Edutopia: Japanese Class in Kindergarten

8:04 PM, Feb 1, 2011   |    comments
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Portland, Oregon (WLTX/Edutopia) -- Portland Oregon Public Schools are starting early with language development, teaching students Japanese in kindergarten.

The sights and sounds of Japan are part of the fabric of Portland, a city with a unique public school language program.  Students are immersed in Japanese from their first day of kindergarten.

"The whole idea of an immersion education is that you're surrounded in the language," said Deanne Balzer, Japanese Resource Teacher.  "You're in a situation where you have to pay attention to the language in order to do the activity that's going on."

"They're able to use language in all the things they do in school.  When they're drawing on paper, when they're trying to work out a problem with a friend.  Any of these can be situations in which we can insert language and practice language." Amy Grover, a teacher at Richmond Elementary School, said.  "They don't even realize how special it is."

In Richmond Elementary School's Japanese Language Magnet Program, students follow the Oregon state curriculum.  They study core subjects in Japanese for half the day and English for the other half.  In middle school, they use Japanese for a third of their day and in high school, Japanese is offered as an advanced language class.

Administrators say, the performance in cognitive assessments are higher, among other improvements. 

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