Immersion School Visits - May 5, 2017

Dear McDonald Families,

It was great seeing many of you at the recent PTA meeting. I look forward to seeing even more families at International Night, which is just around the corner. At our recent PTA meeting, I shared that this year the McDonald International staff had the opportunity to visit two different immersion schools. The Japanese Immersion teachers, Ms. Pat and me went down to Portland to check out Richmond Elementary School, which is a Japanese immersion school in Portland School District and the Spanish immersion teachers, a parent, and me visited Puesta del Sol, a Spanish immersion school in Bellevue School District. Both experiences were very beneficial and would not have been possible without the support of the PTA- thank you! At the last PTA meeting, parents asked that I share some of the “takeaways” from our visit and below is list of some of those items.

Richmond Elementary School

  • The teachers spend more time focusing on language development in K-1 as compared to our model at McDonald International.
  • Clear language learning targets that are communicated to students and posted on the website for families. There is clear alignment across grade levels.
  • “Collaboration” was the big “takeaway”. We felt that the grade level teachers were able to collaborate better than we do at McDonald International for several reasons. Physical location—the four classes at each grade level were located physically close to one another.  This facilitated teachers talking to one another throughout the day not just at specified “collaboration times.” Collaboration was across subject areas.  Immersion and English teachers did not appear to “own” subjects.  Rather, there was often collaboration with each concept being taught, with each of the partners teaching the part most appropriate to the language. Each teacher taught only 1 grade level, which made it easier for teachers to collaborate.
  • The only immersion language at Richmond is Japanese.  This appears to give the school a more intense focus on immersion in culture as well as language. Once we stepped into the school, it was Japan. Students are totally immersed in the language and the culture. The school creates a rare opportunity for students to understand a different culture and learn the language without leaving their own country.
  • Students of poverty receive preference in admission to the school.
  • Richmond Elementary has more Japanese cultural events than we do. About 10 students from Kobe visit Richmond Elementary every year, the 5th graders participate in a tea ceremony, students receive a hot Japanese lunch twice a year, students take a trip to three Sister Schools in Japan, etc.

Puesta del Sol

  • The students at Puesta del Sol spoke really well and frequently in Spanish. Especially noteworthy was how naturally they spoke amongst one another in Spanish without reminders from the teacher.  While we think that this is in large part due to the nature of their 90/10 model at grades K-2 (90% of the day in Spanish and 10% in English, as compared to our model which is 50% Spanish and 50% English), we also felt we could be doing a better job of increasing the amount of Spanish spoken.
  • There were multiple teachers teaching the same grade level and content. Additionally, they were clustered next to each other. Having someone who teaches the exact same content and language seems to make collaboration easier.
  • They have an amazing school garden.
  • It was interesting how they had more administrative support - a coach for teachers, and a Dean of students, but less in-class support (no IAs and shared interns). They also have curriculum materials for teaching Spanish literacy.
  • They look for PCP teachers who speak the target language, which at Puesta is Spanish only.

For more information about these visits, feel free to reach out to any of the individuals who attended.

We currently have only five families who have agreed to host an intern for the 2017-2018 school year. We are in need of many more families- ideally 21 total. If you are interested, please reach out to Erica Lerer and Gwenn Fer.

Seattle Public Schools has adopted a new English Language Arts curriculum and we are so excited! Our teachers will begin receiving professional development for the new curriculum this summer and it will continue throughout next year. The new curriculum comes from a non-profit called, Center for the Collaborative Classroom. The new curriculum has 3 main components: Being a Reader, Being a Writer, and Making Meaning. This June we will receive all of the materials, which includes 240 books for independent reading, book sets for small group guided reading instruction, and several mentor texts. We cannot wait to see the new materials and begin using them with your children.

Lastly, next week there is a chance that the north and south sides of NE 54th street will be blocked. I spoke with the individuals who posted the notice and they said they will try to wait until after 8:15 to block the road however, in the event that the street is blocked, please park in the neighborhood and walk your child to school. Thank you.

I hope you have a great weekend and as always, if you have any questions or concerns please do not hesitate to reach out.

Michelle Goldberg

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