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Elementary School World Language Program – Frequently Asked Questions

What is the HCPSS PreK-5 WoRLD program?

The Pre-K-5 WoRLD (World Readiness through Language Development) is the HCPSS daily, World Language instructional program for students in grades PreK to 5. In the current program, elementary students learn Spanish through the five C’s: Communication, Cultures, Connections, Comparisons, and Communities as outlined by the American Council of Teachers of Foreign Languages (ACTFL) World-Readiness Standards for Learning Languages. The program is a sequential language learning experience, building toward language proficiency while exploring the culture of Spanish-speaking countries. Students receive 30 minutes of daily instruction in Spanish in an immersion setting. The goal of the program is to build communicative skills in the target language and support English language literacy. The program was initially piloted at Ducketts Lane Elementary School (DLES) in grades K-2 during the 2013-2014 school year.

What are the goals of the HCPSS Elementary World Language Program?

The goal of the program is to build communicative skills in the target language, working toward intermediate level proficiency. Additional program goals include:

  • Supporting academic content area instruction
  • Enhancing literacy development in both English and the target language
  • Promoting global awareness and cross-cultural understanding

How is the elementary world language program enhancing literacy development in English?

To support student English language literacy, elementary world language teachers are using the Daily 5 framework to provide centers activities where students read to themselves, read to each other, listen to reading, do word work, and work on writing in the target language. Elementary world language teachers are also incorporating guided reading into their instruction.

What are the plans for the expansion of the HCPSS PreK-5 WoRLD program?

The PreK-5 WoRLD Program has been implemented in grades PreK-5 at Bryant Woods Elementary, Ducketts Lane Elementary, Phelps Luck Elementary, Running Brook Elementary, Stevens Forest Elementary, and Talbott Springs Elementary Schools. In the 2015-16 school year, the HCPSS PreK WoRLD program was implemented in grades PreK-5 at Laurel Woods Elementary and in grades K-5 at Waverly Elementary School.

The following are more benefits for learning a foreign language at a young age:

Better and more advanced reading skills:

Research suggests that children’s knowledge of a second language gives them an advantage in learning to read. Their ability to apply the insights and experiences of one language to the other as well as the wider experience of language is beneficial.

Gives brains a boost:

Research into the effects of second language acquisition on children suggests that exposure to more than one language is an excellent way of flexing those brain muscles – and building them up, too. Children who had been exposed to a second language from an early age have significantly larger density of “grey matter” in their brains. Grey matter is responsible for processing information, including memory, speech and sensory perception. So increasing grey matter by exposure to a second language means that language learning would be just like “taking your brain to the gym.”

Natural-sounding, native-like accent:

Children are always mimicking what they hear, and are surprisingly good at it. They are uniquely attuned to slight differences in tone and sound. Their sensitive ears help them pick up on and duplicate the tricky sounds adults and even adolescents often stumble over. By starting early, your children can speak smoothly, confidently and more native-like.

Greater grasp of one’s first language – including a bigger, richer vocabulary:

Most of the time we use our first language with little thought to grammatical rules or constructions. This is perfectly natural, but the experience of learning a new language can bring greater understanding and improved grammar to our first language. Knowing the way another language works encourages us to examine our own language’s mechanics in a positive way. Students begin to make these comparisons early on. By being able to compare the two, students learn more than they would with one language.

What happens when my child enters middle school?

At the middle school level, students will be able to continue their study of Spanish or begin study of another language. Middle school world language teachers offer differentiated instruction for students who have come from the elementary world language program, are heritage speakers, or beginners through tiering assignments, the station-rotation model, providing open-ended performance tasks, and through leveled target language reading groups.

Won’t English Language Learners (ELLs) get confused?

No. In fact, Spanish speaking and non-Spanish speaking ELLs progress more quickly in the development of Spanish proficiency. Because of the transference of skills, the more languages a person understands and speaks, the easier it is to acquire additional languages.

