As a first grade teacher at John C. Daniels Dual Language School, I am part of a unique community that helps Spanish dominant students stay connected to their culture by teaching them in their native language. The research behind this school model supports the thinking that students best acquire literacy skills in a second language after establishing such a foundation in their native language. Our community also works hard to create an environment that celebrates both Spanish and English languages, cultures, families, and values. This helps all our students not only learn about each others' cultures, but also embrace their own culture and feel proud of it.
Our school population consists of about 50% Spanish dominant students and 50% English dominant students. In grades K and 1, students are taught to read first in their native language, but spend time in their second language during math, science, and social studies blocks. In grade 2 and up, students receive all instruction in both languages, rotating between two classrooms and a pair of teachers who work very closely to plan for up to 50 students. Both languages are respected equally and our school is full of literature, movies, and "conversation" in Spanish and English. All students, no matter which of the two languages they speak, are made to feel accepted, comfortable, and respected.
I am always looking for ways to better help my students connect to their culture, while also giving them new information to aid in that understanding. As part of our first grade curriculum, we spend a lot of time learning about communities, as well as holidays and celebrations unique to different groups of people. It is through these studies that I hope to mesh this new curriculum unit, focusing on Latino holidays, traditions and celebrations.