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As the school year winds down, add.a.lingua teachers gear up for professional learning

As the school year lets out, teachers often let go of the daily schedule. Although it means living day to day without the typical bell-to-bell routine, don’t think for a minute that teachers “let up” in the summer.

Let me take a common myth and bust it up on behalf of all teachers:






Sure, we current and former teachers see how you might think we do. But, if you were to survey the teachers you know, you’d quickly learn that their summers are filled with a wide variety of education related activities that help them grow as leaders of learning so they can come back in the fall and rock it out for kids!

In my summers as a classroom teacher, I taught six week summer migrant programs all day everyday. When I wasn’t teaching, I was taking advantage of any free time I had to participate on my school district’s committee work, taking graduate level education classes, attending conferences, or tutoring students who needed an extra boost in the summer. Teachers have a hard time turning “off” their teacher brains in the summer. It’s logical. After all, we’re in the business of helping humans learn and grow, and that takes year round time and intensity.

Now, at add.a.lingua, my role lives year round. In the months of May through August, our instruction team amps up supports because add.a.lingua partner program teachers make a major dual language immersion learning push in the summer. That’s right. add.a.lingua teachers work HARD during the summer months with their teams of colleagues. They do it so that their programs are collectively equipped with sound, research-based practices and strategies that yield real results (linguistic, academic, and cultural understanding) throughout the school year.

What does it mean when a teachers say that they’ve been trained by add.a.lingua?

In teachers’ first three years in one of our partner schools, they experience roughly 20+ hours of add.a.lingua immersion specific professional learning. The crazy part? That’s not a total number. It’s literally 20+ hours per year! By the fourth and fifth years of partnership, the time spent in professional learning drops to between 5-10 hours per year because everyone uses what they’ve learned and experienced to build long-lasting, dual language immersion-specific collaborative structures in their own schools. We’re all about training, cheering on and building up resident experts in each and every single program we serve. It’s the Gradual Release in action with coaching every step of the way!

What’s so special about add.a.lingua training? Do existing immersion programs ever reach out to add.a.lingua?

On occasion, we receive phone calls from programs who have experienced a lot of teacher turnover. They share that although they’re a veteran program, they have many new teachers that haven’t had formal training in dual language immersion. Each new teacher brings with her a robust knowledge base to be celebrated! But, if there’s no plan for common professional learning experiences to calibrate values, beliefs, program alignment and instructional practices that yield top results for students, ripples begin to form. Results become a wild card. Though it’s no fault of the teachers, it’s definitely a challenge that existing programs often face, and add.a.lingua can help.

With our partner programs, any “new” teachers automatically come into our first year of training and follow the trajectory. Teachers navigate and calibrate values, beliefs and understandings in a way that helps integrate them into each unique school’s language immersion culture. This ensures common learning experiences across the program as it shifts and morphs over time. We’re now even seeing teachers seek out our partner programs for employment because they know that time, space, and dedication is placed on their professional learning! It’s amazing to experience, and a great way to honor teachers as the professionals they are.

So, what do add.a.lingua partner program teachers and point people say about their learning?

I often speak with teachers who have come from other language immersion contexts. They’ll talk about how they had never before received so much practitioner-based training on fidelity to their immersion model, development of the immersion language intentionally (not by chance!), balancing language and content instruction by integrating them, and monitoring progress in both the target language and English. add.a.lingua is thrilled to partner with so many teachers, point people and administrators as they roll up their sleeves this summer.

Another thing that always comes up is add.a.lingua’s accessibility. While our summer training is primarily online, we structure it to be collaborative, and we offer multiple touch points for in-person and online face-to-face contact to deepen our relationships throughout the school year. Check out what one point person of an add.a.lingua partner program is planning on doing to make the summer of 2018 an awesome one for add.a.lingua professional learning!

A funny thing happened the moment add.a.lingua announced that instead of heading to West Michigan for the educator summit, we would be completing our training virtually. Our budget said, “YAY!” and our teachers said, “NOOO!” Even in a world where it can feel like someone from across the globe is in the same room (Thanks, FaceTime!), we Californians knew we would miss the personal connection and literal face-time of the add.a.lingua staff and our partner schools/educators. Our trip to Michigan the previous year was filled with fantastic training, connecting with other teachers and schools mixed with a bit of restful, verdant vacation and team-bonding. It was great! Our virtual training this last summer was good—we met in a classroom in early July and tackled three of our four learning modules over the course of the week. We took breaks together and paused to have some reflection time. But our time wasn’t the same at all.

This year, as the point person at Redlands Christian School, I set out to create a summer training that mixes a little bit of both experiences. We won’t be flying to Michigan since it’s not in the budget, but we will be heading 45 minutes away to a cabin in the mountains where we will do a bulk of our add.a.lingua training. We will go through our add.a.lessonly courses (there’s wifi!), do some individual and collaborative planning for the school year, work on some curriculum development, plus take plenty of time to do some team-building and relaxation.

