An experiment in a Jenks kindergarten class is surpassing everyone's expectations

Thursday, January 27th 2005, 10:03 am
By: News On 6

Some Jenks kindergartners are making the grade, not just in one language, but two. The News on 6 first told you about this Jenks language experiment last fall.

Half the students are native English speakers, the other half native Spanish. But they speak and learn in both languages. Now that a semester has passed, News on 6 Reporter Ashli Sims caught up with the class to see if these kindergartners have climbed over the language barrier.

Last August, there were a lot of blank faces in this class. Half the students speak English, the other half mostly Spanish and the class is taught in both. Needless to say, confusion was pretty common. But after just a semester, Jenks is already starting to see results. These 5- and 6-year olds are reading, writing and singing in a second language. They’re a long way from fluent, but they're on their way to becoming bilingual. And they're doing it by reaching across the language barrier to help each other.

Melissa Mills, Dual Language Teacher: "my Spanish speakers who know some English help the English speakers when I’m speaking Spanish and it’s the same way in the afternoon English speaking kids are helping the Spanish kids."

They're also getting some help from the big kids. Advanced Placement Spanish students from Jenks High School are lending their linguistic skills. Kailey Fullerton, Jenks Senior: "I love it, I love it. The kids, its funny, cause some of the kids are native speakers so they can teach you stuff and sometimes you're a little embarrassed because you're like eek I don't know that, but otherwise they're easy to teach."

Jenks Senior Jorge Mendez can really identify with the kindergartner's struggle to grasp a new language. "I'm from Venezuela and I only speak Spanish and I learned English when I got here." He says these kids have an advantage, he didn't have. "I think it’s easier for younger people I think they're getting it easier older people its not easy."

Melissa Mills says they're like her little sponges. And these kids are soaking up as much Spanish and English as they can. Mills says right now her kids are on par with their peers in English only classrooms.

She also says the research shows by third grade dual language students are performing at or above grade level and they speak a second language.