Bilingual is Better


Today´s question was sent to our experts by Joe Rosati. You, too, can have your question regarding raising a bilingual and/or bicultural child answered by one of the experts on our panel.

My son is entering the 3rd grade of his Dual Language program. The school has three teachers for the program at 3rd grade, but only one for 4th grade and has suggested they might have a class size of 31 students for 4th grade. This sounds like too many kids for a complex program. Am I better off switching him to a normal class with lower class size? He is doing well.

Hi Joe!

Unfortunately, with the economy such as it is, many programs are increasing class size to be able to keep programs afloat – in this sense, 31 students is not too unreasonable, if it maintains the viability of a program. Since your son has been in a dual language immersion experience for 3 years already, I would definitely recommend that he stick with it for the 4th grade. All the gains in the language will be just coming to fruition now that he enters his upper elementary years – you wouldn’t want to lose all that momentum gained in his previous years!

I would also recommend that you talk to the director of the program or principal of the school to investigate a bit why the increased class size. I would be curious about why the program goes from three classes in the 3rd grade to only one in the 4th? Attrition is normal in any program, but such a stark drop-off is troubling. It wouldn’t hurt to express your concerns and share your feelings with the school leadership.

Finally, the Center for Advanced Research on Language Acquisition has a wealth of information about immersion programs and great resources for advocacy on their website: http://www.carla.umn.edu/immersion. This is a good site to have as a reference and to share with other parents of students in the program.

Good luck!

Lori Langer de Ramirez.- -Bilingual educator who began her career as a teacher of Spanish, French and ESL. She holds a Master’s Degree in Applied Linguistics and a Doctorate in Curriculum and Teaching from Teachers College, Columbia University. She is currently the Chairperson of the ESL and World Language Department for Herricks Public Schools, New York. Lori is the author of Take Action: Lesson Plans for the Multicultural Classroom and Voices of Diversity: Stories, Activities and Resources for the Multicultural Classroom, as well as several Spanish-language books and texts. Her interactive website (miscositas.com) offers teachers over 40 virtual picture books and other curricular materials for teaching Chinese, English, French, Indonesian, Italian, Spanish and Thai. Her areas of research and curriculum development are multicultural and diversity education, folktales in the language classroom and technology in language teaching. You can read her answers here and submit your own question for any of our experts here.

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