The effects of partial Hebrew language immersion in pre-school on English (L1) and Hebrew (L2) reading skills in first grade
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Research shows that the language Immersion Method, where children are taught entirely in the target language, is among the best ways to learn a second language (Curtain and Haas, 1995). The five year time frame between ages 3-8 is the crucial time to teach young children a second language, just prior to the transition of designating a separate area in the brain for second language learning occurs (Crosser, 2002). The best time to introduce the Immersion Method is Pre-school, between the ages of 3-5, when children are most naturally inclined to learn and absorb a foreign language (Curtain, 1996).;This study asked two questions; did partial oral immersion in Hebrew in Pre-school predict greater literacy skills in Hebrew in first grade? Since the literature predicts that immersion in a second language will improve comprehension in the native language as well (Hobolow et al., 1987, Swain & Lapkin, 1991), this study asked a second question; did partial oral immersion in Hebrew predict greater literacy skills in English?;The study involved first grade students (N=28) recruited from two Modern Orthodox Jewish Day Schools in the Metropolitan New York area. Students were tested individually according to the DIBELS (Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literary Skills) assessment scales for English comprehension and literacy skills, and a parallel Hebrew measurement for Hebrew comprehension and literacy skills.;Results indicated that in both the English and Hebrew DIBELS test the Immersion students had a higher level of fluency and a higher grasp of the concepts of reading than the Non-Immersion students. Immersion students scored significantly higher on the Hebrew Retell Fluency task, the Hebrew Word Use Fluency task, and the English Word Use Fluency task. Immersion students were able to understand and retell a Hebrew story better than their Non-Immersion counterparts indicating a higher level of comprehension on the part of the immersion students. Similarly, the Immersion students exhibited a greater fluency in the use of both Hebrew and English words. These findings support the claim of a relationship between second language instruction through the immersion method in Pre-school and literacy skills in first grade.
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