FAQ About Immersion

FAQ about Chinese Immersion at Heritage Elementary
At what age can my child be considered to join the Chinese Immersion program?  Do you accept new students beyond the kindergarten age group?

·Students new to the Chinese language can enter the program in kindergarten or 1st grade when there is space available.  For classes in 2nd through 6th grades, parents need to make an appointment with the principal for their child to participate in a Chinese language interview to determine if their level of Chinese proficiency is similar to those of students in the program on that grade level.  If it is similar, we will accept them into the program on their grade level.
Do you anticipate that there will be openings for the coming class of kindergarten students for those who don’t already have siblings in the program?  How do you decide who gets accepted to the program if you only have a few open slots available?

·It is anticipated that most, if not all, of the slots will be filled by siblings of students who are already in Heritage’s Chinese Immersion program.  We are accepting applications for any openings that we might have, they will be filled using a lottery system with priority given to families within Heritage boundaries first.  Decisions about these openings won’t be made until mid-August, so we encourage you to register your student in our English-only program if you live in Heritage boundaries or in your home school boundary kindergarten.  We can then transfer them into the program if there are openings and they are selected to participate.

What are the class sizes like in Immersion?  How does that compare to English-only classes?

·Class sizes in Immersion generally start large, about 30 students in kindergarten.  The rationale is that as we lose students due to moves or other reasons, the class sizes will stay comparable to the English only classes in the upper grades.  English-only classes in the younger grades are typically around 22-24 students.  Our upper grade Immersion classes are around 24-25 students each, while the English only classes are generally 28-30 students.

If we are able to have our first child join the program this coming year as a kindergartener, will our younger children automatically get to be in Immersion in coming years?

·The “sibling preference” will no longer be in effect for students whose families are new to the program this year.  In coming years, those siblings will be given an additional entry in the lottery for a space along with those whose families have never participated.

What is the expected course of study once my child who has been in the Immersion program gets to the Junior High level?

    ·Junior High

    o   7th grade – All 7th graders take DLI 3 Honors.

    o   8th grade – All 8th graders take DLI 4 Honors.

    o   9th grade – All 9th graders take DLI 5 Honors.

In addition to the above courses, the students can also take the culture and media course while they are in 7th & 8th grades.  It is a semester course, and it is optional.  Students are strongly encouraged to participate, because it will really help them with the AP exam.  It is similar in content to a civics class.  If there is not enough interest to run the course, the junior high may not offer it each semester or even each year. 

In May of the students’ 9th grade year, they will take the AP Language & Culture Exam.  The curriculum in 7th, 8th, and 9th grade DLI Honors courses incorporates the AP themes and skills, and it has been the district’s experience with other languages that students are well-prepared for the exam at this time. 

In high school, the students who have passed the AP exam take 3000 level university courses that are taught by a high school teacher and a university professor.  The professor is typically there every other day (A day or B day). 

Is there any academic requirement or testing for the Immersion program?

·No – but please see the questions that address entry after 1st grade and/or common issues that are encountered in Immersion.

Do students have to speak Chinese only in the Immersion classroom?

·Yes, this is a state Immersion requirement.  The concept behind Immersion is that students are “immersed” in the language rather than just being taught rote phrases and vocabulary.  Research shows that second language development is strongest when the use is required, much like happens naturally when a person moves to a location where the language spoken is different than the one they already know.  This may be uncomfortable at times, but it teaches both the language skill and the personal skills of resiliency and adaptation (aka. grit). 

Understandably, this is not expected at the beginning of kindergarten from the students, the teacher however only speaks Chinese even from the first day of kindergarten.  However, by the second semester of kindergarten, most students are very successful at speaking mostly in Chinese in class.  Grades 1-6 have this expectation from the beginning.  The teachers are encouraged to use praise, rewards, and positive incentives with students who use Chinese rather than consequences for those who use English.  This usually results in students choosing to use Chinese.  Consequences may happen on those rare occasions when a child appears to be using English to disrupt rather than to get vital information that they don’t know how to do in Chinese.

What if I decide in later years that Immersion isn’t a good fit for my child who is in the program?

·We encourage you to come meet with the teacher and/or administration to see if we can design some accommodations to meet your student’s needs.  However, sometimes personal situations change and parents may choose to exit their child from the program at any time.  Your child will then be placed in the class with the lowest enrollment on that grade level. 

What are some common concerns/issues that should be considered in deciding whether to participate in Immersion?

·Any student, regardless of academic and/or behavioral skills, can be successful in the Immersion program.  We have seen that several issues sometimes become considerations for certain children and/or their families.  They include:

-student resilience (Does your child handle change and unusual situations well?)

-student anxiety (Does your child feel anxious often?  Is starting kindergarten causing anxiety that will be heightened by spending several hours a day with a teacher who is saying words that your child won’t understand at first?)

-parent/student willingness to accept/adapt to other cultures (Immersion teachers are often from other cultures and may have teaching methods and interpersonal interactions that differ from those that are usual in the American education setting.)

-parent/student willingness to accept the Chinese-only expectation in the Chinese classroom (not only do the students and teacher only speak Chinese in the room, they will step into the hall to speak to a parent in English because we want to reduce any chance of the children seeing their teacher speak English)

-parent/student willingness to accept frequent “new” teachers (Many of our teachers come from China and stay only for 1-3 years.  This is due to visa restrictions and employment obligations in China.  Additionally, being an English “partner” teacher is a doubly-demanding job that has frequent turnover.)

-parent/student willingness to be with the same group of classmates for 7 years (While we reorganize the students in each section yearly, they still have the same 55-60 kids in their class for their entire Heritage experience.  Group activities are done regularly with the whole grade level, but class learning time is with the same peers year after year.)

These issues, including student anxiety, can all be worked through successfully and maintain a good Immersion experience for students.  They are just important considerations as you choose whether Immersion is a good fit for your child and/or family.