Archived InformationTools for Schools - April 1998
The earliest two-way immersion programs began in the 1960s and 1970s, in programs such as Coral Way in Miami and the Inter-American Magnet School in Chicago. However, transitional bilingual education quickly became the predominant model for including native language use in the education of language-minority students, and these programs were typically not integrated with second language instruction for native English speakers. It has only been over the past decade that there has been greater interest in the two-way immersion model. This increasing interest in the two-way immersion model is most likely due to the convergence of bilingual education research, which has indicated that extended native language development has positive educational outcomes for language-minority students, and foreign language immersion research, which has shown that native English speakers benefit from early foreign language instruction through the immersion model.
While there is a great deal of variation with regard to program features of two-way immersion programs, there are also some important core similarities:
|The student populations are balanced, with approximately 50 percent native English
speakers and 50 percent native speakers of the non-English language.
|Academic instruction takes place through both languages, with the non-English language being used from 50 to 90 percent of the time.|
In this way, all students have the opportunity to be both first-language models and second-language learners. Furthermore, two-way immersion creates an additive bilingual environment for all students, since the first language is maintained while the second language is acquired.
Other effective program elements are described below.
|Teaching Strategies for Language and Content
Two-way immersion teachers tend to use cooperative learning, thematic units, hands-on materials,
and visual and graphic displays to teach content area material. Most classrooms have language-rich
environments, and strategies such as repetition and rephrasing are used to make language
comprehensible. In addition to language modeling from the teacher, students are afforded many
opportunities to read, write, and speak in both languages in order to facilitate their language
| Separation of Languages by Teachers and Students
Teachers in two-way immersion programs teach for extended periods of time in one designated
language, and encourage both native speakers and second-language learners to communicate in the
language of instruction to the best of their ability.
| Integration of Students
Students from both language backgrounds learn together for significant portions of the day. Some
programs separate students by language background for language arts instruction in the native
and/or second language, while others maintain student integration for the entire day.
| Duration of Program
Programs provide bilingual instruction for at least 4 to 6 years, and parents are advised that
continuous student enrollment for the duration of the program is advisable.
| Family and Community Involvement
The most successful two-way immersion programs recognize the importance of support from
families and the community at large. Serious efforts are made to ensure that both languages and
cultures are valued equally, and that all families are included in school decision-making processes.
| Availability of Resources
Because bilingualism is one of the three main goals of two-way immersion programs, it is important that the school have not only classroom materials in both languages, but also school-wide materials such as library resources and computer software in both languages.
There are no obligatory costs associated with two-way immersion programs. That is, no specific materials are needed, nor is there a required program facilitator. However, the availability of both bilingual pedagogical materials and a bilingual coordinator who is free from teaching responsibilities can greatly enhance the quality of a two-way immersion program. In addition, because many teachers lack teaching experience in two-way immersion classrooms, it is helpful to provide pre-service and in-service training to the teaching staff. Extra costs involved with two-way immersion programs are frequently funded from Federal and state compensatory and bilingual education funds in the school.
The impetus for developing a two-way immersion program can come from a variety of sources: parents, teachers, administrators, or research partners. Schools that are interested in implementing a two-way immersion model usually begin by collecting information about the model through research centers, such as the Center for Applied Linguistics, as well as through schools that currently have such programs in operation. This information allows the school to make decisions about key features of the program:
A number of principles from both bilingual education research and foreign language research provide the theoretical rationale for two-way immersion. First, bilingual education research indicates that content knowledge learned through one language paves the way for knowledge acquisition in the second language. When native language instruction is provided with balanced second-language support, students can attain higher levels of academic achievement than if they had been taught in the second language only. Second, researchers in bilingual education assert that a second language is best acquired by language-minority students after their first language is established.
Specifically, language-minority students with strong oral language and literacy skills in the first
language tend to achieve greater levels of second-language proficiency than students with limited
native-language ability. Third, immersion programs enable language- majority children (those who
are native speakers of the high-status language of the society, i.e., English in the United States) to
develop second-language proficiency without compromising their academic achievement. Finally,
for all students, language is learned best when it is the medium of instruction rather than the
exclusive goal of instruction. In immersion settings, students learn language while learning content,
because there is a real need to communicate while engaged in content-related tasks.