Spanish language and developing cultural understanding. Our program develops bilingual and bicultural students that are prepared to transform their worlds.

LM seeks to build bridges of peace and to cultivate global citizens, and there is no better way to accomplish these goals than to nurture cultural understanding and bilingualism in our students. Immersion students are prepared to engage with an ever-more global society by using their language skills to explore more varied career opportunities, to form more diverse personal connections, and to have a more complex world understanding.

masked teacher helping two young masked students

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, immersion students can take AP Spanish Language and Culture in a two-year cycle, with different content each year. AP Spanish Language and Literature is offered as an additional elective after this. Students that remain in the program will attain fluency in oral and written Spanish.

What about English?

Reading instruction in English is to be done in the home. There is 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 similarly to their English-only peers. It is important for parents to expect and accept a short-term lag in English literacy 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.

Expectations for Parents

  • Be informed about the immersion program
  • Promote 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

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”.

Proficiency

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.

Curriculum

The Spanish Immersion Program follows the LM curriculum 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 need to use some English to communicate due to their limited language capacity. After that year, students are expected to use Spanish in all their communication throughout the day, with the exception of Specials (music, art, and physical education)) and English classes. Classroom decorations and learning tools are all in Spanish as well.

REGISTER

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 registration fee.

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 are both taught exclusively in Spanish. Bible and specials classes (music, gym, and art) are in English. 

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, 40 minutes in 4th grade and 50 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 have 90 minutes (two periods) per day of instruction in Spanish to ensure their continued proficiency. This includes both Language Arts and Social Studies in Spanish. Students 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. In 9th and 10th grade, students can take AP Spanish Language and Culture. One year’s content focuses on Central America and the Caribbean while the other on South America. In 11th or 12th grade immersion students can take AP Spanish Literature and Culture. These courses are also open to qualified native speakers. Students have the opportunity to participate in cross-cultural trips and service opportunities. All courses count for World Language Credit.

Register

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.