On October 21-22, District 131 of East Aurora Unit hosted Dr Sandra Mercuri as she visited district offices and several schools. Mercuri is a nationally recognized educational consultant in the field of second language acquisition, bilingual education and curriculum integration for literacy development.
Mercuri was selected two years ago to provide consulting services for the District 131 Bilingual Program. Dr Rita Guzman, Executive Director of Language Acquisition and Early Learning for District 131, said that Mercuri was chosen because of the great wealth of experience she brings in the dual language.
“We were very impressed with his work and his research on language acquisition,” Guzman said. “His books and articles on dual language have guided many dual language programs.”
With over 28 years of teaching experience in K-12 schools and at the university level in Argentina and the United States, Mercuri works with EASD 131 to train dual language teachers through professional development presentations, by modeling dual language strategies and watching teachers teach. to offer expert commentary.
On this visit, Mercuri arrived to offer advice with focused professional development and modeling strategies while gaining an overview of the district’s program. The hope is that her experience and support for the bilingual classroom will create stronger language teachers.
For Mercuri, the visit was important as it would be his first opportunity to observe the program in person. Due to the pandemic, all training so far has taken place virtually.
“For me today that’s a great thing because I’m really going to be watching the classrooms, talking to administrators and engaging in bilingual conversations to see how we can together move the program forward,” said Mercuri.
“I will be looking for things that can be revised or improved in order to provide the best education for children here in East Aurora.”
Mercuri visited several primary schools to meet with principals and gain a better understanding of how the bilingual program is progressing. She also independently met with a few teachers to co-plan a lesson using a teaching method known as “Preview, View, Review” (PVR), where both languages are used to teach a lesson to a student.
Using the PVR teaching method, “Preview” is the first step, where the lesson is taught in the student’s native language. “Show” comes next, where the same lesson is taught in the language the student is learning. Finally, “Review” is where the lesson content is taught in both the native language and the learning language to check students’ comprehension.
The teachers were grateful to have a consultant with Mercuri references available to them in the classroom.
Dulce Chavez, a first grade teacher at Gates Elementary, was delighted to receive guidance from Mercuri.
“I was delighted to hear that she was visiting our district,” said Chavez. “I attended a few of her professional development sessions and learned so much from her. I was even more excited to meet her and have a one-on-one co-planning session.
“She is very knowledgeable and passionate about double talk,” said Chavez. “We were preparing a math lesson, and Dr. Mercuri helped me visualize my students actively participating and carrying out the planned lesson and meeting their language goals.”
Chavez said she specifically remembers Mercuri reminding her of the importance of using sentence sequences, visuals and total physical response (TPR) to engage all learners, regardless of language development and abilities. . Chavez said the booster would help him grow as a dual language teacher.
“As a first grade teacher, I am impressed to see how the district has created integrated units to teach students so that they can be bilingual and illiterate,” Chavez said. “The bilingual department has supported me with resources, tours and professional development so that I can teach my students to the best of my ability.”
Later that day, Mercuri provided training on PVR by showing teachers a recording of a modeled lesson and facilitating a discussion to integrate it into their teaching.
Mercuri expressed great confidence in the bilingual East Aurora program and said the biggest beneficiaries of the program would be students.
“By having this initiative to enroll all students in a dual language, you position your East Aurora graduates in a better place in relation to a globalized world,” she said.
“They will definitely be prepared with another language, and they will be more marketable. You will have all the advantages of having taken a bilingual program.”
Mercuri stressed the goal of ensuring that all students become bilingual and illiterate.
“Not just being able to speak the language, but being able to navigate different contexts, where they can read, they can write, they can negotiate with one another, so that’s really an asset from an intercultural point of view, but also from a financial point of view, “she said. “In the market, they will have a much better chance in the future.”
Mercuri hopes educators realize that language can only develop through content and not in isolation.
“Educators should have this in mind when planning and delivering instruction and when interacting with others,” said Mercuri. “This is at the heart of dual language – making connections and helping children see the world of literacy and language content as one.”
“I can’t wait to see the classrooms today and I am very honored to be part of the bilingual trip to East Aurora. “
East Aurora Unit District 131’s bilingual program is designed to ensure that all students become bilingual, illiterate and multicultural, with the ability to meaningfully engage in their learning in an increasingly globalized society.
As of the 2020-21 school year, almost all kindergarten classes have become bilingual classes. The following school year (2021-22), all first-year classes in the district became bilingual programs. The district plans to develop the bilingual program for one school year until grades K-12 are bilingual classes.
There are two types of bilingual programs. The first is a one-way program, where bilingual classes have all English-Spanish-speaking learners. They begin teaching in kindergarten with a language ratio of 80:20. This means that 80% of their teaching is in Spanish and 20% in English.
The second type is a two-way program, where the bilingual class has students who are learning Spanish-speaking English, as well as students who are dominant English speakers. The instruction is provided in a 50:50 ratio. This means that 50% of the teaching is in Spanish and 50% in English.
The goal of all bilingual programs in District 131 is to prepare students for the future with listening, speaking, reading and writing skills in English and Spanish. The bilingual program offers students the opportunity to learn English and Spanish while maintaining high academic standards.