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About Spanish Immersion

Park Spanish Immersion Elementary School (PSI) is one of St. Louis Park Public Schools' four elementary schools. PSI is an option you may consider for your kindergarten student. A computerized lottery system is used to process enrollment applications for resident and non-resident students.

Language immersion offers a unique and innovative educational opportunity. Here are some frequently asked questions about PSI and immersion education:

What are the long-term goals of students in a Spanish immersion program?

The school community works to help students:

  • Master elementary subjects (i.e. English, science, social studies, math, etc.)
  • Acquire a high level of proficiency in Spanish
  • Gain an understanding and appreciation of Spanish and Spanish speakers and their varied cultures.
  • Develop a strong foundation in English

What makes PSI unique?

At Park Spanish Immersion Elementary School, students are immersed in the Spanish language while they learn reading, writing, mathematics, science, social studies and other subject areas. The curricular content and outcomes are aligned with the District's other elementary schools. However, students at PSI are primarily instructed in Spanish rather than English.

Park Spanish Immersion Elementary School began in 1996 with two kindergarten classrooms. We are currently an elementary school serving more than 530 students in kindergarten through fifth grade.

Is language immersion a new concept?

No. Immersion has been used in Canada since the 1960s and in the United States since the early 1970s. Immersion schools in the United States have gained popularity as an effective method of language and content learning. In reality, the immersion concept has been around for thousands of years since it is the way all of us learn our native language. In immersion, language learning is done in such a natural way that students are comfortable with the instruction. Children are excellent mimics. they are eager, curious and less self-conscious than adults in experimenting with and acquiring new languages.

How do children learn English at PSI?

In the Spanish classroom setting, starting on the first day of kindergarten, all instruction is in Spanish. Students may use English initially, but their classroom teachers respond in Spanish. As students become more accustomed to hearing and understanding the Spanish language, they are encouraged to express themselves in Spanish.

Starting in second grade, students begin formal English classes to work on comprehension, spelling, writing, grammar, and decoding for reading accuracy and fluency. In third grade, reading strategies are strengthened. Students continue to work on spelling rules and writing skills. The amount of English language arts instruction increases through fifth grade. The English teachers work in tandem with the Spanish classroom teachers to plan together to help students in both languages. 

PSI students have the same English language outcomes as the students in the other three St. Louis Park elementary schools. At every grade level, daily reading, in both English and Spanish is essential for the child's language development.

PSI has other English classes to support learners. English Multi-Lingual Learner classes are offered for students whose home language is not English.

How will learning content in Spanish affect my child's English language literacy?

Research consistently finds that the immersion experience actually enhances English language development. During the first few years of the immersion program, students' English development may lag temporarily in reading and English language skills. However, by the end of elementary school this discrepancy disappears and immersion students tend to perform as well or better than their monolingual peers. It is important to remember that the initial lag is temporary and to be expected.

What level of proficiency in Spanish will students have by the end of elementary school?

The goal is for students to speak Spanish fluently. They will also have strong enough reading, writing, and listening skills to master the core academic subjects in Spanish.

Is a background in Spanish needed?

No. The majority of PSI students do not speak Spanish before beginning kindergarten. Teachers use instructional techniques, which help students understand what is being taught, and they consider this when they communicate with parents and assign homework.

Are PSI teachers native Spanish speakers?

Many of our teachers grew up in Spanish speaking countries and all classroom teachers have a high level of Spanish proficiency. PSI classroom teachers have traveled or lived abroad and have an excellent understanding of other cultures and the value of global education. 

In addition to the licensed teachers, PSI is fortunate to have Spanish speaking teaching interns and classroom assistants working with our students. The classroom interns live with families during their semester of year-long assignments and are supported by the Parent-Teacher Organization (PTO).

What role do parents play in our school?

A dedicated commitment is essential for children to experience the great benefits an immersion education yields. Parents support their children in many varied ways by:

  • Making a long-term commitment to immersion education
  • Providing experiences outside of school to develop English language skills.
  • Developing an understanding of immersion education
  • Encouraging the use of Spanish outside of school through daily reading
  • Supporting daily attendance

Park Spanish Immersion School has a strong and active Parent-Teacher Association (PTO). Many volunteer opportunities exists in the school to help support its learners.