comment 0

dual language immersion professional learning: finding a recipe that delivers

Each school has its own special recipe that makes it unique. The recipe includes ingredients like school cultural practices, beliefs about student capacity, curricular choices, the home context of the students, geographic location, etc.

When dual language immersion education is added to a school’s recipe, the ingredients and steps involved simply multiply.

And just like that recipe that looks so good on Pinterest but requires careful attention to quality of ingredients and ordering of steps–you have to pay attention to your immersion recipe if you want the results to be as good as promised.

dual language immersion professional learning: finding a recipe that delivers

One of the “must haves” in your immersion recipe is dual language immersion-specific professional learning.

If you were to survey all of the language immersion leaders across the nation, they would tell you that they wish they had more opportunities to experience immersion-focused learning. Too often, immersion teachers participate in English-geared professional learning and are expected to immersionize it on their own. While it’s sustainable for some things, knowledgeable immersion teachers emphatically report that it’s HARD to do.

Just like a recipe, immersion-specific pd done right has the capacity to make the end result oh-so-sweet when attention is paid to:

  1. how it’s planned
  2. the way it’s purposefully mixed
  3. who’s in the kitchen

Let’s explore the nitty gritty of these three concepts that will help you take your dual language immersion professional learning to the next level.

#1: HOW IT’S PLANNED

What are you planning on serving up for families at the end of the program once all is said and done? What outcomes should they expect for their children? What will the students know and be able to do as a result of their learning language and content through immersion? Any and all professional learning (immersion or not!) better start with the end in mind, just like your recipe.

Teaching in an immersion program is just as much science as it is art. When you’re baking, you don’t grab random spices and throw in inexact quantities. Similarly, high quality immersion programs avoid the “grab and sprinkle” approach to pd. They avoid fads in the field of immersion education. They stick to what’s research-based and grounded in results for kids.

While each school is working on its own unique recipe: It’s still. A. Recipe. Pick a plan aligned to desired outcomes. Map it out as part of a process and seek an organization that’s eager to meet your program goals without wavering on standards and immersion research.

#2: MIX IT WELL

If we were to look at different school districts’ plans for professional learning, we’d quickly notice that they’re varied, because the schools themselves are different! It’s of paramount importance to schools that, no matter what, they’re offering an equitable educational experience across their programs — regardless of whether they’re traditional English, Spanish or Mandarin Chinese immersion, or otherwise. That’s a GOOD thing.

What’s challenging, though, is that immersion teachers are most often expected to participate in district-level professional learning that may or may not blend well with the way things operate in the immersion language. While that part is often unavoidable, it is most certainly manageable when district initiatives are mixed well with immersion program characteristics and needs.

The best way to ensure that there’s a solid blend of professional learning is to collaborate across program strands. Identify which elements of the district’s initiative works well in immersion, and which elements might need to be adapted or modified because of the nuances associated with the target language or the program.

We had the privilege of linking arms with a school district this summer that was making a big push for further developed foundational skills in English. Their immersion teachers knew that Spanish foundational skills in some cases are taught differently, creating a  mismatch in the professional learning.

In fact, the district pd was actually prompting Spanish immersion teachers to teach Spanish literacy skills…the English way. (Think phonemic awareness for English versus syllabic awareness for Spanish.) Any immersion teacher will tell you that’s not a good mix and leads to unpredictable outcomes for kids!

It was a treat for our team to connect with the school’s leadership, learn about their district initiative, and pinpoint essential understandings and practices that would honor their district’s plan, while building understanding and instructional skills specific to the immersion language. Simply put, an investment in the how is just as important as the what when it comes to mixing initiatives together.

#3: WHO’S IN THE KITCHEN?

When planning professional learning with dual language immersion programs, our team recommends that schools get the right people into the room. It’s important that district leadership is present along with dual language immersion principals, lead teachers, and in some cases, curriculum directors. Doing so encourages everyone to come into alignment regarding the goals of the immersion program, and how pd will move everyone toward them. With the right people present, there are never too many cooks in the kitchen!

By involving the right people in the planning process, you can:

  • enhance district-level understanding of dual language immersion education
  • help district leaders see the importance of maintaining the linguistic integrity of the immersion language and English
  • increase immersion teachers’ investment in the process and implementation of the learning

How add.a.lingua adds to your dual language immersion recipe

When our team facilitates professional learning experiences, each workshop is crafted to address your program’s specific needs and is grounded in the add.a.lingua quality quadrants and success indicators for dual language immersion programs. The process begins with planning conversations, and following the workshop we host reflection conversations so that teams can feel confident moving forward toward their goals.

What veteran immersion teachers are saying about add.a.lingua professional learning

From Michigan to Minnesota and Illinois to Idaho, the feedback that we received all summer long continues to tell us that immersion teachers are hungry and ready for out-of-the box, hands-on, dynamic professional learning catered to their contexts:

“You ladies brought a breath of fresh air to our school. I believe you were able to open the eyes of some of our staff members who have been resistant in the past, and I hope we will all be starting out on a positive footing for this year! I hope we will be able to do some follow up with you all throughout the school year.”

“I have attended many years of professional development opportunities. My favorites so far, and by favorites, I mean the ones that have meant the most to my practice have been: Learning and the Brain (awesome) and now add.a.lingua!! Thank you for making it meaningful and personal to our school at this time with this staff. We look forward to working with you in the future!”

“Most useful, interactive and engaging PD I’ve had in my time teaching. Thank you for not talking to us and making us walk through activities as if we were children.”

If you’d like to learn more about add.a.lingua’s professional learning experiences or schedule a time to talk with our instructional specialists about the challenges you’re facing, reach out using the form below and we’ll b in touch.

Filed under: professional development

About the Author

Posted by

Stephanie Irizarry holds undergraduate ​teacher certification in Spanish and Elementary Education, an M.Ed in Literacy Studies with emphasis in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL),​ as well as an additional M.Ed. in Interdisciplinary Studies with Certification in Dual Language and Immersion Education from the University of Minnesota. Her broad teaching experiences in dual language immersion programs and​ in​ English learner contexts provide her with deep insight into the needs of new and existing dual language immersion programs.​ Co-author of the publication Lending Student Voice to Latino ELL Migrant Children's Perspectives on Learning (2013), she knows that students increasingly take ownership of their education when their voices are honored and expectations are held high. Stephanie is the proud mom of two boys and is thrilled that they'll know the joy of learning in high quality dual language immersion environments as they grow. She enjoys spending time with her husband and children, travel, latin dancing, and reading in Spanish.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.