Language Policy

    Whittier International Elementary School

    Language Policy - 2015-2016

    Whittier Demographics 

    Whittier’s 400+ students come from over 25 different countries.  Over one-quarter self-identify as Hispanic, about 5% as Asian, 1% as Black, 5% as multiracial and over 60% as White.

    Approximately 100 students receive ELD services, and additional students have been redesignated as “fully English proficient” but whose language and academic success continue to be monitored by the ELD team.  That means that close to one-third of our students are learning the curriculum in their second language.

    Whittier International’s Language Philosophy 

    Language is a creative, interactive system we use to express ourselves, construct meaning and access information. Through language and communication with others, we develop our identities.  Because language is essential to learning, it is central to all of our instruction.  Consequently, all of our students are language learners and all of our teachers are language instructors.  Since language is a part of personal and cultural identity, we encourage and celebrate students’ home languages.  Learning multiple languages is important because it promotes an international perspective, abstract thinking, cross-cultural communication and the IB attribute of open-mindedness.

    World Language Instruction:

    English is Whittier’s primary language of instruction, and Latin American Spanish is our World Language.  Using the online Rosetta Stone Language Learning System, all Whittier International students participate in weekly language lessons either in Spanish, English, or their mother tongue.  Families are brought into the language-selection process at the beginning of the school year so that we can meet individual family’s language needs.

    Whittier International Language Goals

    Student Goal
    Students will gain greater understanding of language as an on-going learning process.  As part of a global community, they will develop positive attitudes towards language learning, as well as a sense of inclusion and empathy.

    Teacher Goal
    At Whittier, all teachers are language teachers.  In addition to the agreements in our Literacy Essential Agreements, classroom teachers will incorporate Spanish into their schedules a minimum of 15 minutes a week, referring to the Rosetta Spanish Scope and Sequence, which was written to support all grade level Units of Inquiry.  Classroom Spanish activities include: integrated vocabulary, simple phrases, and commands with units of inquiry, calendar, games, songs, directions, greetings, and labeled text in the room. Teachers will also provide each child with access to their individual Rosetta Stone language learning accounts a minimum of 20 minutes each week.  

    School/Community Connection

    Whittier offers a Conversations and Connections group, which intermingles Spanish speaking and English speaking families in conversation.  With the goal of exchanging language and culture, and building bridges within our community, Spanish speakers speak in English and English speakers speak in Spanish. Some topics include: holidays, arranging after school playdates, greetings, making cross-cultural connections and creating a welcoming culture.

    Families have access to each student’s Rosetta Stone account from home computers, tablets, and smartphones.  Rosetta allows us to print reports to share students’ progress with families.  Whittier also offers family members a discounted rate to purchase additional language licenses.  

    Mother Tongue Support:

    At Whittier, we believe that speaking two or more languages is an asset, and that having a strong foundation in your native language helps build skills and ideas that will transfer to your second language.  We work hard at Whittier to educate and encourage families to continue to speak to their children in their native language, and when possible, to assist them in reading and writing in this language as well.  We also encourage children to embrace their mother tongue and all the cultural knowledge that comes with it.  Our school library has a large section of books in Spanish and a few in other languages.  Classroom libraries also have a small assortment and the ELD team works to support classroom teachers with dictionaries or other materials as available in a variety of languages.  

    For students for whom English is not their native language, we consult with families to decide whether they will do the Rosetta Stone language learning program in our school world language of Spanish or in their own mother tongue, or for some total newcomers, in English.  

    Since Spanish is the mother tongue of the large majority of our emerging bilinguals (ELL’s), we focus a lot of effort on translating and providing special activities for these families.  However, we also try to include other families in this effort whenever possible.  For example, almost all home school communication is translated into Spanish.  Additionally, we offer interpreters for family nights.  We provide interpreters in Korean, Bosnian, and Chinese. Additionally, we use staff members and volunteers to help with interpreting messages to parents who speak other languages.  For our student-led conferences, we provide interpreters as needed.

    Our Family Resource Schools program provides us with a native Spanish speaking coordinator, who works to support families in need in a variety of ways, and who works with the teachers to organize events for families.  While some events are translated, we also have special events that are specifically for Spanish speakers, such as guest speakers on student success, and a parent computer literacy class.  We also have events where the goal is to bring together a variety of languages and cultures, such as Heritage night, or a cross-language exchange before a PTA night.  

    Language of Instruction at Whittier International School

    English Language Instruction:
    Kindergarten-5th grade students receive reading and written language instruction as dictated by the Boulder Valley School District Standards and in compliance with the Colorado State Standards.  Our balanced literacy program includes whole class, small group, and individualized support. Oral language skills are integrated in all content areas.

    English Language Learner Instruction:
    We offer extra support (45 minutes daily as per federal law) to Emergent Bilinguals in developing their listening, speaking, reading, and writing skills in English, as well as developing vocabulary and academic concepts in support of regular classroom instruction. English Language Development (ELD) and classroom teachers meet weekly to align instruction and to discuss the needs of particular students.  

    ELDteachers provide small group instruction to children who qualify through their scores on the state W-APT  (WIDA Access Placement Test) screener. All ELL students are assessed annually with the full ACCESS  (Assessing Comprehension and Communication in English State-to-State)  battery to monitor proficiency.  Students are assessed and placed on the ELDP (English Language Development Profile) rubric through collaborative discussions.  These reports are sent home to families and goals and progress are shared at student-led conferences.

