Education feature: Clovis school gives 50/50 language mix

CNJ staff photo: Liliana Castillo Lockwood Elementary School kindergarten students Halynn Garcia, right, tells Katelynn Wideman the instructions the teacher gave the class in Spanish moments before.

By Liliana Castillo: CNJ Staff Writer

When Ana Rodriguez asked her second grade class for words that begin with the letter “B,” birthday was rejected.

“Yes, but words that start with B in Spanish,” Rodriguez spoke in Spanish.

Several of her students responded with Spanish words such as barco and bebe. The students also helped her spell the words while conversing in Spanish.

Rodriguez teaches the newest addition to Lockwood Elementary School’s bilingual program. The second-grade bilingual class is the third the school has added in three years.

Rodriguez said her students have been in class together since preschool and help each other with the two languages.

“The most difficult part is the Spanish part,” Rodriguez said. “A majority of my students are English speakers so I have to take it down to their level.”

Lockwood’s bilingual program follows a 50/50 module, which is 50 percent English curriculum and 50 percent Spanish curriculum, beginning in kindergarten.

Before the program was started, the school was busing 15 percent of its population to La Casita Elementary School because of Spanish needs, Lockwood Principal Evan Estrada said.

“We felt that the best way to meet the needs of our community was to start the bilingual program,” he said.

Sandra Santellano’s kindergarten class used a math lesson sorting blocks of colors in pairs. Santellano said this is the first year she could pair one native Spanish speaker with a native English speaker.

Throughout the lesson, Santellano gave instructions in Spanish.

“There’s a lot of using my hands,” Santellano said. She points to her eyes as she asks the students to look at her.

The Spanish speaker of each pair translates the teacher’s instructions to the English speaker.

“The bilingual program is very important for the school. It helps service those that come in with Spanish as their native language. But overall it helps both,” the teacher said.

Estrada said there are benefits for all the children involved in bilingual classes.

“Students have a creative outlook when they find out there is more than one way to do things,” Estrada said. “They learn that there are different routes for solving problems. And they are exposed to each others culture.”

Lockwood is the fifth school in the Clovis Municipal School system to have a bilingual program, following Yucca and Marshall middle schools and both Clovis High School campuses.