Julie’s plan is an excellent example of how each school can put their own twist on everything from location, timing, and energy for the experience, all the while staying faithful to the pillars of add.a.lingua’s five year pd level learning roadmap. Kudos to Julie and her team. We can’t wait to virtually “pop in” on their training to wish them well, let them know we’re here for them, and that we can’t wait for the new school year to start so we can support them via our partner care email and add.a.lingua office hours!

To sum it all up…add.a.lingua partner programs have us on speed dial. No matter what. And that’s how we like it. Why go it alone when you don’t have to?!

Get in touch using the form below if you’re interested in learning more about add.a.lingua teacher and administrator certification or our workshop pd offerings.


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addressing the summer slide for immersion students: ideas for fostering a love of language outside of school

Those of you who’ve read my posts before know that I’m a die-hard add.a.lingua immersion program advocate. The students! Their teachers! The quality! The research behind it all! Trust me. It can’t get much more passionate.

But, if I’m being honest, I’d say there are solely two things in this life that rile me up and and make me even more devoted to high quality add.a.lingua dual language immersion education. Just two things that can evoke the deepest of sentiments. Just two things that somehow manage to occupy every single space in my heart. What might those be, you ask?

The first one’s Xavier. He’s 8.

The second one’s Iván. He’s 4.

And I’m their profusely proud mom.

See, in addition to being a full time director at add.a.lingua, I’m also a passionate immersion parent who wants to do all she can to support her kids’ learning over the summer months. Now that spring is here, many families find themselves in my same boat. We all want the best for our kids and for them to maintain as much language learning as possible, even when they’re away from their awesome teachers! So…how do we do it?

Let’s take a peek at the top questions I receive on the topic, and how to take a no-stress-express approach to encouraging increased immersion language status, having FUN with the language, and spending time at play when school’s out for the summer so everyone (parents and families included!) can feel confident walking back into their add.a.lingua program in the fall!

Question #1: I don’t speak Spanish! Does my kid need summer school?


Absolutely NOT. Unless your child’s teacher/administrator has come to you with concerns and advised summer school for other reasons based on district guidelines, you shouldn’t put pressure on yourself to find summer school in the immersion language.

Instead, focus on making sure that the non-English language of the immersion program is held in high regard. Make sure your child’s positive outlook on their educational experience remains intact, even though they may not be in day-to-day contact with it.

Do this by:

  • reflecting on the year and on how much they’ve learned in the language
  • reviewing fun projects that they created in the language
  • listening to your child read stories or books they wrote in the immersion language

If options exist in your area for your child to participate in a summer camp, VBS, or enrichment program, by all means seize the opportunity. Time and intensity matter when it comes to language learning. But know that if your child doesn’t participate or if one is not accessible, you really don’t need to worry that your child will enter school “behind” in the fall.

Question #2: I hear a lot about the “summer slide” with academics. Is language a part of that, too?

Yeah. It’s true. Unless your child is in year-round schooling, the summer slide always has potential to become a reality. What’s important for us to remember, however, is that we don’t have to skill-n-drill our kids with isolated vocabulary flashcards or ask them to translate everything they hear into Spanish. Doing so would prompt a) a real snooze fest in the middle of the summer and b) encourage kids to start disliking the thought of learning another language! That’s everything we DON’T want to have happen!

Ultimately, all kids experience a bit of a “dip” in the summer months. The great news, though, is that in our partner programs the add.a.lingua language timeline and policy are in full-effect from the get go! Right at the start of the year. Yep. I said it. This means that your child’s teachers are trained to know what to do to ensure a linguistically rich environment that your child will grow quickly accustomed to…because it’s an expectation that we know they can handle! Our expectations look different based on the grade, and we’ve got evidence that it WORKS! Parents can relax with confidence knowing that add.a.lingua resources account for what happens in the summer, and our teacher training does, too.

Question #3: What opportunities are there for me to continue to foster a love for the immersion language when school’s out?

It only makes sense that, even with what’s been explained above, we still want to seek every opportunity to ensure that our children engage with the language as much as possible. Check out some of these recommendations to keep the summer light and FUN!

