While schools across the state are searching for newer and better ways to implement English into their bilingual and ESL classrooms, the staff at E.P. Rayzor Elementary School in Lantana is offering a unique program – getting all their students to speak more Spanish.
E.P. Rayzor, a school where 97 percent of its students are non-Spanish speakers, is teaching Spanish as a second language to all of its students. It is the only one of the 20 elementary schools in the Denton Independent School District doing it.
Students from kindergarten through fifth grade in all 32 of the school’s classrooms are automatically enrolled in the school’s Spanish program. The program consists of two native Spanish speakers teaching a 45-minute class, once-a-week in each of the students’ classrooms.
Teachers start students with the basics (numbers, colors, etc) and gradually increase the lessons to include simple sentences and common phrases. As the students grasp the concepts, more Spanish is introduced and the class becomes more conversational.
“It’s been fantastic for all of us,” said Dr. Happy Carrico, the school principal. “The students have fun with it and the teachers get more time to focus on instruction. We’re not babysitting these students; they’re in the classroom learning something.”
The classes are taught during an already scheduled instructional block, allowing students to work with their Spanish instructors while giving their classroom teachers additional time to work on lesson plans or tailor other work for specific students.
The Spanish teachers also tailor their lessons to their students’ abilities, adjusting the phrases and conversation techniques toward the level the students appear to be grasping.
Lantana resident Norma Riley coordinates the Spanish program at E.P. Rayzor and has seen a first-hand account of the program’s success with her own children enrolled at the school. Riley, who holds a communications degree from her native Mexico, said the majority of the students are grasping the language so quickly that they have added a second level to accommodate the fast learners.
“The students are learning very fast, especially the third, fourth and fifth graders. They’re always asking questions and want more instruction,” Riley said. “That is the purpose of having two teachers in the class with them. You want the teachers working with the students in small groups so they actually learn how to use the language and speak the language.”
At a time when school budgets are tight and the economic climate is still in recovery mode, Carrico said E.P. Rayzor is fortunate to offer such a beneficial program. The school’s Spanish classes are offered at no additional charge and funded through money donated for educational purposes by the Lantana Education/Charitable Foundation.