Specials in the classroom

Music, PE, Art, foreign languages, library – all the fun stuff we get to learn during the school day. I believe back in my day they were called electives in secondary schools and in elementary school they were simply part of the regular school week. Actually we didn’t have to leave our classrooms to do art and we did not have an option to learn another language with the exception of those students who were learning English as a 2nd language. Now kids go to what are called “specials” in our school district. As part of an effort across the four corners to help children keep their “native tongues” alive those children that are identified as Navajo or Hispanic are allowed to voluntarily participate in what is known as bilingual – children spend 45 minutes everyday learning either Navajo or Spanish. They also learn about the cultures and traditions of their people. My daughter is both Navajo and Spanish but she only gets to participate in one language so she is learning Navajo – we can teach her Spanish at home and she will have the option to take that as an elective in Middle School.
Wouldn’t it be interesting if ALL of the children were asked if thy would like to participate in bilingual learning? I’m sure there are lots of kids out there that are not of Spanish or Navajo descent that would benefit from learning another language. According to a study done by the Cornell Language Acquisition Lab, children who learn a second language can maintain attention despite outside stimuli better than children who know only one language. Children are naturals at proficiency in learning other languages since they are activating those language receptors in their brains learning as they begin to learn to speak their native tongues. http://www.news.cornell.edu/stories/2009/05/learning-second-language-good-childhood-mind-medicine
According to The Benefits of Second Language Study conducted by the NEA in 2007 the teaching children a second language:
-benefits academic progress in other subjects
-narrows achievement gaps
-benefits basic skills development
-benefits higher order, abstract and creative thinking
-(early) enriches and enhances cognitive development
-enhances a student’s sense of achievement
-helps students score higher on standardized tests
-promotes cultural awareness and competency
-improves chances of college acceptance, achievement and attainment
-enhances career opportunities
-benefits understanding and security in community and society
It seems to me that ALL of our children would benefit from learning a second language. Since this skill is already being taught in our schools in the Farmington District and time is being set aside outside of the classroom on a regular basis for some children to attend it, it may just be in all of our best interests to allow those interested in learning but not natively part of a culture to participate in bilingual learning.

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