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News Releases
Woodland Primary School Principal Ingrid Colvard shows the planning timeline for how each element of the dual language program's lessons intersect, ensuring enrolled students learn the same lessons as their single-language counterparts throughout the year
Woodland Primary School Principal Ingrid Colvard shows the planning timeline for how each element of the dual language program's lessons intersect, ensuring enrolled students learn the same lessons as their single-language counterparts throughout the year
Woodland Primary School's new Dual Language Program empowers kindergarten students to become biliterate and bilingual in English and Spanish (Photo) - 10/15/18

Monday, October 15, 2018-Woodland, WA-Kindergarten students in Woodland Primary School’s new Dual Language Program use English and Spanish to learn school lessons, make new friends, and positively change the entire school’s culture. Woodland Primary School’s dual language program, introduced at the beginning of this school year, uses a 50/50 model with bilingual teachers giving lessons for half of the day in Spanish and half of the day in English.

An Overview of Dual Language

Currently, the school’s dual language program serves 44 students in two kindergarten classes. The dual language program is opt-in with families electing to enroll their student in either a dual language classroom or a traditional class. “Many people might think learning two languages at such a young age would be confusing but it’s actually the opposite,” explained Woodland Primary School’s Principal, Ingrid Colvard. “By having the different physical and audio cues provided by both languages, students have even more references to associate with both their English and Spanish lessons; the cues from one language help the students understand the other.”

For half of each school day, teachers speak entirely in that time’s designated language without switching to the other language, wearing colored scarves to show students which language they will be speaking. Only students have the option of using either language if they need to express something they don’t yet know how to say in the designated language. “Fully immersing a student in a language without switching helps students learn by repetition as well as avoiding the desire to fall back to their native language,” explained Jill Thoeny, one of the school’s two bilingual kindergarten teachers.

Students can be native speakers of either language when they enroll in the program with optimal enrollment having equal numbers of English and Spanish speakers to better use a learning technique called peer modeling. “Each student is assigned a peer who’s a native speaker of the other language,” said Ingrid. “Each student helps their peer better learn their own native language while effectively learning more about both their native language and the new language at the same time.”

Teachers also use a technique called Total Physical Response (TPR) to enhance learning and improve students’ language development. “Studies show that students – especially young students – learn faster when a physical action is associated with the lesson they’re learning,” said Ingrid. “For each element of a lesson, the teachers demonstrate a physical action for the students to copy so students can connect the lesson with that action.”

While learning animal vocabulary in a recent lesson, students made a fist rotating in their other hand to simulate the movement of a tortoise – “tortuga” in Spanish – and spoke the word aloud to music. “The more students connect a letter or word to a physical action, the more they recognize and retain that word,” said Jill. “Even the music played in the background during class activities is chosen intentionally to use sounds and words the students have been learning during the lesson.”

The Benefits of Dual Language Learning

The long-term benefits of dual language learning reach beyond becoming bilingual, and Woodland Public Schools has committed to providing the program to enrolled students at least to fourth grade. “Studies show that students enrolled in dual language programs see academic gains beyond their single-language peers in all subject areas, not just language arts, beginning in third grade,” explained Ingrid. “When a district implements a dual language program, it’s imperative that everyone involved – both staff and families – remain committed to the program for the long-term in order for students to benefit.”

Woodland Public Schools introduced the program to help address the increasing diversity of the community’s population. “More than 25% of the primary school’s entering kindergartners cannot speak English,” said Ingrid. “In an effort to more effectively work with our Hispanic population, I’ve been learning Spanish, too.” The dual language program received enthusiastic response from the community nearly immediately. “We didn’t need to actively recruit any students; we received the exact number of applicants we needed,” said Ingrid. “Our native Spanish-speaking population was so supportive – they really wanted the district to introduce a dual language program like this.”

Shortly after the school year started, Woodland Public Schools received a $34,000 grant from the state to help the school buy teaching and learning materials to enhance the dual language program’s curriculum. “What we can do with this kind of funding in our first year is absolutely huge,” said Ingrid. “The grant’s going to make a big difference as we will be able to buy more bilingual learning materials to provide additional resources to our students.”