    Professional Development:

    We strive to continuously improve our instruction through collaboration and professional development.  We continuously participate in courses and study groups for teachers at the building, district and national level.  We have explored the Daily Five, Lucy Calkins writing, Leveled Literacy Intervention, Text Dependent Questions/Close Reading, The Comprehension Toolkit, WIDA, Talk Moves, Content Language Objectives (CLO’s) and many other strategies which enrich our transdisciplinary literacy instruction.

    Language of Instruction:  Whittier teachers have agreed to the following Literacy Essential Agreements regarding literacy in our language of instruction:  

    Literacy Mission
    Our literacy mission is to empower all children to become independent readers, writers, listeners, and speakers who use strategies to effectively communicate in a world community.

    Balanced Literacy Instruction
    1. Comprehensive balanced literacy instruction will be a minimum of 12o minutes a day.  Teachers will implement modeled, shared, guided, and independent reading and writing. (See Literacy Block Data Driven Balanced Literacy sheet, the To/With/By, BVSD’s Evidence Balanced Literacy Chart, and Making the PYP Happen Language Scope and Sequence, READ Act Important Documents - Critical Literacy Links, BVSD Top 3)

    2. Teachers will use the CED in combination with student data and other shared resources to plan for and teach reading and writing.

    3. Students will have specific, observable, and measurable reading and writing goals that are evaluated at least three times a year. Goals are shared with students, parents and among all of the teachers who work with that child in literacy.

    4.  Writing will be taught as a recursive process during which students are writing for intended audiences and specific purposes.  Writing instruction should be 35% explain/inform, 35% narrative, and 30% opinion throughout the year (per Common Core).  

    5. Teachers will use Lucy Calkins units of study to support writing instruction.

    6. Teachers will incorporate Dictado, a tool to instruct surface features,  into writing instruction  using the skills listed on the Writing Conventions Scope and Sequence and BVSD Must Write words in the BVSD CED.  The frequency and timing  of Dictado will depend on grade level and students’ needs.

    7. Teachers will use the Words Their Way/Word Journeys DSA  spelling assessments 2 times per year (fall & winter).

    8.  Handwriting Statement :

    Teachers’ support of fine motor skills and handwriting development may include: the LLI Verbal Path, take-home handwriting/cursive packets, dictado, iPad apps and strengthening exercises.  Students will work towards handwriting legibility/fluency and strong fine motor skills.  


    Kindergarten -whole group print handwriting instruction and extra support for those struggling with print handwriting

    Grades 1-2 - support for those struggling with print handwriting

    Grades 2- 5 learning to type and continued support for families of those struggling with print handwriting

    Grades 3-5 -  optional cursive packet available

    9.   Reading, writing, listening, and speaking activities will be transdisciplinary across all content areas for all children.

    10.  Teachers will explicitly teach and model vocabulary and provide active language practice in all subject areas, including math, science, social studies, etc...

    11.  Direct reading instruction should be 50% informational and 50% literature (per Common Core).

    Differentiation (Tiers of Intervention)

    1. All classrooms will provide varied and flexible groupings (paired, small group, whole group, mixed language, homogenous, heterogeneous). This will allow different ways of participating, encouraging risk-taking and sharing within a hands-on, non-competitive, cooperative learning environment.

    2. Provide and monitor interventions as needed, which may include making referrals to the  Kid Talk/problem solving team process (MTSS).

    3. All teachers will use sheltered instruction techniques including, but not limited to: explicit vocabulary instruction; use of pictures, objects, gestures; clarifying directions; modeling tasks, thinking processes and strategies; building on background knowledge; and use of graphic organizers and sentence frames. (Reconsider #3 using WIDA terminology)

    4. Promote at least a year’s measurable growth (adequate yearly progress – AYP) for ALL learners, measurable by iReady data or BAS and Lucy Calkins rubrics (use continuum from grade above and below.)

    Formative Assessment

    1. Teachers will use formative assessment to monitor student progress and inform literacy instruction.
    2. Teachers who teach literacy will meet collaboratively to discuss student data and next steps.  
    3. Early assessment and ongoing formative assessment may include the use of the Fountas & Pinnell BAS (Benchmark Assessment System)(K-3 everyone and 4-5 below grade level), running records, leveled books, writing conferences, Lucy Calkins student checklists, writing rubrics, self-reflection, and anecdotal notes, dictado, iReady and BAS. BAS tests will be kept by classroom teachers for the current year.  The  WIDA ELDP will be completed collaboratively with ELD teachers and classroom teachers at least once a year.  Teachers will confer with students in order to monitor their progress through their daily reading and writing.
    4. Teachers will pass on BAS and other literacy tests to the next year’s grade level at the end of the year, for students that are below grade level or on the cusp.  

    Summative Assessment

    1. Classroom teachers are ultimately responsible for completing individual assessments and reporting the results as outlined in the district literacy timeline distributed each year.  The literacy specialists support classroom teachers in completing assessments.
    2. We administer district (iReady) assessments at least three times per school year, and more as needed or required by the BVSD literacy matrix.
    3. Classroom teachers will administer and score a minimum of 3 Lucy Calkins writing samples and use the information to guide writing instruction.
    4. Teachers will use common evaluative tools (Checklists, continuums, Lucy Calkins rubrics and checklists, etc.).

    These agreements are reviewed by the whole staff bi-annually in the fall and spring.