What is the Immersion Concept?
Full language immersion is an approach to instruction in which the usual curricular activities are conducted in a foreign language. Students acquire the necessary language skills to understand and communicate about the subject matter set out in the schools’ programs of instruction. They follow the same curricula, and in some instances, use the same materials (translated into German) as those used in the non-foreign language immersion schools of their district. In other words, German is both the subject of instruction and the medium through which a majority of the school’s academic content is taught.
“Already, employers place a premium on bilingual job candidates. It can be a goldmine. It’s easier to find them jobs, and often they get paid more.” — Beth Ross, executive coach in New York City, Wall Street Journal, 1/18/2011
At MGIS, students receive reading, language arts, mathematics, social studies and science instruction in German from the first day of Kindergarten through the fifth grade. In second grade, students are introduced to 30 minutes per day of English reading instruction. The amount of English is increased to approximately one and one-half hours per day at the fourth and fifth grade levels. By the time they complete Kindergarten, students are fluent in German and English. By the time they complete elementary school, they are fully bilingual in reading, writing and speaking having received 5,200 hours of instruction in German. By the time they finish high school at MSL, students are eligible for up to 16 college credits in German language.
An “immersion approach” to language learning makes bilingualism an attainable goal and provides exciting opportunities for children to gain deeper insights into themselves, other ways of thinking, and self expression. Since the children learn to cope and succeed in an unfamiliar environment, their verbal creativity and problem-solving skills are greatly enhanced.
The concept of a total early immersion second language program is based on the simple idea that language learning should be started early to provide the maximum number of contact hours in the second language.
In order for language learning to be successful, children must see that the language can be used immediately in meaningful situations. Immersion programs involve students in the use of the second language for communicating in normal everyday situations and in subject content learning. Children learn the second language very much as they learn their first language.
Our immersion students will be able to communicate in German with ability approximating that of a student who is native to that language. Additionally, our students will acquire a greater knowledge and appreciation of other cultures and perform on standardized tests as well as or better than students who are enrolled in English-only programs. It’s that simple.
The parents saw the writing on the wall. After several consecutive years of budget cutbacks for their children’s school, they decided to take action. A handful of committed parents joined together in 2001 to form the German Immersion Foundation, an entity that would raise funds to support two Milwaukee education treasures – MGIS and MSL. The foundation exists to ensure the high quality of these two Milwaukee Public Schools, where student test scores rival those of students from the top performing school districts and private schools.
Although the foundation funds cannot be used to support school operations, the foundation has been instrumental in funding crucial professional development for teachers, much needed equipment in the classrooms, and intern programs that bring native German speakers to the classrooms as part-time aides.
These initiatives enable the schools to maintain their high quality, and focus their budgets on employing high-caliber staff. The foundation is led by a board composed of parents of current and former students, staff members from both schools and committed community partners.