  • Find a sitter who speaks both languages and ensure that she speaks solely your child’s second language during their time. Encourage them to play games and have fun using as much of the language as they can.
  • Tutor time? Nope. It doesn’t have to be what you think it is! Your child doesn’t have to be struggling in school to get the most out of this. Sometimes teachers or educational assistants tutor in the summer months. Even though my husband and I speak Spanish, we’ve taken advantage of this so our boys hear different accents and experience new cultures. Check around locally for options near your school.
  • Family movie night? Try it out in Spanish! Come on…You haven’t LIVED until you’ve had the opportunity to sing “Let it go!” as “¡Libre soy!”
  • Step into the community! Make contacts with people in your community who speak the language your child is learning. Head to local restaurants or shops where they can use their language skills authentically. Invite your child to read items off the menu or on the shelves and speak with the employees. What good is knowing the language if we don’t use it to connect with people, right?!
  • Preserve reading time in Spanish. I can’t reiterate this one enough. At our house, we have a set time each day to read in Spanish. It’s a critical way to encourage students to engage with the language independently and foster a love for reading. Need access to books? Check out places like Barnes & Noble, Scholastic en español, Santillana publishing, cuentosinteractivos, storyplace, and your local library for Spanish titles at a variety of levels!
  • Take suggestions from your children. We all know how much children love having choice! When I ask my kids, these are the top three things they suggest:
  1. Dance Party! These are on the regular at our house! Some silly favorites are Blippi en español, Pica Pica and any other songs under the umbrella of canciones infantiles!
  2. Technology fun! Some iPad apps and websites can be a great reinforcement.  Check out ones like ABC Spanish Reading Magic, Kandoobi Animales, Ebooks Spanish, Lee Paso a Paso, Razz Kids, or BrainPop in Spanish. Remember, though, no app or website can replace human interaction and not all apps are created equally. It’s not a realistic or appropriate expectation to over-prescribe an iPad just to “keep up on Spanish.” Follow your family’s typical boundaries for technology.
  3. Hit up some festivals.
    Where we live, we’re fortunate to have organizations like LAUP and the Hispanic Center of West Michigan that put on great festival experiences.  Be sure to check for celebrations in your area that honor the cultures of the language your child is learning.

In the end, learning a language is intended to help us connect across languages and cultures, and summer is a wonderful time to get out there and connect. Read. Meet people. PLAY. Enjoy your summer knowing that Xavier, Iván and I follow this same advice! If you’re interested in what we’re up to, follow me on Twitter @SNIrizarry, and we’ll be sure to provide updates! Cheers to a great summer!

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we’re helping immersion administrators collaborate – add.a.lingua un.conference reflections

We’re big fans of collaborative learning. In fact, we’ve designed our 5 year immersion teacher certification process around collaboration and reflective practice.

This spring we took another step forward in professional learning by creating space for administrators from add.a.lingua’s partner immersion programs to gather and collaborate on topics of interest and concern to them. These administrators set the leadership institute un.conference agenda, tackling topics like building school unity, effectively using student data, promoting immersion programs, and navigating immersion education at the secondary level.

We asked a few participants to share their reflections on the un.conference, and here’s what they had to say.

As I reflect on add.a.lingua’s first un.conference, I am struck by how rich an experience it was for me to engage with other administrators during the different sessions I attended.  I especially enjoyed the format of the un.conference because it created a great opportunity for networking and allowed many voices to be heard around the main topic of each session.

Processed with VSCO with c2 presetIn the Navigating Secondary session, I was encouraged to continue advocating for a quality immersion program at the high school level.  I firmly believe that working together with other add.a.lingua schools will allow us to implement with fidelity at the high school level thus providing students with the classes they need to continue growing their language skills while meeting high school academic standards and providing parents and students a return on their investment of many years of immersion education.

I’m excited to see what our collaboration in this journey towards high school implementation can mean for immersion education both at our individual schools and in the world of all things immersion.

– Rebecca Gómez serves as the Spanish Immersion Point Person at Pella Christian Grade School (PCGS), which currently offers an add.a.lingua early total one-way Spanish Immersion program for grades pre-k through 6. They have plans to add another grade every year through 12th grade.

– Julie Karnemaat serves as the Spanish immersion point person for Fremont Christian School which offers an add.a.lingua early total Spanish immersion program for grades K – 4.

– Tim McAboy serves as Head of School at Zeeland Christian School where he oversees add.a.lingua Spanish immersion and Mandarin Chinese immersion strands, in addition to the school’s English strand.


We are completing our third year of the Early Total One-Way program and are thrilled with all of the successes we are experiencing with our students.  Our partnership with add.a.lingua is most certainly key, and we are thankful for their support and guidance.

Vonda Morga.JPGBecause we are still a fairly new program, we rely on the leadership from the add.a.lingua team as well as the ongoing conversations that we have with other immersion partner school leaders.  The leadership institute provided a unique opportunity for us to encounter both. It is always encouraging to hear from the directors of the program, to gain their encouragement for our current path and to understand their vision for what lies ahead.  However, there is a lot to be said for working with those who are doing the day-to-day tasks that our teachers are doing and facing the same challenges and questions that we are facing.

As a leader, the un.conference format was just what I needed to feel encouraged, supported, and challenged.  It was guided enough to give specific information while still being flexible enough to have open-ended conversations.  I was able to leave each session with a feeling of accomplishment, but yet also a great task list of “marching orders” to take back to school.  The network of relationships built through the various add.a.lingua leadership institutes provides us with the tools that we need to continue to see our program grow and thrive.  We look forward to the years of partnership with add.a.lingua in our Dual Language Immersion program.

– Vonda Morga is privileged to serve as the Point Person at Oakland Christian School in Auburn Hills, Michigan.

Want to learn more about add.a.lingua certification for administrators and immersion teachers? Reach out using the form below and we’ll be in touch.

