Spanish-speaking enrichment at ESK kindergarten level

Episcopal School of Knoxville Spanish teacher Alicia Rojas Haub, left, teaches the five senses during a Spanish immersion session to kindergartners including, from left, Henry Carr, Lucas Blom and Mateo Hayzen Cumpian.
Episcopal School of Knoxville has initiated two programs this school year that help students become lifelong learners and enrich their experience with the Spanish language.

One of the new programs is a kindergarten Spanish emersion program.

Although the lower level students already have been learning Spanish and Mandarin, “They really wanted to make kindergarten more of an emersion, so they are more eloquent with their Spanish,” ESK communications coordinator Caroline Wood said.

Spanish teacher Alicia Rojas Haub said it helps both English-speaking and bi-lingual kindergartners, as it complements ESK’s Spanish enrichment class, which is a traditional Spanish class.

“They are really embracing the language,” she said.

“They can speak English and Spanish in those (enrichment classes),” Wood said, adding whereas, in the emersion sessions, students and teacher only speak Spanish.

“The whole goal is for them to hear Espanol,” Haub said. “We’re not trying to do the translation … so I mimic a lot.

“The kindergarten Spanish emersion program started because we wanted to do something different,” she added. “There are a lot of emersion programs in Knoxville.

Wood explained ESK has four bilingual students in its kindergartens class, which “is great because we want them to not only speak Spanish at home, but also speak Spanish at ESK because there’s so much you learn from speaking the language and practicing it.”

Haub explained while the English-speaking students are concentrating on learning a new language in the emersion classes, the bilingual students are refining their Spanish speaking and writing skills to be more eloquent in Spanish.

In the Spanish emersion program, Wood said kindergartners meet four times a week. The two kindergarten classes rotate with the emersion sessions, “so one day, we’ll do enrichment and that same day the other kindergarten class will do emersion.”

“They have two enrichment classes that are about 30 minutes long, and two emersion programs, where they only speak Spanish (during the session),” she added.

“Right now, they are focusing on (learning) their five senses. They do that through singing; they repeat a lot of what they learned; they learn through textures; and (they do a lot of) interactive activities so they really get that applied knowledge and they really learn it.”

The school also started a learning center to help hone in on students’ study skills.

“It’s a new concept,” Wood said. “We want to really help develop executive functioning skills.

“Our focus is to utilize the curriculum and to teach executive functioning skills,” said Jeannie Ensign, ESK program coordinator for the learning center. “That would be like organizing skills, planning and remembering items we need for projects.

“All of the things we do in the learning center are really connected with the curriculum that’s taught here at ESK,” she added.

“It’s a collaborative process between the staff in the lower school and the middle schools,” Wood said. “We have specialized coaches in the learning center, and they coordinate with the teachers on test-taking skills or other studying and learning situations.

“They are really trying to help (students) grow to be independent learners,” Wood said. “They will know what they specifically need to do to better their own study skills.”

She explained students have a certain period of the day in which they go to the center and get help from the learning specialists.

“The students are coming to us every day for 45 minutes,” said Jeannie Ensign, program coordinator for the learning center.

She added the specialists and coaches also, oftentimes, pre-teach curriculum that’s going to be presented to classes “so our kiddos have an opportunity to get previews of vocabulary and a synopsis of items they will be going over in their classes.

“So, it kind of gives them a heads up and a confidence level when they go into a class,” Ensign said.

ESK has had a learning center for several years, but “the difference is this year we’re really trying to integrate what we consider life-long learning skills that are not just going to serve them in our school setting, but when they go on to high school, into college and become adults,” she added.