For heritage speakers of Spanish, numerous research studies identify native language instruction as a pathway for supporting academic school achievement. The strategic use of the students’ native language serves as a vehicle for the development of higher order thinking skills. When an English Language Learner’s native language is valued as an asset for academic achievement, they are more likely to have increased self-esteem and greater self-efficacy.

Why do the Elementary World Language teachers speak the target language throughout the class?

Awareness of how languages are learned is a part of the essential background of any language teacher. Second language acquisition proceeds according to predictable stages. Research informs us that children learn language best:

  • When meaning can be communicated in the second language without the use of the native language (English)
  • Through extended listening experiences and negotiation of meaning
  • When the language is used in a relevant, meaningful context

The pedagogical foundation of the HCPSS World Language Program is the immersion approach, where teachers strive to conduct their classes using the target language 90-100% of the time. Students receive additional language input through authentic texts such as audio, video, and readers in the target language.

It seems like the students in the Elementary World Language classes sing many songs and play games. Is it pedagogically sound?

Teaching young children a new language may appear as fun and games, but behind the fun are learning objectives and serious strategy to engage young minds and connect them to the language. Children in a school setting will acquire language best through thematic, integrative approaches that incorporate the content of the general curriculum and use tasks appropriate to their developmental level. Teachers use visuals, gestures, movement, and other methods to communicate meaning and plan instructional activities that appeal to multiple intelligences and learning styles. Regardless of age, second language learning should be meaningful, relevant, and fun.

My child is transferring to a school with the Elementary World Language program from one that did not have a program. Will she need a tutor to catch up?

Students in Elementary Spanish classes are using a program called Descubre el español con Santillana. The structure of the Descubre materials affords multiple entry points for students. At each level, the student book begins with an introductory unit, assuming students enter the program with zero knowledge of Spanish, and the remaining units are sequential, spiraling within the grade level. Each level of the program moves at a faster pace, allowing for the recycling and expansion of acquired vocabulary and skills. Also, the cultural perspective of the material changes from level to level, so students who are in a second or third year of World Language will be able to recycle and master previously-learned vocabulary, while still being exposed to new vocabulary and cultural perspectives.

Units of Instruction are as follows:

  • Unit 1: Nos conocemos (Getting to know each other)
  • Unit 2: Como vivimos (Our daily lives)
  • Unit 3: Vamos a aprender (Let’s learn!)
  • Unit 4: Los animales (Animals)
  • Unit 5: Nos cuidamos (Taking care of ourselves)
  • Unit 6: Nuestro ambiente (Our environment)
  • Unit 7: Profesiones/Como funciona (Professions and how things work)
  • Unit 8: Nuestras celebraciones (Our celebrations)

Why isn’t the Elementary World Language class included on the students’ report cards?

Elementary World Language teachers use multiple forms of formative and summative assessments to assess their students’ progress and use district-created proficiency rubrics. Those assessments might be in the form of projects and performances where teachers can assess students’ skills in the areas of speaking, listening, reading, and writing. Parents are provided feedback on student learning through packets at the end of each unit. The packets include a student self-assessment of learning targets in the form of “I can” statements and sample student work related to those targets.

How often will my student have World Language class?

Students in PreK through grade 5 have 30 minutes of daily instruction.

How can parents support their student’s learning in Spanish?

  1. By going onto the online textbook and resources with their student through Canvas. Students use their active directory credentials to access their book and additional resources.
  2. Frequently visit the World Language teacher’s Canvas page for updated information on current units of study and suggested at home activities.
  3. Browse the bilingual book section in your local library.
  4. Encourage your child to teach family members the phrases and vocabulary learned in World Language class.

Will my student receive a textbook for World Languages?

Students in grades K through 5 have access to an interactive digital textbook which is accessible through Canvas. In addition to the e-text, other available tools in Canvas include online games, student workbook, and thematic target language readers. This resource allows parents to participate in and support their student’s language learning beyond the school day.

Where can I find research on language learning?

The Center for Applied Linguistics has posted a bibliography of research on world language programs in elementary schools.

Is the Elementary Spanish program aligned to the Maryland College and Career Readiness Standards?

Yes. Please see the attached matrix to see alignment with specific standards.