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Unique Elementary Spanish Immersion Program

Sonia Sotomayor Elementary School - Sioux Falls, SDSonia Sotomayor Elementary School, Sioux Falls, SD

Sonia Sotomayor Elementary School offers an open one-way immersion program within the district’s broader dual-language Spanish program. Staff represent Spanish-speaking elementary teachers from 12 different countries.

Modeled after the Canadian French immersion program, the school defers English literacy instruction until third grade. This model has two expectations: 1) that students will experience a delay in English literacy skills initially, prior to receiving instruction in third grade; and 2) that students will surpass their monolingual peers in academic areas by the time they move on to the next stage in sixth grade. This allows students to be immersed in and develop their second language literacy and language skills.

One unique course in the program is the daily English Specific Skills (ESS) beginning in third grade. The focus of ESS is three-fold: 1) provide instruction in skills specific to English which are not transferable between the two languages; 2) develop students’ meta-awareness of the similarities and differences between the two languages; and 3) identify English specific gaps and provide support in English for students to overcome these gaps. At the end of key units, students engage in a weeklong writing performance task in English, where they transfer writing skills learned in the Spanish language arts class. Both the ESS teacher and the classroom teacher compare the student writing in both languages and assess and analyze the students’ abilities to utilize key writing components in each language. The additional layers of support provided by ESS and specials teachers support both students’ content knowledge and language acquisition.