In addition to funding support, the school has been working closely with other districts throughout the state who provide immersion programs including Evergreen Public Schools. “We have received significant support from other districts through site visits and guidance,” said Ingrid. “Collaborating with other schools helps all the districts involved improve their immersion programs through teamwork and strategy development.”

Woodland Primary has already started seeing big changes from the new program. “Before we started, our native Spanish-speaking kindergarten students took a great deal of time feeling comfortable enough to speak during class,” said Ingrid. “The program has changed the entire culture of our school – students aren’t afraid to play with others who don’t speak their language, and students see the staff trying to speak multiple languages which shows how we’re all learning new things, students and adults alike.”

Jill agreed with Ingrid, “For our native Spanish speakers, hearing their home language used around the school brings a great deal of comfort,” she said. “We want to make honoring languages something that lives every day throughout our school; we see our Spanish-speaking students smiling and feeling okay using a language their friend might not completely understand because their language is visibly accepted here.”

Anahisse Hodge, the school’s other bilingual kindergarten teacher, has started seeing the effects the dual language program has on students not enrolled in it. “We hear students not in the program asking their friends how to say different words in Spanish and then trying to learn the words themselves,” she said. “It’s only been a month and a half and students are already using Spanish everywhere!”

In addition to the students, staff members see a difference in the families of native Spanish speakers. “Families of Spanish-speaking students are feeling empowered by the program and are attending school activities in greater numbers than they did previously,” said Ingrid. “We’re incredibly excited to see this kind of response.”

Teacher Background

The background of the kindergarten teachers teaching dual language is nearly as diverse as the program itself. Jill, a Woodland native, got her first taste of the needs of bilingual students when she used an elective while attending high school to help student-teach at the primary school. “I realized at that point that I had to learn Spanish to be a more effective elementary school teacher,” she said. “After teaching in immersion schools in Oregon and Spanish-speaking schools abroad, I knew I needed to bring that experience with me when I came back to Woodland.”

Anahisse started school in Oregon as a native Spanish-speaker who didn’t know English. “When I attended kindergarten, I was told I couldn’t speak Spanish at school even though that’s all I knew,” she said. “Eventually, I became so immersed in English that my mom couldn’t speak with me anymore.” Anahisse’s parents emphasized the importance of keeping up her ability to speak and write in Spanish. “Since I didn’t learn the proper way to read and write Spanish at school, my mom helped me learn at home; my experience made me realize what so many of our Woodland parents experience in their own homes.”

For More Information

Families interested in enrolling their students in the program don’t need to be bilingual themselves and students do not need to have any prior knowledge of their non-native language. Additionally, there are no screening criteria for students to enroll – all students are eligible. Applicants are accepted in the order of their application date and the district has a designated lottery-system should the number of applicants exceed the number of available classroom spots.

Although there is no additional cost to enroll, parents and guardians must remember that the true benefits from a dual language program involve a long-term commitment and should plan for their student to continue enrollment in the program for the grades following kindergarten, too.

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Shari Conditt and her class held a discussion to talk about their impressions of the debate, the candidates, and even the audience members.
Shari Conditt and her class held a discussion to talk about their impressions of the debate, the candidates, and even the audience members.
Woodland A.P. Government students attend Congressional debates and meet with Defense Attorneys to learn more about the U.S. political system (Photo) - 10/08/18

Monday, October 8, 2018-Woodland, WA-Sharon “Shari” Conditt, a social studies teacher at Woodland High School, invites visiting professionals to present to her classes and uses field trips to provide students in her Advanced Placement (AP) Government class with a variety of enriching opportunities in order to learn how the American political system works.

Cowlitz County Defense Attorney visits Social Studies Classes

On Constitution Day, September 17, Edward “Ted” Debray, Staff Attorney for the Cowlitz County Office of Public Defense, spoke to students in both Shari’s and Katie Klaus’ social studies classes at Woodland High School.

Mr. Debray taught students about the role of the public defender and how it became a right following a Supreme Court case in 1963. “Anyone unable to afford a lawyer is entitled to have access to a lawyer if they are accused of a crime,” he explained. “Part of my role is to review the case procedure to ensure the accused receives fair and equal treatment under the law.”

