1. What advantages are there for my child in a TWI program? Are the advantages the same for language minority and language majority students?
There are three major advantages for students from both language backgrounds, all tied to the goals of TWI education:
- Students develop full oral and reading and writing proficiency in two languages. This allows them to see their first language in a comparative perspective, which in turn helps them analyze and refine their language.
- Students not only achieve at levels that are similar to or higher than those of their peers enrolled in other programs on standardized tests of reading and math in English, but in addition they are able to read and write at grade level in another language. This in turn positively affects general academic performance. Research shows that there are fewer high school drop-outs from dual language programs than from other programs. Also most dual language students expect to attend college.
- Students in TWI programs develop very positive attitudes about students of other language and cultural backgrounds, and positive attitudes toward themselves as learners.
2. Will my child fall behind in the grade level curriculum in a two-way immersion class?
No. Actually, the TWI curriculum is more rigorous, as the students are learning through two languages. The TWI classes follow the same grade level standards as the rest of the grade level.
3. How do students in TWI programs compare academically to students in other types of educational programs?
Studies have shown that overall both English language learners and native English speakers make significant progress in both languages; both groups are able to score at or well above grade level in both languages by middle school; and both groups perform at comparable or superior levels in comparison to same-language peers in other educational settings. On norm-referenced standardized tests of reading and math achievement in English, native English speakers outscore their English-only peers in English-only classrooms. English language learners who have learned English in a TWI program score significantly higher than their English language learning peers who have studied in other kinds of programs.
4. When do students perform at grade level on standardized achievement tests in their first and second languages? Is the time frame different for 90/10 vs. 50/50 models?
Native English speakers tend to perform at grade level in their first language once they have received formal reading instruction through that language, and their achievement is at grade level in the second language typically by third grade, if not sooner. For English language learners, scores are usually in the average range in their first language by second grade, but as a group they do not achieve at grade level in English until middle school.
5. Within TWI programs, how does the academic performance of native English speakers compare to that of English language learners?
Native English speakers typically achieve at higher levels in English than do English language learners. By middle school, native English speakers on average score above grade level in standardized achievement tests of reading and math, while English language learners on average approach grade level. However, students who begin elementary school as English language learners and develop full oral and reading and writing proficiencies in English often have a mean performance that is as high as or higher than that of native English speakers.
6. How is initial literacy handled in TWI?
Students in the TWI Program first learn to read and write in the target language (Spanish) English literacy is introduced through the content areas and during English Language Development.
7. When can I expect my child to start speaking the second language?
Language learning is a long process and research shows that it takes anywhere from 3-5 years to learn a new language. The first language skills to be developed are listening and reading. These skills do not require that the student produce the language yet. Speaking and writing take more time to be acquired because of their complexity. These come a bit later because of their complexity. It is important to be patient with the process.
8. What are the characteristics of students who are successful in TWI programs?
From their personal and professional experiences, parents and educators note some common characteristics of successful TWI students.
- Successful students tend to enjoy learning new things, and also like meeting and interacting with people from different linguistic and cultural backgrounds.
- Successful students tend to have parents who strongly support the program: Parents who truly understand and embrace TWI and its goals will transmit their positive attitudes to their children.
- Successful students understand and embrace the philosophy of TWI education. They realize that learning in two languages can be challenging at times, especially for students from a monolingual background. The successful student perseveres and learns to take risks in speaking and writing the second language.
9. How can TWI program parents help families who don’t have children in the program understand its benefits?
There are many things that program parents can do to help other parents learn about TWI education. For example, they can form a PTA subgroup that responds to queries from interested parents. They can organize a Parent-to-Parent Information Day and be accessible to prospective parents for questions about the program. On these occasions, they can talk about how their children are doing at school and show examples of written work in both languages. A personal testimony describing how the program has helped a particular child is often the best evidence of program success.
10. What should a TWI program do to promote home-school connections? What can I do as a parent to get involved?
Strong home-school connections are essential to the success of TWI programs. There are many things that programs and parents can do to help foster these connections.
- Promote positive home-school connections by ensuring that all communications with parents, oral and in writing, are in both languages of instruction.
- Sponsor periodic meetings to educate parents on TWI related topics such as program design, language acquisition, helping with homework, biliteracy development, and assessment practices.
- Foster good home-school connections by recognizing the skills and strengths that families bring to the school and by seeing them as valuable resources that provide critical information about their children.
- Volunteer in the classroom.
- Share with students aspects of the home language and culture such as music, dance, literature, and foods.
- Attend parent education workshops on dual language programs.
- Participate in TWI family social gatherings.
- Assist with ongoing recruitment for the program by sharing experiences with prospective parents and students.
- Contribute to the section of the school newsletter that deals with TWI issues.
- Serve as chaperons for program class trips, both domestic and international.
- Keep in touch with other dual language parents about program developments.
- Support their children’s language and literacy development in two languages, as well as their emerging cross-cultural appreciation.
11. How can I help support my child in doing homework in the second language, particularly if I don’t know that language? What kind of homework support can the program provide?
Parents can support students at home by making sure that they have the right environment and tools to get homework done. Parents can also ask questions about the homework in the language spoken at home, thus giving the students opportunities to explain the assignment in their first language.
12. What do I do when my child comes home frustrated, tired, and/or upset?
Language acquisition is an intense process. It is important to understand that these feelings are part of that process. The best thing you can do for your child during this period is provide support and encouragement. Let them know that it is okay to feel this way and that with more time, they will feel more comfortable and be able to participate actively in class.