FARMINGTON—When they enter the classroom where the new language is being taught, students only speak to each other and learn from their teacher in that language.English stops at the door.
From the middle of first grade on, students learn much the way they learned their first language, according to Rita Stevenson, elementary world languages supervisor for Davis School District. They learn by hearing it and speaking it – not by memorizing the word for “hello” one day or the word for “cat” the next.
“It’s exciting to see these students,” she said. “Within a few weeks they can be communicating in the new language.”
If students in an immersion class don’t know the word for something, they will use other words in the new language to try and describe it, she said.
Davis School District has 12 language immersion schools. Spanish is being taught in five, Chinese in four and French in three of them.
The district was named a Confucius Institute two years ago, an honor Stevenson said was “huge,” since only five school districts in the United States have earned that designation and the other institutes are universities.
The three French-immersion schools each earned the LabelFrancÉducation this year, for “francophone bilingual teaching excellence abroad.”
Studies performed by the district and by researchers at the University of Utah indicate children studying a second language score as well on standardized tests as their monolingual peers when all mitigating factors are balanced, said Stevenson.
It is not a program for talented and gifted students, she said, though often parents “self-select” by signing up children who perform higher academically.
“We encourage all to apply,” she said. “We want all demographics.”
Those who are in the all-English program will leave elementary school with a great education, she said. Those in an immersion program will as well, but in addition they “have been given the gift of a second language.”