Mastering Spanish as a second language

Two-way immersion program beneficial to students

The Calcasieu Parish School Board’s World Languages Department will open a two-way Spanish immersion program at Fairview Elementary School, starting in the 2019-2020 school year.

The program is open to English-speaking, Spanish speaking or bilingual students entering kindergarten and first grade from any region of Calcasieu Parish.

At an informational meeting Monday, Laurie Cunningham, Fairview’s English as a second language coach, said two-way immersion allows students to master a second language through peer modeling from native speakers. The program will emphasize high levels of speaking, listening and reading.

“Students will become bilingual and biliterate, which we know will put them at an advantage in their future,” she said. “I’m a parent and an educator, and I really believe this is the best model for our students at Fairview.”

Fairview will have as many as two kindergarten and firstgrade classes next year, with each classroom being led by a Spanish-speaking and an English speaking teacher. The teachers will work together in order to build “learning bridges” for the students, Cunningham said.

Each class will be limited to 20 or fewer students and will have an equal number of English-speaking and Spanishspeaking students.

Ninety percent of class time for kindergarten students will be taught in Spanish, with English being taught “very strategically to help make vocabulary connections for the students,” she said.

The Spanish-to-English instruction ratio will gradually become balanced by third grade, ensuring that students are better prepared for standardized testing.

“It’s actually an advantage to learn to read in Spanish as immersion students are outperforming other students on state tests,” Cunningham said.

Enrichment and physical education, along with activities like lunch and recess, will be in English. Homework assignments will be in both languages.

Sarah Norman, an East Baton Rouge Parish two-way immersion teacher, said this is the first year her classroom has implemented the program. She said it benefits students who speak either language.

“The English-speaking students are progressing so quickly,” Norman said. “They want to stay in the target language and will often ask for additional instruction on how to say certain things. The Spanish-speaking students then get to take pride in being the classroom example.”

Students should spend at least three years in the immersion program to get the best results, Cunningham said. It is not recommended for families that expect to move before that time period, unless their child can transfer to another school that has a two-way immersion program.

Applications for the immersion program are due by May 15. Out-of-zone permits and translators are available for families who need help with the application process.

For more information or to obtain an application, call Cunningham at 217-4490, extension 5237, or email

“It’s actually an advantage to learn to read in Spanish as immersion students are outperforming other students on state tests,” Cunningham said.

Laurie Cunningham

English as a second language coach at Fairview Elementary


Rodolfo Rosales, fourth grade student at Fairview Elementary, shares bilingual speech about why he loves speaking two languages at the Monday’s informational meeting.