Christian, Howard & Loeb (2000) describe how dual immersion programs are implemented and the effect that they have on students. The goal for these dual immersion programs is to develop a high level of proficiency in both the first and the second language, as well as grade level academic achievement and cross-cultural skills. Dual immersion programs are implemented according to the student population. The features and variations of the program depend on many factors, including local policy, the grade levels that are served, languages that are needed for instruction, and the time spent on each one.
Most dual immersion programs serve elementary level students, also, which is very limiting to the entrance of monolingual students after the third grade. That is due to the difficulty of students who need to catch up with bilingual competence after that grade. Students benefit from dual immersion programs, but the language minority student who already speaks his first language well benefits most. This is due to the fact that strong first-language skills transfer, therefore facilitating the learning of the second language.
Dual immersion programs are very demanding from an instructional perspective. It is important that teachers are able to ensure credentials to teach in these kinds of programs. Presently there are few, if any, teacher college preparation programs that include dual immersion specialization. Teachers have to focus on second language development while they are making the lessons challenging for a native speaker. Both experiential and cooperative learning strategies are very highly recommended.
These strategies are ones that can be implemented while teaching thematic units. Christian, Howard, & Loeb (2000) state that, as the country strives to provide education with high standards for every student, and as the country seeks to include language competence in at least two languages, dual immersion programs offer a great deal of promise for all kinds of students. These kinds of programs help to expand the country's language resources by both conserving and increasing language skills that are used by the minority students as well as adding another language to the native speaker.
Knowledge is presented in the mind, but it has to be used in comprehension in order to infer meaning. The concept of schema theory, then, is ubiquitous within the reading comprehension literature. This ubiquity has often confused the understanding of the way knowledge is being used and conceptualized in second-language reading comprehension. Nassaji (2002) analyzes assumptions to the underlying schema theory and provides a construction-integration model of comprehension applicable to second-language reading.
Schema theory, says Nassaji (2002), employs five processes to explain how knowledge is represented in the mind. These are selection, abstraction, interpretation, integration, and reconstruction. The schema views knowledge used in comprehension as mind structures used for mapping information from text. These structures are both predictive and controlled by a reader. Schema theory also assumes that the inferences made in comprehension are made in a reader's mind and based on that reader's prior experiences. The role of both prior knowledge and experiences in second language reading comprehension is very well established.
It is, almost exclusively, in schema theory's context. The major strength of the theory is that it both clarifies and emphasizes the importance of having prior knowledge structures and their effects on second language reading comprehension. The theoretical model of construction integration combines text with integration processes memory and recall, and that helps educators understand and expand what may not fully be explained in schema theory in regard to second-language reading.
Teachers should be enabled to make a distinction between students who may have syntactic and lexical skills of a second language but are unable to use it for comprehension of text, and those students who lack a knowledge base that is generally required for understanding in a second-language text. Nassaji (2002) states that second-language reading comprehension is a function of using multiple sources of knowledge that are too complex to be accounted for by a simple and expectation-driven conception of the role of knowledge. Nassaji (2002) also states that the need for a theory-based approach to research that will explore the mechanisms underlying these complex processes is evident. Nassaji's (2002) theoretical synthesis suggests computational and memory-based models help to provide a framework to explore the processes of second-language reading comprehension.
A shift toward a form-focused instruction has been taking place for teaching dual immersion and second-language learners. However, there has been very little written about how to perform this kind of approach within the classroom setting. Significant research evidence does indicate that exposure to the second language meaning is not sufficient, and that grammar development must also take place (Nassaji, 2002). This is true of students who are simply trying to learn a second language, and also true of students who are involved in a dual immersion program. Focus on form can also be incorporated into communicative activities that are used in the classroom in order to help a student move forward.
Incorporating Dual Immersion Into the Classroom -- What Teachers Can Do
Nassaji (2000) explains that there are two different methods to incorporate a focus on form into many communicative classroom activities. One method is the design method, where communicative activities are created with a deliberate focus on form. The other method is the process method, where naturally-occurring communications in the classroom incorporate a focus on form. That process is generally guided by the teacher. Teachers need to distinguish between focus on forms and focus on form.
It is easy to misunderstand that the two are different. Focus on forms is similar to traditional grammar instruction, which teaches isolated language forms. Focus on form attracts the learner's attention to linguistic forms as they arise during activities that are focused on meaning. Collaborative tasks which require students' cooperative understanding and production of a second language are excellent ways of integrating focus on form and communication when a student is involved in a dual immersion classroom.
In order for students to do well in a classroom where dual immersion is taking place, teachers and other staff members have to be ready to handle these students. Without proper training and development, they can do very little to teach students properly. The staff development process is outlined in the non-negotiable standards of the National Staff Development Council (NSDC), which were revised in 1995. Hirsh (2001) describes the NSDC standards, predicting that when teachers receive quality, job-embedded staff development sessions, the students' test scores will increase. Hirsh (2001) states that:
1. Staff development must be driven by results for student academic achievement. It requires that staff development be: results-driven, standards-based and job-embedded.
2. Staff development planning must begin by focusing on the student. Then, it needs to specify what the students need to be able to do and what teachers need to do to ensure student-achievement.
3. The NSDC consists of twelve standards that link teachers' learning to students' results. The rational is that the staff development is not only for teachers but for everyone who affects student learning. It is the responsibility of superintendents, principals, district administrators, and teachers. NSDC presents a new focus on technology, and an application has been added to each standard. The revised 12 standards are presented in three categories: context, process, and content.
4. States need to fund and audit staff development. School systems should offer incentives for attendance, and then align school improvement plans to the NSDC standards. Schools should conduct assessment needs periodically and refer to them in frequently-planned meetings to discuss issues with staff development.
Schools can and should implement standards to move toward both improved training and improved learning for their teachers. The result will be improved academic achievement for all of the students at that school. The process of thorough implementation begins with understanding, which has to be followed by opportunities to practice that involve immediate feedback. That kind of ongoing support is thought to be needed in the classrooms during an instructional day. Staff development must then focus on consistent expectations for quality both from teachers and other educators as well as from students.
Cochran-Smith (2003) presents a framework of multicultural teacher education which emphasizes social justice education. It also requires a practice which considers human development as social, and that is influenced by power and variations of that power such as gender, sexuality, race and economic status, and diversity. The Guide for Schoolwide Planning for Paraeducator Support is presented by Giangreco, Edelman & Broer (2003). This tool allows schools to plan steps that are necessary to coincide with the particular needs that they have. Paraeducator support is very important when it comes to dual immersion programs for language learning. Since Paraeducators assist in both general and special education classes with the students and their families, it is very important that they know what to do when they are in a dual immersion…