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Holland Christian School launching add.a.lingua Spanish immersion program in fall of 2018

West Michigan will gain another quality add.a.lingua immersion program this fall as Holland Christian School opens preschool and kindergarten Spanish immersion sections at Rose Park Elementary School.

Dan Meester, HCS Superintendent

Dan Meester, HCS Superintendent

Noting that Spanish immersion dovetails with Holland Christian’s diversity priorities and 5-year School Improvement Plan, Superintendent Dan Meester shared that, “Learning and valuing the language, customs, and culture of a different group of people orients your heart in a humble posture, and immersion education accomplishes that from a very young age. [A Spanish immersion program] would place overt respect and value on a cultural group different from the one HC has historically served. We believe that even the students who wouldn’t be participating in the immersion classes would have greater exposure to people who look and speak differently, which would broaden their perspectives.”

As Holland Christian Schools work toward greater diversity in ethnicity, socioeconomics, and learning differences, incorporating an add.a.lingua Spanish immersion program is an important strategy.

add.a.lingua co-founder Stacey Vanden Bosch observed, “We’ve really come to appreciate the heart of the HCS leadership team and how Dan and the team have embraced their charge to be inclusive of the broader community and to prepare their students for a multilingual world. So often we’ve seen how a quality Spanish immersion program acts like that “little yeast”, helping the whole school system continue to rise and fulfill its mission. We’re thrilled to partner with HCS in this process.”

“Dan Meester and the HCS Board of Education have done their homework, and have put HCS in a great position. Not only will HCS enjoy the benefits of the resources and training that come along with add.a.lingua partnership, but they’re joining a deep network of add.a.lingua immersion partners in West Michigan, and will be able to lean on the experience of many mature programs and leaders,” added add.a.lingua co-founder Lilah Ambrosi. “The add.a.lingua early total one way immersion model is associated with the highest academic and linguistic outcomes for students, and Rose Park will be a great option for parents looking for a quality Spanish immersion program on Holland’s north side.”

Holland Christian will add a single section of 3-year-old Spanish immersion preschool on Tuesdays and Thursdays, a single section of 4-year-old Spanish immersion preschool on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, and a single 5-day Spanish immersion kindergarten to their current offerings at Rose Park beginning in fall 2018. They plan to continue to add a single section of consecutive grades each year, until they are fully articulated through 5th grade in 2023.

Rod Brandsen, Principal of Rose Park Elementary School

Rod Brandsen, Principal of Rose Park Elementary School

“Spanish Immersion is another effective way to prepare our students well for the kind of world in which they live and work, interacting and collaborating with many different people wherever they may be, as well as around the world,” said Rod Brandsen, principal at Rose Park. “Even more, Spanish Immersion further equips our students to carry out the Gospel mission to which we are called as Christ’s disciples, namely, to join God in cultivating shalom amidst the chaos we find in our world.”

To learn more about the add.a.lingua immersion program at Rose Park Elementary School, visit their announcement page. Holland Christian is also offering a new program grant for any child enrolling in Spanish immersion this fall. For more details, reach out to Courtney Lampen, Admissions Director, 616-820-2805 or

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growing in the Volunteer State: add.a.lingua is partnering with Clarksville-Montgomery County School System

We’re excited to announce our newest partner in immersion education, Clarksville-Montgomery County School System. With a total enrollment over 32,000 students, this k-12 system is the 7th largest in the state of Tennessee.

add.a.lingua partnering with Clarksville-Montgomery County School System

Initial conversations with CMCSS Chief Academic Officer, Dr. Sean Impeartrice, led to leadership, staff and community meetings facilitated by add.a.lingua co-founder Stacey Vanden Bosch. A tour of add.a.lingua partner St. Peter’s Episcopal School in Chattanooga also helped spur enthusiasm for adding an add.a.lingua Spanish immersion program in 2018-19.

add.a.lingua co-founder Stacey Vanden Bosch observed, “The leadership team at CMCSS caught the vision very early on, understanding both the significant benefits and challenges that accompany the development of an immersion program. What we really appreciate is their commitment to developing a quality program right from the start.”

“We’ve helped dozens of partner schools launch and sustain successful immersion programs, and our partnership means that CMCSS parents should expect the highest outcomes for their children,” added add.a.lingua co-founder Lilah Ambrosi. “The CMCSS leadership team has done their homework and has adopted an immersion model associated with the best outcomes for students. Their partnership with add.a.lingua means that teachers and leaders will have access to great resources and ongoing training. CMCSS is really set up for success!”

CMCSS offering add.a.lingua Spanish immersion in fall 2018

CMCSS will open two add.a.lingua early total one way Spanish immersion kindergarten sections at Barksdale Elementary in the fall of 2018.


Emily Vaughn Director of Teaching, Learning and Innovation, Clarksville-Montgomery County School System

Emily Vaughn, director of teaching, learning and innovation, shared that, “We are over the moon excited to be offering a Spanish immersion program option to incoming kindergarten students for the 2018-19 school year. We have already filled the 40 available seats and have established a waiting list! With support from add.a.lingua, we know this innovative offering will be life changing for our students and invigorating for our district. We have selected an administrator who is passionate about immersion education and look forward to hiring teachers and staff this spring.”

