By 5th grade, students who have studied at the Hurley since kindergarten can read, write and speak both Spanish and English with a high level of proficiency. Unlike traditional elementary school language programs that expose children to a foreign language for 40 minutes once a week, the Hurley School immerses its students daily in a stimulating bilingual and multicultural environment. Because Hurley students hear and read Spanish as often as English, they acquire a second language in much the same way that they learned their first.
Academic excellence goes hand in hand with language acquisition at the Hurley. All our teachers have extensive training in implementing a dual-language program as integral part of an academically rigorous education. As a result, the Hurley’s tested dual-language approach graduates well-educated students who are not only bilingual but also biliterate.
The Benefits of Bilingualism
Students that learn in a bilingual environment become more sophisticated thinkers, have increased listening skills and memory, and show a greater understanding of their first language. Studies have consistenly shown that participation in a dual-language program with its resulting bilingualism benefit students on many levels, including:
The opportunities that bilingual education makes possible are countless. The travel, the friendships, the future internships and jobs… Kids can’t even begin to dream about them.
Diana Colón, 1st Grade Teacher
- Academic: Our students, whether native speakers of English or Spanish, achieve high levels of success in both languages.
- Cognitive: Bilingual students perform better on tasks that call for creative thinking, pattern recognition, and problem solving. Bilingual students also have greater linguistic awareness and a more complex understanding of their native language.
- Socio-Cultural: Proficiency in two languages also permits students to broaden their horizons by engaging with folk tales, songs, idioms, expressions, historical documents and other primary sources without the mediation of translation. Because our students are bilingual, they deepen their understanding of the world by communicating with people from other cultural groups.
- Economic: There is increasing demand for bilingual employees. By the time Hurley’s students enter the workforce, this will be even more important.
Frequently Asked Questions About Bilingual Education
- Why start in the very early grades?
- The Hurley dual language program starts immediately in pre-kindergarten and kindergarten because studies have shown that children learn languages with greater ease at an earlier age, and that true language acquisition takes 5 to 6 years. At the Hurley, we want our students to have the greatest possible head start.
- Will English-speaking students fall behind on their learning?
- No. Studies show that in 4 to 5 years students in dual-language classrooms typically outperform their peers in monolingual (all-English, standard) classrooms. For evidence of the Hurley’s competitive advantage, see Academic Excellence.
- Is the dual-language curriculum the same as that taught in ‘regular’ all-English kindergarten, first, and second grade classrooms?
- Yes. The Hurley follows all the Boston Public School standards and uses the BPS curriculum, at the same time that it immerses its students in a second language and engages them in our many extra and innovative learning programs,.
- Will students have the second language skills they need to learn new academic material?
- Yes. Teachers use special strategies to ensure that students are progressing on grade level in all academic subjects.
- Exactly how does the Hurley’s bilingual model work? How do classes switch between English and Spanish?
- We use different methods in different grades, based on what is developmentally appropriate and builds the strongest foundation for learning. For instance, in the early grades, native English-speaking students have math and other subjects in Spanish, at the same time that they achieve fluency in English literacy. This foundation is critical for learning in both languages. Students who are proficient readers in their native language then switch to reading in their second language. In the upper grades, students learn all their subjects in English one week, and Spanish the next. In the Middle School, specific subjects are taught in English and others in Spanish. For specifics, see Becoming Bilingual at the Hurley.