Written by Rich Forestano Friday, 05 August 2011 00:00
As part of contributing in a globalized society per the school district mission, foreign languages are being introduced to students at younger and younger grades in Mineola and throughout Long Island. At a previous meeting of the board of education, Mineola School Superintendent Dr. Michael Nagler gave a brief update on changes being made to the foreign language program for the 2011-2012 school year.
Currently there are two main options for teaching foreign language at the elementary level: FLES (foreign language in elementary grades), where the children are taught the language as an everyday subject through high school, and FLEX (foreign language experience) which is shortened exposure to multiple languages to help children decide which language they wish to study later in their academic careers. Currently the Oceanside, Garden City, Herricks, Carle Place and Jericho school districts have this latter program in place.
“Our teachers believe that that is not going to be the best way to teach a specific language,” Dr. Nagler said of the FLEX option. “It has value in and of itself, but its not teaching the language per se.”
Another alternative is the immersion program run in Herricks where half the day is taught in foreign language. However, the program requires teachers certified in both the language and the subjects being taught in the language.
In the coming school year, foreign language teacher Laura Coppi will be at the Willis Avenue School while Stephanie Klein will be teaching at Hampton and Meadow on an alternate day schedule. Both teachers felt that classes once per week were insufficient and are opting for two to three questions per week. As far as which language, both teachers are certified in Spanish, with Coppi also certified in French.
“They do both have a foreign language extension that certifies them to do this,” Nagler said. “I think they’re both very capable of the job.”
The teachers didn’t have a preference about either entering the classrooms as a push-in teacher or having students report to a different room for instruction, preferring to try both and make a recommendation in one year. “They’re treating this as ‘let’s jump in, lets see how it goes, but we really want to keep a pulse on how things go’,” Dr. Nagler said.
The program for 2011-2012 would consist of meetings twice a week for 30 minutes each, one with no classroom teacher and one with a teacher present. The teachers have also requested to form a committee of classroom teachers, parents and administrators to guide the program.
The program can be administered easily in the 2011-2012 school year with kindergarten through second grade in one building, but “it’s the year after when our current kindergarten children get to Jackson so we have to plan for that,” Dr. Nagler said.
Coppi and Klein have been designing curricula over the summer. Nagler said to his understanding, foreign language in the very early grades is music based.
“They teach them popular songs in other languages,” Nagler said.