To learn more about the add.a.lingua immersion program at Barksdale Elementary, please contact the CMCSS Instruction and Curriculum Department.


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4 myths about struggling students and immersion programs

Instructional support for add.a.lingua partner programs comes in a wide variety of forms but there’s one topic that comes up All. The. Time.

Teachers, administrators, point people and parents reach out to our team to ask the following question:

What about students who struggle in immersion education?

There’s certainly room in the field for more research on students who struggle in immersion programs, but existing research combined with our collective decades of experience as practitioners lead us to some clear answers to this question.

To unpack those answers, we’ll explore four far-too-common myths about struggling students in immersion programs.

Myth #1: Immersion programs should only be for students without struggles.

This couldn’t be further from the truth. Research illustrates time and time again that children who acquire one language can acquire two! Any program that sends the message that “certain kids” shouldn’t be in immersion programs or “certain kids” who struggle should leave the program either a) hasn’t done its research, or b) hasn’t planned intentionally to meet the needs of ALL learners.

Bottom line: with the growing body of research in the field on students with language disorders, cognitive delays, and more, we know that ALL children can benefit from bilingual educational opportunities. Just take it from leading researcher in the field of dual language immersion education, Dr. Tara Fortune:

“Until there is strong research evidence indicating that learners with certain language and/or learning disabilities are better served when schooled through one language only, there is no reason to deny the cognitive and linguistic enrichments of a dual language education to any child. Indeed, by achieving some level of bilingualism, a competence that is perceived as beyond the norm by some, dual language learners who struggle in school can earn a much-needed boost to their self-esteem” (Tara Fortune of CARLA as cited in Cloud, Genesee & Hamayan, 2013).


Schools would do right by kids and their families by sending the message that immersion can be for ALL. Then, they need to follow-up on that messaging by ensuring that there are sufficient supports in place so that all can experience success.

Myth #2: The struggles are the fault of the immersion language.

We use a variety of factors in the U.S. to study correlations between students’ demographics and their level of success in the school setting. For the dual language immersion student, those same factors are at play — regardless of the language in which they’re learning.

Savvy dual language immersion program principals and teachers won’t use those factors as a rationale to exit a child from the program or prohibit him from even starting. Additionally, program leaders that know the research and are equipped with supports will ensure that families can make informed decisions based on the GOALS they have for their child instead of fears or what the “odds” say about any particular subgroup or demographic.

When parents are considering removing their child from an immersion classroom, well-informed administrators and teachers will share examples like these:

  • A child who struggles with early literacy in Spanish is more than likely going to experience the same or similar struggles in English.
  • A child who makes letter reversals in Spanish writing, typically does so in English, too.
  • A child who struggles with the sequencing of events in Spanish regularly exhibits the same pattern in English.
  • A child who experiences variations in self-control in the immersion classroom often does the same when they go to an English-only classroom.

Ultimately, it comes down to parent choice. Many families who remove their children from immersion programs do so because they often think that “going back to English” will cure all issues. Often times, this is done in the absence of (or with doubts about) examples like the ones we’ve listed.

Families who do pull their students from the immersion program often report they regret their decision years later. This is why we implore dual language immersion program leaders and teachers to, instead of asking, “Should this child leave the program?”, ask,

What are this child’s strengths?
How can we use those to better meet her needs within the immersion program?
What steps will we take to best serve this child?

Myth #3: When students struggle, we should “do more English”.

We get how this might seem counterintuitive, but if the language immersion program is of high quality…adding more English to the school day doesn’t make the difference. At all.

“Contrary to popular belief, beginning instruction in English earlier in elementary school and providing more instruction in English during the elementary school grades do not result in better outcomes in English for either native speakers of English or ELLs (English Language Learners)” (Genesee, 2004; Lindholm-Leary, 2010 as cited in Cloud, Genesee & Hamayan, 2013).

We know what you’re thinking. We really do. “What about those partial immersion programs or the models that have a lot more English much earlier? Isn’t that better for kids? Doesn’t their English turn out better thanks to that added time?”

Students who speak English at home who are enrolled in early-total immersion programs, as well as English Language Learners (ELLs) in 90/10 two way immersion programs have shown over and over that they “…achieve the same levels of proficiency in English as students in 50/50 programs even though the latter have more exposure to English in school” (Genesee, 2004; Lindholm-Leary, 2010 as cited in Cloud, Genesee & Hamayan, 2013).

That’s why we at add.a.lingua are so excited about our early-total and 90/10 models. They’re associated with the highest outcomes — in English AND Spanish. two dual language immersion models explainedThe kids get more of the immersion language (and at higher levels of quality because of the time & intensity), AND their English doesn’t suffer. That’s more bang for the buck!

Myth #4: Parents can’t help their children who struggle if they’re in an immersion program.

So. Not. True. Parents, you’re your child’s greatest model, advocate, and teacher. YOU and your positive attitude, excitement for your child’s education, and constant commitment to understanding your child’s needs make all the difference.

