By BLAIR AMES
The Frederick News-Post
FREDERICK, Md. (AP) — Flipping through slides projected onto the wall from her laptop, Lincoln Elementary School teacher Rosa Labarta asked her students to describe what they saw.
Some pictures were of the weather; others were times displayed on a clock.
Labarta would occasionally correct answers yelled out by students, but without knowing Spanish, one would have to stop Labarta and ask for a translation.
Students enrolled in Labarta’s “Spanish Literacy for Native Speakers” after-school program are students from Spanish-speaking families studying to improve their Spanish vocabulary and grammar.
The better a student understands his or her native language, the easier it will be for them to learn English, said Labarta, Lincoln’s English-language learner teacher.
Thirty-five students are enrolled, first through fifth grade, in the program’s first semester.
Nearly a quarter of Lincoln’s 450 students speak Spanish at home, Labarta said.
“This program is being offered to help students improve their English through building a stronger foundation in Spanish and help them acculturate instead of assimilate,” she said in an email.
Other elementary schools may have held similar programs organized by parents in the past, but not to the extent of Lincoln’s program, according to Jason Anderson, Frederick County Public Schools supervisor of elementary curriculum implementation and innovation.
“We commend Lincoln for being the pioneers of this type of program,” he said.
Students begin taking a foreign language in sixth grade with a world language exploratory course, he said.
In her second year at Lincoln, Labarta’s goal is to help students become biliterate in English and Spanish.
Someone who is biliterate can speak a second language and read and write in that language.
“Bilingual is not enough,” she said.
Students in the program meet from 3:45 to 5 p.m. Monday, Wednesday and Thursday.
Students are studying everything from proper grammar to vocabulary, regardless of their grade level.
“There has to be rigor,” Labarta said. “If you challenge a kid, they will respond.”
Although she likes to challenge her students, she said there isn’t much structure to the class. Students take two English fluency tests, one at the beginning and another at the end of the semester.
Students will also be asked to write, illustrate and publish a book in Spanish, she said.
“I don’t want to make it too structured, then they wouldn’t want to come,” Labarta said. “I want them to have fun.”
A native of Madrid, English was Labarta’s third language after Spanish and German. She has been teaching at the elementary, middle and high school levels in Spain and the United States for 18 years.
Information from: The Frederick (Md.) News-Post,
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)