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Holladay Journal

Application deadline for Granite District’s dual immersion program is Feb. 19

Feb 05, 2019 02:13PM ● By Heather Lawrence

Students in Ms. Tang’s fifth-grade class at Spring Lane Elementary listen to a story and respond in Mandarin Chinese. Many of them have taken Chinese since first grade. (Heather Lawrence/City Journals)

By Heather Lawrence | [email protected]

Granite School District will offer dual immersion foreign language instruction programs again in the 2019–2020 school year. Parents who are interested in putting their students in the program can apply online until Feb. 19. The goal is fluency by high school graduation.

Principal Afton Lambson of Spring Lane Elementary is a big supporter of the 10-year-old dual immersion Mandarin Chinese program at his school. “I’ve gotten a lot of positive feedback from the students and parents. All of our students from first to sixth grade are eligible for the program. About half of the student body is involved in the program,” Lambson said. 

The online application, which is open on Granite School District’s website until Feb. 19, consists of a series of social and demographic information, such as the grade the applying student is in, whether or not they have a sibling in the program, and a first, second and third choice for a school. 

The three languages offered are Spanish, French and Mandarin Chinese. Each school offers only one of the three languages. Half of the daily instruction is in English, and the other half is in a foreign language.

Lambson sees a lot of benefits in the program, and hopes to expand it next year. “Parents often comment on how their child's English language abilities improve as a result of learning a second language. We have great students that exceed our expectations every year with their Chinese abilities,” said Lambson. 

Though some students express difficulty in the first couple years, Lambson advises that they stick it out. “Difficulty is expected with learning any language.” 

For those parents who worry because they don’t speak the language, Lambson said that’s not necessary to help your child. “You do not need to know Chinese to help your child, and your child doesn’t need prior exposure to Chinese.” 

Dual immersion classes are taught by bilingual teachers, like Zhiwei Tang. Tang, who is from China, teaches fifth grade at Spring Lane. She is one of five Chinese teachers there. 

One of the best aspects of the dual immersion program is the long-term plan created by Granite School District. Tang says students can continue learning the language in middle and high school. Students from Spring Lane feed into Bonneville Jr. High and Cottonwood High, both of which have Chinese classes.  

“The first students to start this program are now in 10th grade. We can support them all the way to 12th grade. When they go to high school they can take AP Chinese and get credit for college. They can take Chinese as their minor,” said Tang. 

The dual immersion program goal is fluency. Students learn to understand, speak, read and write in the language. Students don’t miss out on other curriculum because that content is used as the vehicle for learning the language. “When the students learn the language with me they also learn the content, like math or science,” said Tang. 

Fifth-graders in Tang’s classroom spent one lesson listening to a story in Chinese, then responded to her questions in Chinese. “We’ve been learning Chinese since first grade. I have a brother who also speaks Chinese, and sometimes at home we talk to each other and our parents don’t understand. It’s kind of fun,” said one student.

Lambson said the feedback from parents and older students in the program helps them continually improve at the elementary level. That includes getting the word out about the Feb. 19 application deadline. 

“Our students have started to prepare for and take honors classes in high school. Our sixth-grade students will be going to Bonneville Jr. High next year, and we want to actively bring in more students to keep the cohorts balanced over the years. Some parents indicate that they wish they had known more about the program so they could have enrolled their child in first grade,” said Lambson.

Lambson hopes students will continue to take advantage of this great opportunity. “Our teachers are so committed and caring. They provide a high-quality Chinese immersion experience. We’re looking forward to the future and taking care of the present at the same time,” Lambson said. “Our goal is to be the highest-performing Chinese immersion school in the state of Utah.”