FLES for Many: One District's Solution

This article was published
in the April 2002 issue of
the LOTE CED Lowdown.

by Fran Maples

Garland Independent School District has found one way to provide an extensive elementary LOTE program. The twelfth largest district in Texas answered the call from its community to give all students a chance for long-term language study that starts during a child’s optimum period for language development. Using a combination of video lessons and visits from twenty-two Spanish teachers, this district provides a sequential Spanish program to grades 1–5 in 42 schools; 43 next year. (The last fifteen schools will complete delivery through 5th grade by 2004.) According to the Texas Education Agency’s LOTE unit, this is the most extensive FLES program of its kind in the state.

Starting in 1994, Garland ISD phased in the FLES program starting in 1st grade by groups of 7–8 schools, adding a grade level annually. Three to four times a week, students watch 15-minute lessons from the Español para ti video series. Every fifth day a Spanish teacher provides one half-hour class of reinforcement in person. The original teacher, now Lead Teacher, Irma Minjares, structures the curriculum for all five grades using the video lessons, the state-provided ¡Viva el español! series, and much ancillary and original material.

It is important to assure articulation by restructuring the secondary Spanish curriculum to provide appropriate instruction for students who arrive with a linguistic foundation, which will affect even the classes of other languages to which some will switch. In Garland ISD, we continue to make adjustments which include an optional one-semester 6th grade Spanish course, opportunities to place out of level IA and/or IB Spanish, and altered curriculum all the way through Advanced Placement levels IV and V (an upcoming district project of vertical teaming.)

Here are the major factors that we in the LOTE department feel have contributed to the success of our program:

  • Support of the board, the superintendent (who has changed since the origin of the program), and the administration, as well as the public

  • District-wide curriculum provided on a structured schedule to all schools

  • All planning and implementation provided for the classroom teacher

  • Competent Spanish teachers who are flexible and creative and who serve as ambassadors to win support for a program totally different from previous FLEX after-school experience

  • Student and teacher accountability assured by including Spanish on all report cards

  • A flexible schedule for Spanish teachers that leaves time to reschedule classes around school activities when necessary and to serve schools by providing Spanish communications, tutoring, and hall, lunchroom or bus duty. (Each teacher has a home school where s/he is a regular faculty member in addition to teaching at one or two other campuses.)

  • Half-day weekly at "Headquarters" (furnished with desks, computers, printers, copy machine, and laminator) for Spanish teachers to meet, regroup, prepare materials for all five grade levels, enter grades for about 600 students, and work together to improve the program

  • Ongoing communication with parents and school personnel

We have continuously made adjustments to our program over the years, and we do not foresee that elementary Spanish could be a fixed, canned program. Like all language courses, it changes, adapts, grows, and corrects itself constantly. This is one of the most enjoyable and rewarding endeavors the Spanish teachers and I have ever experienced. ¡Viva FLES!