District Considers Expansion of Elementary Foreign Language Program

Nic Franchini, Staff Reporter, Sophomore

The Board of Education met January 9 regarding expansion of the Foreign Language Elementary School program (FLES). Assistant Superintendent Dr. Steven Garcia began by addressing the huge success of FLES in the elementary schools.The program, which was implemented at the beginning of the school year, has introduced many second and third graders to the Spanish language. The goal for this program is to have children learn an additional language earlier in life to prepare them for both higher levels of education and the application of foreign language skills both in and out of school.

Superintendent Champ followed with some comments in support of the program.

Champ said, “The FLES program has brought a whole new level of engagement and learning to the second and third grade classes in the Pelham Public Schools. The natural language approach and total physical response strategies make language development accessible and fun for all students. This new program will be game- changing in providing a foundation for biliteracy for our students that will benefit them far into the future.”

Studies have shown that the best time to learn another language is at age ten. This is because the brain is beginning to open up to new sounds and patterns. This makes a new language simpler to learn, compared to a person who has a brain that is fully developed and wired for only one language. Another study showed that students who performed higher on standardized tests speak another language. Therefore, learning another language will help students with these tests in the future.

The principals from each Elementary School came to the meeting to voice the reports they had on the program and provide teacher feedback. Students work with one of the two FLES teachers for thirty minutes every other day, but that is not the only time that Spanish is spoken and incorporated into the school day. Teachers are reporting that the students are doing morning meetings in Spanish and that they are speaking Spanish whenever they can. Sometimes the teachers will also get involved in the lesson that the FLES teachers are doing.

Even though the program seems very positive, some questions still remain. One concern is the amount of teachers in the program, as there are currently two teachers for two grades throughout all four elementary schools. That means that each teacher has two schools and two whole grades to get to every other day. The program is also looking to expand to the fourth and fifth grades. More FLES teachers are going to be needed if the program looks to enlarge any further.