Here are four things that pack a big punch when parenting a child who struggles in the immersion program (Hint…They’re not different from what we’d suggest for ANY parent of a child in ANY type of setting!):

  1. Connect with your child’s teacher. He’ll be able to let you know what they’re working on in class, and what your child’s goals are.
  2. Don’t freak out…in front of your child. Children can be canaries in the coal mine: they KNOW when you’re wigging out inside and it only adds stress to the plate. Save your fears for conversations with your child’s teacher and/or the program coordinator. Generate your list of questions (and if you need to, check out our informed parent guide for ideas of what to ask), and bring it with you to a meeting. When you’re with your child, dialogue with her about her school experience. Stay engaged.
  3. Enjoy reading at home with, to, and by your child. MODEL reading — by yourself, silently (instill the lifelong value of it), with your child in English (build joy for it), listen to your child read in Spanish (show that even adults are “learners”!).
  4. Provide homework/project support for what does come home in English. Let your child know you’re there for him (but that you won’t do the work FOR him!) and that you’ll use your English skills as a support. For items that come home in Spanish, don’t respond with your hands in the air shouting, “Well, it’s in Spanish…how am I supposed to know what to do?!?!” Instead, encourage your student to focus on what she CAN do first. See what’s left. Connect with the teacher about any struggles,  consider setting up a study group with his peers after school, or advocate for supports beyond the school day.

Don’t let these myths hold you and your students back. Parents and educators, you CAN do this!

Parents,  want to learn more about how to advocate for your child and your immersion program? Don’t miss our informed parent guide.

Educators, learn more about high quality dual language immersion programs and how to build them in our informed educator guide.

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new professional learning topics from add.a.lingua

We take professional learning very seriously. So seriously that we have developed a five year professional learning and add.a.lingua certification cycle for our partner teachers, administrators and point people. Yes, you read correctly – FIVE YEARS!

add.a.lingua pd – flexible. differentiated. immersion specific.

We know that there are very few (as in less than four) colleges or universities in the U.S. that offer a degree or certificate in dual language immersion education. That’s why a major focus of our mission is equipping educators with the skills and tools to build high quality dual language immersion programs – because they won’t get this training anywhere else!

As we shared last spring, due to the need for greater flexibility, we’ve partnered with the folks at to create an intuitive, collaborative, and user-friendly pd experience. Offering differentiated professional learning that can be tackled asynchronously has been game changing for our immersion partner programs.

add.a.lingua and lessonly

150 new immersion lessons (and growing)

In the past nine months, we’ve released over 150 LESSONS for our partner educators! Not only that, but we continue to build our learning library which includes supplemental content covering topics relevant to our immersion partners. Some examples include:

  1. English Specific Skills (ESS) introduction examples – this lesson includes videos, sample plans, pictures, ideas and schedules for the English portion of our program models (early total one-way; 90-10 two-way)
  2. English Specific Skills (ESS) in the content area – this lessons helps teachers understand how to embed the English Specific Skills into the context of a science lesson
  3. intervention guidelines for the struggling learner in the immersion context – this lesson includes an interview with Dr. Tara Fortune, co-author of Struggling Learners and Language Immersion Education: Research-Based, Practitioner-Informed Responses to Educators’ Top Questions
  4. how to hire, develop and keep a quality immersion teacher team – this lesson includes practical suggestions and tools for administrators trying to build stellar teams

how educators are responding to add.a.lingua pd

As we continue to explore creative ways to bring our add.a.lingua professional learning and certification to the next level, we are grateful to be in partnership with such dedicated educators.

The response and feedback has been outstanding:

“The information on prompting students and providing corrective feedback was very helpful. It put many great ideas in my back pocket that I plan to incorporate into my lesson plans.”

“Great to see and reflect on where I was on the scale of teaching, focusing on where to improve in order to reach refinement.”

“It really was good to reflect on what I see in the classroom. The number of times that I think about what didn’t get done or what could have been done is countless. The number times that I’ve taken to reflect and think about the fruit of the work that we are fortunate to do in the classroom is few. This was uplifting.”

Looking for learning opportunities for your immersion teaching or leadership team? Let’s talk.

Are you interested in learning more about how add.a.lingua partners with schools communities to language and grow quality dual language immersion programs? Are you looking for professional learning opportunities for your teaching team?


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How to focus on English Specific Skills (ESS) (and avoid double teaching in Spanish immersion classrooms!)

There are three letters that every immersion educator must know:  E.  S.  S.

ESS stands for English Specific Skills. Knowing what these skills are and how and when to introduce them in the classroom will impact everything from immersion program design to the instructional practice you’ll see in classrooms.

What are English Specific Skills (ESS)?

These are surface features unique to the English language like apostrophe placement with contractions or spelling patterns that DON’T make the sounds you’d expect. Think about the funny -igh word families for example. In fact, did you know there are no punctuated contractions or “igh” word families in Spanish? It’s true!