Mr. Debray discussed his educational background as well as his passion for serving as a public defender. “I was inspired by a criminal procedure professor who was passionate about demonstrating the importance of fourth and fifth amendment rights,” he said. “While taking his class, I learned that I also share his same concerns which emboldened me into taking on a career as a public defender.”

Shari and Katie took turns asking Mr. Debray questions including explaining the relationships between public defenders and other members of the legal system. Mr. Debray explained the roles of law enforcement, the importance of citizen rights, and the timeline of a typical court defense. He also surprised many students by telling them how few cases actually go to court. “Most cases are settled outside of the courtroom, but that comes from developing working relationships with the prosecutors to ensure the accused is fairly represented,” he said. “That being said, trying a court case is just like any skill – if you don’t practice on a regular basis, you do become rusty.”

Many of Mr. Debray’s cases involve outside specialists and professional such as mental health experts or financial professionals. “Scheduling issues alone can result in case delays,” he explained. He also told stories of different past cases and the importance of respecting everyone involved, “Even outside the courtroom, how you approach and speak with judges is very important – you must always remember that you will likely present a case in front of them in the future just as you will also likely argue the same prosecutors in the future, too – forming good working relationships is vital.”

Woodland students attend the Herrera Beutler, Long debate

On September 18, Shari took her AP Government students to a debate hosted by the Woodland Chamber of Commerce between Incumbent U.S. Representative Jamie Herrera Beutler and her Democrat challenger, Carolyn Long, at the Oak Tree Restaurant in Woodland.

Students engaged with other people at the debate and learned a lot about the perspectives of different Woodland community members. Students also talked about the two candidates approaches to a variety of topics including how each candidates’ personal background might affect the way they voted on different legislation during their terms.

For many of Shari’s students, the debate was their first experience taking part in a live political event. Many students were surprised by the behavior of audience members.  “It was surprising that many members of the audience didn’t respect the candidates,” some students said. “So many audience members would interrupt the candidates, make assertions instead of ask questions, and generally exhibit rude behavior instead of listening to what the candidates had to say.”

Although this was Shari’s first field trip for a government class, attending the debate was an excellent experience for her students. “I am so incredibly proud of my class for demonstrating how respectable and engage high students can be,” she said. “Going to the debate as a field trip truly demonstrates the power of civics education with students getting hands-on experience with an actual political event they might otherwise not have attended.”

Shari emphasizes the importance of participating in the political system to her students. “I will help my students to register when they turn 18 and encourage them to participate in political events like the debate,” she explained. “I want my students to know they have a place in our democracy – the more opportunities we provide, the more likely younger generations will participate in the process and vote.”

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Amy Craig, second grade teacher at WIS, finds that being Book Buddies helps students improve reading, writing, and public speaking skills.
Amy Craig, second grade teacher at WIS, finds that being Book Buddies helps students improve reading, writing, and public speaking skills.
Book Buddies at Woodland Intermediate School work together to improve their reading skills (Photo) - 10/01/18

Monday, October 1, 2018-Woodland, WA-Every week at Woodland Intermediate School (WIS), fourth graders read aloud with second graders to enhance reading comprehension through the Book Buddies program, an innovative approach to collaborative learning developed by Amy Craig and Patti Cutler, teachers at WIS.

Every Friday, fourth graders from Patti Cutler’s class visit Amy Craig’s second grade classroom to take turns reading aloud with their Book Buddy. Amy and Patti assign each fourth grader a second-grade book buddy to read with. “The younger students enjoy reading aloud to their older buddy while the older buddy learns additional reading comprehension by helping guide their younger counterpart through different books,” explained Amy, who started Book Buddies four years ago. “Book buddies have the same partners each week so they build relationships over time; both classes truly look forward to every Friday so they can visit with their book buddy.”

Patti finds fourth graders who may be struggling with their reading skills improve when they tutor younger students, “Students can often be a little intimidated reading aloud at any age, but since both the older and young students take turns, the process helps improve both students’ public speaking abilities.”

Reading, both to oneself as well as aloud, is instrumental to a student’s academic development in a variety of areas. “Reading helps provide inspiration for a student’s own writing while also improving spelling as students recognize new words in the books they read,” explained Amy. “Young students are developing their fluency in the language and reading aloud also helps them learn to express emotion as they read.”

