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Lifelong Learning

Spanish Immersion

Welcome to the Spanish Immersion Program (SI) of Moorhead Area Public Schools. SI offers children an open door to learning a second language and a variety of cultural experiences while developing academic excellence.

What is Spanish Immersion?

The Spanish Immersion program offers children in grades K-6 an opportunity to learn to read, write and speak Spanish. The Spanish Immersion Program is located at Ellen Hopkins Elementary (grades K-4) and Horizon Middle School West Campus (grades 5-6). At both schools, students in the program are immersed or completely engaged in a second language while learning all subject areas, including reading, writing, mathematics, science and social studies. Using the identical elementary curriculum used by the other Moorhead elementary schools, SI teachers instruct in Spanish rather than English.

The Spanish Immersion students may work in multiage classes that are integrated into the full school community. Multiage educational practices are grounded in a philosophy that every child can learn at his or her own pace and that learning is a continuum rather than a series of steps. The multiage classroom creates a nurturing community where students begin to take responsibility for their own education, and it supports the acquisition of language and academic growth.

Besides learning the regular school curriculum, the students will become fluent writers, readers and speakers of Spanish. Students are also exposed to the cultures of Spanish-speaking communities in the United States and around the world. Along with the recognized benefits of being bilingual/biliterate, recent brain research highlights many other advantages to learning a second language at an early age in a program like Moorhead's K-6 immersion program.

Many schools report improved standardized test scores and improved English language skills for immersion students by the time they are in grades 5 and 6.

Read the Spanish Immersion brochure. Find resources for parents and students in the Spanish Immersion Program.

Do students have to live in Moorhead to enroll in the Spanish Immersion Program?

SI is available to students living in Moorhead. After all school district resident students are enrolled, other Minnesota students may open enroll. Students living in North Dakota are only allowed to enroll after Minnesota students have been placed. Students living outside of Minnesota are charged tuition.

When do students enroll in SI?

Parents who wish to enroll their kindergarten-age child in the Spanish Immersion Program should complete kindergarten registration online beginning at 8 a.m. Feb. 6, 2019, at Online pre-enrollment forms are date- and time-stamped when submitted and used to identify the 72 students for the program. If there are more than 72 requests for registration a waiting list is created.

Children with an older sibling in the immersion program are given preference only if their pre-enrollment form is submitted by 6 p.m. March 15, 2019. District residents receive preference before open enrolled students or out-of-state residents.

Parents may choose to enroll their child as a first- or second-grader if there are openings due to attrition. Parents who are interested in enrolling their first- or second-grade child in the Spanish Immersion Program should contact Lynnelle Dirksen, Ellen Hopkins Elementary principal.

Do students have to start SI in kindergarten or can they wait for first grade?

Starting SI as a first-grader is certainly acceptable. Hopkins often has openings for first-graders and a number of students start in first grade. It is a good time to start since children have had a year in school and had an opportunity to further develop their English skills.

Can older students enroll in SI?

Other children enter at an older age if they have some experience with Spanish and a strong background in English. Students transferring from another SI program are welcome to our program. The program is not intended for children who use Spanish as their first language, instead it immerses children in Spanish so they are able to learn the language as a second language.

Are there any prerequisites for children entering SI?

There are no prerequisites to entering the program. We do stress the need for children to have a strong English vocabulary as they begin learning a second language.

Is SI kindergarten an all-day kindergarten?

The SI kindergarten is an all-day program, exactly the same as the regular English kindergarten.

Is the SI Program for children who speak Spanish as their first language?

The program is not intended for children who use Spanish as their first language. Instead, it immerses children in Spanish so they are able to learn the language as a second language.

Why should we consider SI?

SI is an outstanding program that offers children an opportunity to learn and be challenged. Not only do kids learn a second language, but we also find that other skills and brain development are enhanced by the additional stimuli a second language presents. SI students learn mental strategies that enhance their learning in all academic areas.

In today's global economy the knowledge of a second language offers today's students an edge in all aspects of their future aspirations. SI offers students a world view of culture and traditions in an era of political fluctuation and social misunderstanding.

What can we expect to see in our child's academic growth as a result of being in SI?

It is fascinating to watch the language growth in SI from grade K-3. By the time a student is a third-grader, he or she should be able to speak, read and write at a high level in English and Spanish. For example, students are ready for chapter books and able to write in paragraphs in Spanish.

Most immersion students grasp English reading with little formal instruction, as they are already learning reading skills in Spanish. There is a transfer of skills to English and many students are reading at grade level or higher in English by grade 3. Of course, there are the exceptions. A student who struggles in reading in Spanish may struggle to read in English and vice versa. Most immersion students are developing their writing phonetically in Spanish and they tend to begin to write English phonetically as well. Spelling and writing tend to improve in both languages through grades 3-5. By the time the students are exiting SI at the end of grade 6, most write and read as well, or better than, their English-only peers. Spelling may still be difficult until middle school.

As a parent who does not speak Spanish how hard is it for me to help my child with homework?

SI parents who don't speak Spanish (and many parents don't) will find that most things are sent home in both languages in grades K-2. By grade 3 some things may come home for parents in English but you will see more Spanish. Since most third-graders can read and understand directions without a great deal of parental help they do not receive English directions unless the assignment is entirely in English.

Many parents acquire some basic Spanish through the years just by exposure to student homework. Teachers are helpful about providing translations at parents' request. We also recommend a Spanish/English dictionary or using an online translator like

How can I become involved in the school community if my child is in SI?

Parents are invited to be involved through the Hopkins Parent Teacher Advisory Council (PTAC) and classroom activities. Hopkins Elementary does not have a separate SI parent organization. We are happy to pass along a parent name to potential SI families. These parents will share with others their experiences with the program and how they have become active in their child's school experience.

Do the students follow the program into middle school?

SI was expanded to grade 6 beginning with the 2017-18 school year. Students have opportunities for world language classes during the middle school years, and Community Education frequently offers a Spanish Club class for middle school students. In high school, students have the option of taking Spanish or Chinese classes, and some opt to take Spanish classes at the local universities.

How can we learn more about SI?

Parents who are considering enrolling their children in the district's K-6 Spanish Immersion Program are invited to learn more.

Meetings with Lynnelle Dirksen, Ellen Hopkins Elementary principal, will provide information about immersion education and the program at Hopkins Elementary. Parents will also have the opportunity to talk about their child's specific interests and needs, as well as discuss their questions or concerns.

Parents may also meet with a current immersion parent or visit Hopkins Elementary to observe the Spanish immersion classes. Parents must call the Hopkins office at 218-284-4300 to schedule their meeting or classroom visit.

A video about the program is available by request through the Hopkins office at 218-284-4300.

For more information about the Spanish Immersion Program, contact Lynnelle Dirksen, principal of Ellen Hopkins Elementary School, at 218-284-4300.