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Spanish Immersion Program



Welcome to Jenison Public Schools Spanish Immersion Program. In this program, English-speaking students will learn the District’s rigorous core academic program through instruction in Spanish. Spanish is the means of content instruction, not just a subject of instruction. Many research studies have shown the effectiveness of language immersion programs in language and cognitive development.

Life Skills
Extensive research has shown that learning a second language enriches a child’s first language development and provides an enhanced sense of global awareness, linguistic confidence, and learning strategies that are useful in many aspects of life. Research findings indicate the following:
  • Early language study results in greater skills in divergent thinking and figural creativity. (Landry 1973)
  • Children in effective early second language programs show overall gains on standardized tests of basic skills and derive additional cognitive, social, and affective benefits. (Taylor-Ward, 2003)
  • Learning another language can enhance knowledge of English structure and vocabulary. (Curtain & Dahlberg, 2004)
  • Children that learn additional languages show greater cognitive flexibility, better problem solving, and higher-order thinking skills. (Hakuta, 1986)


We are committed to promoting early childhood language acquisition by utilizing fluent Spanish-speaking teachers who will incorporate the latest research to provide a safe, fun, language-rich environment.

Our Spanish Language Arts curriculum, Units of Study, mirrors the English Language Arts standards that JPS traditional classrooms use.  Similarly, we use the Spanish version of the same math curriculum that JPS traditional classrooms use, Envision Math 2.0.

Newcomers to class will immediately be learning in a Spanish-only classroom environment. The teacher will only utilize English when it is necessary to ensure student safety. Teachers use a wide variety of movements, visual cues, songs, chants, and choral responses to help students quickly acquire the oral language comprehension skills they need to feel comfortable and thrive in a Spanish only environment. Students are encouraged to use Spanish when they are ready to and each child develops at his or her own pace.

Spanish Immersion Goals

  • Mastery of the district’s grade level curricular objectives and required state benchmarks.
  • Development of a high level of proficiency in Spanish literacy, (speaking, reading, and writing).
  • Acquire a knowledge understanding and appreciation of other world cultures and people.

  • Students engage in conversations, provide and obtain information, express feelings and emotions, and exchange opinions
  • Students understand and interpret written and spoken language on a variety of topics
  • Students present information, concepts, and ideas to an audience of listeners or readers on a variety of topics
  • Students demonstrate an understanding of the relationship between the practices and perspectives of the culture studied
  • Students demonstrate an understanding of the relationship between the products and perspectives of the culture studied
  • Students reinforce and further their knowledge of other disciplines through the foreign language
  • Students acquire information and recognize the distinctive viewpoints that are only available through the foreign language and its cultures
  • Students demonstrate understanding of the nature of language through comparisons of the language studied and their own
  • Students demonstrate understanding of the concept of culture through comparisons of the cultures studied and their own.
  • Students use the language both within and beyond the school setting
  • Students show evidence of becoming life-long learners by using the language for personal enjoyment and enrichment.
Based on the National Standards in Foreign Language Education

Spanish Immersion Research

“In addition to developing a lifelong ability to communicate with people from other countries and backgrounds, other benefits are include improved overall school performance and superior problem-solving skills.”

Bamford, K.W., & Mizokawa, D.T. (1991) Additive-Billingual (immersion) education. Cognitive and language development, Language Learning, 41, 413-429.

“Research has shown that, “the effect of learning a second language on first-language skills has been positive in all studies done….(and) the loss of instructional time in English has never been shown to have negative effects on the achievement of the first language.”

Bournot – Trites, M. & Tellowitz. U. (2002). Report of Current Research on the Effects of Second Language Learning on First Language Literacy Skills; Halifax, Nova Scotia: Atlantic Provinces Educational Foundation.

“Recent brain research indicates that learning a second language is a powerful experience that helps the brain of a young children develop. The young brain will actually grow the connections needed to learn the language.”

Dumas, L.S. (1999). Learning a Second Language: Exposing Your Child to a New World of Words Boosts Her Brainpower, Vocabulary, and Self-Esteem/ Child February, 72, 74, 76-77.

“Bilinguals demonstrate more mental flexibility and perform better on task requiring mental manipulation. They are original in verbal expression, demonstrate non-verbal intelligence and can answer open-ended questions more freely than monolinguals (Lazaruk, in press).”

Lazaruk, W. (in press) Linguistic, Academic and Cognitive Benefits of French Immersion. Canadian Modern Language Review.


Why should I consider enrolling my child in an immersion program?

Immersion programs are the fastest growing and most effective type of foreign language program currently available in U.S. schools. Most immersion students can be expected to reach higher levels of second language proficiency than students in other school-based language programs. Becoming bilingual opens the door to communication with more people in more places. If you want your child to be armed with the skills necessary to interact competently in an increasingly interdependent world community, then you should consider the language immersion program at Jenison Public Schools. Children are language sponges, and numerous studies have shown that immersion at an early age in a foreign language is the best way to ensure future fluency.