English specific skills refer to the concepts and patterns that need to be explicitly taught in order for students to master these idiosyncratic features of the English language.

Most skills learned in Spanish do transfer to English (Hooray!)

The good news is that most of the linguistic skills that add.a.lingua immersion students develop in Spanish do, in fact, transfer to English. What Dr. Tara Fortune calls  the “gift of early literacy instruction in Spanish” is why add.a.lingua supports just two time-intensive immersion models. (It may seem counterintuitive, but more instructional time spent in English doesn’t actually result in better English outcomes for students.)

two dual language immersion models explained

add.a.lingua’s two supported immersion models

Why is understanding “transferable versus non-transferable” skills so important?

Teachers who fully understand the difference between skills and concepts that transfer from Spanish to English and those that don’t, make sure every instructional minute counts and contribute to the quality of dual language  immersion programs. add.a.lingua classroom teachers rely on a K-8  structural scope and sequence and a non-transferable English Specific Skills framework so they feel confident about where to spend their valuable instructional time.

For example, savvy immersion teachers know that teaching students the structure of an essay or the concept of 2 + 2 becoming 4 is something that can be learned in ANY language.  They don’t need to “re-teach” these concepts in English after they’ve taught and ensured student mastery of of them during Spanish instructional time.

Every essay needs a good introduction, regardless of the language in which it’s written! For that matter, 2 + 2 is always 4 – in any language. add.a.lingua teachers TRUST the model of  “common underlying proficiency”(Cummins, 1979) and don’t feel the urge to “add more English time” into the schedule.

How do add.a.lingua immersion programs introduce English Specific Skills (ESS)?

Through a well-planned and articulated ESS experience across the grade levels, add.a.lingua immersion programs ensure that the critical surface features of the English language that don’t transfer directly from Spanish receive targeted attention.

During ESS time, students explore the English language through a core content area such as science or social studies. They write across the curriculum, engage in word study in English, and explore patterns in the English language.

In this brief video, add.a.lingua director, Stephanie Irizarry, introduces English specific skills (ESS) within the context of a 4th grade science lesson about physical properties at Holland Language Academy. She spent time at the start of the science lesson reviewing ESS. Once the students wrapped up their hands-on science experiment, she asked the students to use those same English Specific Skills to enhance their learning through dialogue and writing. Doing so helped these young scientists accurately express their learning!

The add.a.lingua ESS frameworks provide the roadmap for teachers and students with respect to grammatical features, word features of focus, and a four-part word wall that gets baked into core content instruction.

When do add.a.lingua immersion programs introduce English specific skills?

In our early total one way immersion programs, English specific instruction begins in 3rd grade. In our 90-10 two way programs, English specific instruction begins in kindergarten. As noted above, the English specific skills introduced during English instructional time are always contextualized within core content areas because every minute counts.

If you’re thinking to yourself, “But, wouldn’t it make more sense to “do English” during an official English Language Arts class during the day? Especially in the upper grades? Our answer: No. Students need a context in which to explore English Specific Skills, make connections to the Spanish language and to become grade level biliterate. Our model avoids the add-on of a “fifth core class” because it’s not needed.

How do I know if our dual language program has a plan?

Well, instruction won’t involve teaching the same things twice, first in Spanish and then again in English.  If the dual language immersion program that your child attends is of high quality and is intentionally articulated, there is absolutely NO NEED to teach conceptual skills twice.

Rather than spending precious instructional time covering concepts that actually transfer across languages, the program should equip students with conceptual skills like essay writing and math facts as well as with a DEEP awareness of  how their two languages are unique and different!

Here’s the bottom line: ALL high quality dual language immersion programs need a plan for how they’ll help students master English Specific Skills.

If you’re an immersion program administrator or a teacher and would like to learn more about how add.a.lingua helps our partners with ESS, we’d love to talk. Fill out the form below and we’ll be in touch.

And if you’re a current or prospective immersion parent, don’t be afraid to ask your school administrator to see their plan for helping students develop mastery of English specific skills. (And be sure to check out 6 questions parents should ask before enrolling their child in a dual language immersion program and our informed parent guide.)


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add.a.lingua immersion and love for Puerto Rico: increasing student cultural awareness

One of my greatest joys is the opportunity I have to talk with administrators, point people, and teachers about what matters to them in their add.a.lingua immersion programs.

Our conversations cover the intricacies of the add.a.lingua frameworks, discussing how current decisions in the program impact the overall implementation of its design, and most frequently (and my favorite) conversing about student learning.

measuring increased cultural awareness in add.a.lingua immersion

Student learning in add.a.lingua immersion programs manifests itself in a wide variety of ways, although each is connected to one of the three goals of immersion education:

  1. academic achievement
  2. high levels of proficiency in both the immersion language and English
  3. increased cultural awareness and sensitivity

Recently, Militza Mendoza, point person and third grade teacher at Covenant Christian School in Mishawaka, IN shared a story during an add.a.lingua office hour that relates beautifully to that often difficult-to-measure third goal from the list above. Her students and their families went above and beyond to illustrate the level of awareness, care and sensitivity that learning Spanish has helped create.

