By Sophia Huang McKenzie
On a sunny fall morning at Lincoln Elementary in Salinas, the students of Elizabeth Matos and Gabriela Suarez’s third-grade class sit together in the corner of the classroom, listening intently to a story. Matos reads them excerpts from “Charlotte’s Web,” the beloved children’s classic about Wilbur the pig and his friendship with a barn spider named Charlotte.
It’s a part of the day that every student at any elementary school will probably tell you is one of their favorites, after recess and lunchtime. But something is particularly different about this story hour. Matos reads to the students in Spanish.
Later, students will answer questions, review vocabulary words and work on a math lesson, also in Spanish. In fact, students and teachers will speak only Spanish all morning. At the indicated time in the afternoon, they will switch to English only for the rest of the day.
This is an educational model called dual language immersion. It integrates students from English- and Spanish-speaking or bilingual backgrounds throughout the school day.
“I love this environment. The bilingual immersion is awesome,” Suarez said. “Students learn two languages at the same time, … and they learn from each other, and it’s wonderful.”
Suarez, who co-teach with Matos, holds bilingual licensing from CSUMB’s College of Education and is working toward her teaching degree.