In addition to enhancing reading skills, the Book Buddy program teaches older students that they serve as role models for younger students. “The fourth graders love mentoring their buddies and they often wave at each other when they see one another in the hallway,” said Patti.

Some students even see their buddy in an almost sibling-like relationship. “Some of our students don’t have younger or older siblings so having a book buddy can be a very new experience,” said Patti. “I’ve even had fourth graders tell me how sad they are at the end of the school year knowing they won’t be able to see their young friends when they move on to middle school.”

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Students attribute the close-knit spirit of the high school student body to the school's small size and the students' acceptance of new people
Students attribute the close-knit spirit of the high school student body to the school's small size and the students' acceptance of new people
Woodland High School makes ASB cards free for every student to reduce the financial burden of attending school events and participating in athletics (Photo) - 09/24/18

Monday, September 24, 2018-Woodland, WA-In order to reduce the financial burden on students to attend school events and participate in athletics, Woodland High School provided ASB cards to every student free-of-charge for the 2018-2019 school year. ASB cards enable students to get into home games and student performances free-of-charge. Students also receive discounts on away games and school dances. In addition, students interested in participating on athletic teams are required to have an ASB card.

In prior years, ASB cards cost $25 each, but this year, there’s no cost thanks to efforts made by Principal John Shoup, “We wanted to increase student attendance at school events as well as remove financial burdens from students who would like to attend but might not have the money to do so,” he explained. “If students have an ASB card, there is no longer an admission cost preventing them from attending events.” In addition to free admission to school events, the free ASB cards reduce the cost for students to participate in athletics from a previous cost of $100 to play on a team to $75.

The administration team wanted to increase student attendance at school events for some time. “This idea has been two years in the making and John found a way to build the cost into our building budget,” said Paul Huddleston, Athletic Director for Woodland Public Schools. “Our hope is that we can encourage more students to not only participate in athletics as student players, but also attend school events which increases overall morale throughout the school.”

Student participation at athletic events can make a huge difference. “Our teams feed off the energy coming from the student support,” Paul said. “Our athletes and coaches work really hard for Game Day so we can be proud to say we are Woodland Beavers – they deserve that support and it’s great to see an effort to make it happen.”

Hannah Landrigan, a senior at WHS, and Kelly Wiest, a junior, play together on the school’s soccer team and experience the difference student support makes first-hand. “Having people you know in the stands gives you someone  to play for – their presence actually improves your play,” explained Hannah. Kaley agreed, “If there’s not a lot of student support, it can be hard to get as motivated, but when you’ve got friends and classmates cheering you on, their support makes the games feel important to the school.”

In addition to increasing student attendance, Hannah thinks the free ASB cards may drive up community attendance at sporting events, too, “When parents hear their kid’s going to a game, they might come, too, to make it a family activity and enjoy the Woodland spirit together.”

Hannah currently serves as ASB President and sees the free ASB cards making a big difference in many ways. “Already having an ASB card reduces the price of attending dances, drama performances, and musical concerts, too,” she said. “When you’re young, a discount of a few dollars can make the difference between being able to afford to go to a dance or not.”

The students observed more of their classmates talking about attending this year’s Homecoming Dance than in prior years. “Homecoming is always a big event for the high school, but there’s an increased interest in Homecoming this year,” explained Kaley. “Making the admission $3 instead of $5 may sound like a small change, but it makes all the difference for students being able to attend school events on a limited budget.”

Hannah and Kaley think increasing student engagement makes a bigger difference in small school communities like Woodland High School than it might in larger schools. “Woodland is a small, tight-knit community – everyone knows everyone unlike larger schools where people segment themselves into specific groups,” said Kaley. “We have different interest groups in Woodland, too, but kids flow from one group to another with a lot of overlap.”

To Hannah, the small-town community spirit of Woodland flows throughout the high school. “We’re a family and we accept new people into every group,” she said. “I haven’t met any new students who have trouble meeting people because we value everyone; ASB reflects this ideal and I think these free ASB cards are going a long way to bringing everyone even closer together.”

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