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Militza Mendoza in her classroom of third graders.

On September 20, hurricane María wrought havoc on the island of Puerto Rico, Militza Mendoza’s homeland. The fear of the hurricane itself was surpassed by the fear of the aftermath in the days after the storm. Militza feared her family was in danger or had been harmed.

Covenant Christian School pulls together for Puerto Rico

Concerns grew when all communication severed between the island and the U.S. mainland for weeks after the storm. That was when her classroom of students, and the Covenant Christian community stepped in to offer support to the teacher and point person they care so deeply about, and in turn, to the island of Puerto Rico.

Her students began writing letters of love and encouragement. Check out what they had to say.

Letter to Puerto Rico from JustinDear Puerto Rican friends,

Hi, my name is Justin and I live in Indiana. Do you want to know how I know how to speak Spanish? It’s because my teacher is Puerto Rican and she’s teaching me Puerto Rican Spanish. I’m writing this letter because I know that you guys are passing through a tough time and I want to send you strength. I don’t know you, but I know that you’re great and I wrote a song for you and your family. It’s like Despacito, but different and I’m going to send it with this paper. If you know my teacher, Militza Mendoza, she’s the best in the world and she’s Puerto Rican. She says that we should write letters so that kids who are feeling sad know that God is with them.

Justin from Covenant Christian

Letter 2 to Puerto Rico

Dear Puerto Rican students,

Hi, my name is Juliana Belcher and I want to help Puerto Rico. I want to help so much that I’ve written a song. I’ve visited Puerto Rico before the hurricane and I want for it to look as beautiful as it did before [the storm]. So, I gave money for Puerto Rico and I’m going to have a concert and people will give lots of things for Puerto Rico not only for kids but also teachers. I feel for you.

This is just a pair of the heart filled letters sent to Puerto Rico by Covenant Christian’s add.a.lingua immersion program students.

As their initiative gained momentum, the families wanted to do even more than write student drawing of a heart for Puerto Rican students impacted by hurricanes.letters. They planned, ideated, and responded to the need by donating pallets of goods to the people on the island.

Check out the news link below to see the impact that Militza Mendoza’s students and their greater school community have had (8 tons of supplies!). And to think…the students are able to express themselves so clearly, so eloquently and so passionately in the language spoken by the heart of the recipients. That, we know, makes it mean even more upon arrival.

Mishawaka students send truck load of supplies to Puerto Rico

8 tons of supplies sent to Puerto Rico

learning Spanish increases student cultural awareness and sensitivity

It’s more challenging to measure one’s cultural sensitivity than, perhaps, academic achievement or language skills. But, we’d dare to say that the connections these students are making using language as the engine to inspire action is a definite example of success toward that third goal.

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add.a.lingua leadership un-conference: five ways to increase your leadership bandwidth and network

We’re serious about helping our add.a.lingua partner school administrators grow in their craft and lead their programs well. But rather than assuming we know exactly what they need, we’re committed to listening, first and foremost, to the challenges our partners face.

It’s this practice of listening that allows us to iterate and develop learning experiences to address the macro and micro challenges they face.

an un-conference designed for busy leaders to collaborate

Based on the feedback from our partner leaders, we know that carving out time for a multi-day conference (plus travel) is a challenge. That’s why we’re pivoting this year, and just like we’ve done for immersion teachers, we’re moving content typically presented at leadership institute to our online learning management system. This means all that good learning can happen asynchronously, at a time and place that works for leaders.

And we’re offering our very first add.a.lingua un-conference–a time for collaboration and learning among immersion leaders of all experience levels. Not sure what an un-conference is or if this experience is for you? Go ahead and check out our five ways to increase your leadership bandwidth and network below.

1. Watch and listen to this video from my other (business) half.

 2. Be on the look out for two things:

  • online add.a.lingua leadership institute course specific to your pd level (assignments will appear on your dashboard some time in late March)
  • leadership institute un-conference topic selection survey that allows you to help us shape a loosely structured agenda for our on-site event (the survey will be headed your way in the next week or so)

3. Offer your input when the survey arrives and consider either facilitating or participating in a topic discussion (or two).

4. Picture yourself at the leadership institute un-conference guided by leaders, relevant for leaders and filled with organic conversation amongst leaders.

Yep – we really want to honor to your feedback from 2017 leadership institute.

5. Book a train, plane or automobile to attend add.a.lingua program tours (April 11) and the first annual leadership institute un-conference (April 12).

We’ll be gathering right here in our very own un-Florida-like West Michigan–watch your inbox for more details as the event draws closer.

I’ll sign off with this final piece of wisdom from Margaret Fuller:

If you have knowledge, let others light their candles in it.

If the inspiring quote from Ms. Fuller isn’t enough to get you to the add.a.lingua leadership institute un-conference, just anticipate how the cocreated agenda, the eats, the treats and the discussions will leave you feeling warm and fuzzy on the inside despite the Michigan chill on the outside!