WAPCS will provide a 100% Arabic-English immersion program for Pre-K-3 and Pre-K-4 students, with the understanding that very young children have the ability to absorb another language as they exercise their natural curiosity and sense of play in an engaging, language-rich environment. Beginning in Kindergarten and continuing through 5th grade, students will be instructed in a 50%-50% Arabic-English one-way immersion model. This model recognizes the importance of ensuring proficient English language development for students in each grade while developing the second (or third) language capacities at an optimal time in the students' lives.
ARABIC LANGUAGE IMMERSION MODEL
WAPCS will provide immersion in the Arabic language as its core curricular element. WAPCS will seek to take advantage of the fact that language is acquired most effectively and quickly by the very young and will build on that innate capacity. The model that WAPCS has chosen is based on the models applied in DC elementary immersion programs and on the model used in the first Arabic immersion school in the nation. WAPCS leadership has discussed the language immersion models with leaders of several language immersion schools and has decided to adopt a model that will meet the needs of DC students, including EL students, students with learning disabilities, and those with weak backgrounds in English language. Given the challenges of meeting ELA (English Language Arts) standards that many schools in DC face, WAPCS founders wanted to maximize time for English instruction while also meeting the target for ensuring successful Arabic acquisition. Multiple studies have shown that successful language immersion programs require at least 50% immersion in the target language.
WAPCS will provide a 100% Arabic-English immersion program for Pre-K-3 and Pre-K-4 students, with the understanding that very young children have the ability to absorb another language through exercising their natural curiosity and sense of play in an engaging, language-rich environment filled with songs, games, toys, and exploratory activities. Studies have shown that young language learners benefit most from implicit language acquisition. The 100% immersion model has been shown to be effective in research done in immersion language programs in different English-speaking communities. WAPCS fully recognizes the need to balance Arabic instruction and language acquisition with English, and will work to ensure that all children are prepared for the shift to a 50%-50% alternate day Arabic-English model in Kindergarten.
The decision to follow this model is based on research in the field of immersion language learning and consideration of other immersion schools in DC and their models. Giving the PK3 and PK4 children an opportunity to learn Arabic in a full immersion environment allows them to “catch up” in their Arabic skills relative to their English skills learned since birth. As a 100% immersion program in PK3 and PK4, both the native English speakers and the EL students will find themselves on an even playing field, with all of them having the opportunity to learn how to communicate with each other in a language that they are all beginning to learn. This is yet another example of the educational and cultural benefit of a language immersion program: it breaks down social barriers between different ethnic and linguistic groups since they all work together to navigate their shared new world.
Beginning in Kindergarten and continuing through 5th grade, students will be instructed in a 50%-50% Arabic-English one-way immersion model, recognizing the importance of ensuring proficient English language development for students in each grade. Students will spend equal study time in English and Arabic, and over the course of each unit, they will receive equal amounts of instruction in Arabic and English. Students will study both languages in an immersion framework. The language instruction will be taught in that language, meaning that ELA will be taught in English and the Arabic Language will be taught in Arabic. Other core content areas, such as Science, Math, and Social Studies, will be taught in both English and Arabic by a two-teacher team, meeting with students on alternate days (i.e. instruction on one day will be in English and instruction the next day will be in Arabic). Those teachers, the English Language Curriculum Director, and the Arabic Language Curriculum Coordinator together will build a bilingual differentiated curriculum based on the ELA, Science, and Social Studies curriculum outlined below. This model ensures that all students attain the goal of biliteracy in all subjects. Whenever possible, Specials (art, music, physical education, etc.) will also be taught in both languages on alternating days, although it may be necessary for staffing reasons for these subjects to be taught primarily in one but not both languages.
Inquiry-based learning is centered on the questions, ideas, and observations of children. Both students and teachers take responsibility for the learning process. The inquiry-based environment is designed into sections, such as a home or kitchen, science area, water table, reading nook, space with blocks and other toys, or other areas. Teachers will assign groups and encourage the children to play, facilitating social skills along the way. Through a play-based, inquiry focused program, students will be learning valuable skills, including important social skills, foundational mathematical concepts and early literacy. The learning process is a combination of direct instruction and small groups with guided learning to strengthen student interests and ideas. Students are encouraged to take part in self-assessment of their own learning and that of the class. Students become accountable for their participation in the classroom and their contributions to the collective improvement of ideas and understanding.