What is less commonly known is that such immersion also increases vocabulary growth in the native language and enhances overall cognitive development. Put simply, children who experience immersion learning acquire distinct advantages that go far beyond fluency in a second language. Immersion learners benefit cognitively, exhibiting greater nonverbal problem-solving abilities and more flexible thinking than their non-immersion peers. It has been suggested that the very processes learners use to make sense of the teacher’s meaning in a second language make them pay closer attention and think harder. These processes, in turn, appear to have a positive effect on cognitive development.

More than three decades of studies consistently have shown that immersion students achieve as well as, or better than, non-immersion peers on standardized measures of verbal and mathematics skills administered in English.

Are there any other advantages to language immersion?

In survey after survey, company presidents and business executives cite the ability to speak and write clearly and effectively as the most important qualification they look for in a job candidate. At the same time, however, they often complain how difficult it is to find candidates with adequate communication skills. Technology and economic interdependence have made the world a smaller place. Never before have so many people from different countries been able to come together to share knowledge or do business. And never before has there been such a need for talented and well-trained young people in all fields who are conversant with other cultures and who can communicate well in English and in another language.

How will learning everything in a second language affect my child’s English language and literacy de

Many parents are initially fearful that immersion may have a negative impact on their child’s English language development. But research consistently has demonstrated that the immersion experience actually enhances English language development. It should be noted that full immersion students’ English development may lag temporarily in reading, word knowledge, and spelling while instruction is occurring exclusively in the immersion language. However, after a year or two of instruction in English language arts, this discrepancy disappears. It is important for parents to understand that this lag is temporary and to be expected. Immersion students need consistent exposure to, and support for, English at home. Parents need to provide their children with experiences that will enhance their English language and literacy development. For example, they should read to their children every day and involve them in games and activities that complement their classroom learning. Research shows that the stronger the development of the native language, the greater the proficiency in the immersion language, so children who enter an immersion program with a strong base in English will succeed more easily than those whose English skills are not as strong.

What are the effects of immersion education?

A growing body of research on immersion education has shown that immersion students consistently meet or exceed academic expectations in the following areas: Second language skills: Immersion students by far outperform students in traditional foreign language classes. They are functionally proficient in the immersion language and are able to communicate according to their age and grade level. Immersion students build a strong second language base upon which to continue moving toward full proficiency and to develop proficiency in subsequent languages. English language skills: In the early years of English instruction, there may be a temporary lag in English reading and writing skills. By the end of elementary school, however, immersion students do as well or better than students in English-only classes. Content areas: Immersion students achieve in academic areas as well as students in English-only programs. Immersion students have well developed problem-solving skills, which leads to consistently high achievement in mathematics beginning at an early age. The achievement of immersion students in other content areas is at least equal to students in English-only programs. Cultural sensitivity: Immersion students are more aware of and show positive attitudes towards other cultures.

What common issues should I expect and how do I handle them?

Be prepared for the fact that your child will initially be confused and even frustrated. They will likely be very tired at the end of the day, as language learning is cognitively demanding. This reaction is very normal for first- time immersion learners and can last from two weeks to two months depending on the child’s age and basic language ability. Children are generally very resilient and will soon feel comfortable with the second language.

Here are some common concerns.
  1. Slow initial performance. Your child may initially learn to read and write English at a slower pace than students in single language schools. Parent involvement is essential at this stage to encourage English reading at home. Once this temporary stage has passed, most immersion students perform at or above grade level in both languages.
  2. Homework help. Parents who do not speak the second language may feel frustrated at times because they don’t know exactly what their child is doing. If you are concerned about your child’s progress, do not hesitate to call and ask to have a conference with his or her teacher. The teachers are anxious to help you understand and participate in your child’s education. There are also websites in French/English and Spanish/English that are helpful to many families.
  3. Well-meaning friends and family. Well-meaning friends, neighbors and relations may be critical and unsupportive at first. You may be told that what you are doing is not in the best interest of your child. When people see that your child doesn’t forget his native language, does learn to read in English and does keep up with the neighborhood children, they will be assured that you made the right decision.

How will my child understand what to do in the classroom?

In the beginning stages of learning the language the teachers will use exaggerated hand and facial expressions to illustrate what they are saying. Keep in mind that many, if not all, the other children in the classroom will be in the same position. The teachers use songs, stories, and activities to help build vocabulary and an understanding of the second language. Language learning is carefully structured to ensure that instruction is comprehensible.

What can I do to support my child’s immersion experience if I don’t speak the second language?

Like all parents, parents of children in immersion programs should maintain an active role in their children’s education by providing experiences that help develop their English language skills and enhance their cognitive and affective development. Parents should read with children daily in English and engage them in activities where they need to apply what they are learning in class. Parents should also communicate with the teachers on a regular basis about their children’s’ academic, social, and language development. They should become well informed about immersion education, make a commitment to keep their child in the immersion program, and support their children’s use of the immersion language outside the school context, for example, by providing reading materials in the immersion language at home.

Who are the teachers?

The Spanish Immersion teachers at Jenison Spanish Immersion are all fluent or native speakers and have extensive knowledge and experience in Spanish speaking countries.  They are all highly qualified under Michigan teacher-licensing requirements.
8375 20th Ave.
Jenison, MI 49428
Phone: 616.457.8890
Fax: 616.457.8898
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