What is Dual Language?

    In Helms’ Pre-Kindergarten through Fifth Grade Dual Language Program, native English and native Spanish speaking students are integrated in the same classroom. Through content area instruction students become bilingual and bi-literate, developing positive cross-cultural attitudes and behaviors. Helms’ goal is that all students will perform at or above grade level in both languages by the fifth grade.

    The Dual Language Program is both an additive bilingual program for Spanish-speaking students and a foreign language immersion program for English-speaking students. In Two-Way classrooms, a combination of native Spanish speakers and native English speakers are taught together in an effort to develop full bilingualism and bi-literacy for both groups of students.

    Elementary Level

    All participating students receive instruction in language arts and content subjects primarily in Spanish in the early grades (K-2) with a grade specific amount of English as a Second Language/English Language Development instruction incorporated daily. English instruction is gradually increased through the grade levels (K-2) and by third grade instruction is presented in a 50% Spanish/50% English format. In grade five, instruction is delivered through a 50% Spanish/50% English mix. In grades 4-5 the language of instruction is determined by content area. In fourth grade language arts, reading and mathematics are taught in Spanish and Science, Social Studies, and English literature are taught in English. In fifth grade language arts, reading, mathematics, and science taught in English and Social Studies and Spanish literature are taught in Spanish. ELLs, who meet exit criteria anytime in this program, are reclassified as non-LEP, but remain in the program with parent permission.

    Goals & Benefits

    All Dual Language students will:

    • Achieve academically in all content areas
    • Develop bilingual and biliterate linguistic and literacy proficiencies in English and Spanish
    • Develop a multicultural perspective

    Houston ISD currently has twelve Elementary, two Middle School, two K-8 Academies, and one High School Dual Language Program. Please contact the Multilingual Programs Dept. (713-556-6961) for more information concerning this program option.



    Why should I consider enrolling my child in a Two-Way Dual Language Program?

    A bilingual person has the ability to communicate and interact with more people from around the world.  Becoming bilingual gives students the skills and knowledge to function competently in a global society.  Students in a Dual Language Program experience higher academic, cognitive, social and future benefits when compared to students who participate in all English classes.

    Academic benefits:

    • Higher academic achievement in school
    • Higher levels of second language proficiency
    • Higher results on state and standardized tests

    Cognitive benefits:

    • Higher levels of critical thinking and problem solving skills
    • Higher flexible thinking abilities and enhanced creativity
    • Increased ability to concentrate

    Social benefits:

    • Greater understanding of other cultures
    • Greater acceptance of others
    • Greater appreciation of personal heritage

    Economic benefits:

    • Increased opportunity and ability to fulfill language requirements for high school and university
    • Increased employment opportunities


    How will my child learn in another language?

    In the early grades, Dual Language teachers realize that their students will not understand everything they say.  Therefore, teachers use body language, visuals, manipulatives, exaggerated facial expressions, and expressive intonation to communicate their meaning.  To draw students into using the language, teachers use songs, useful phrases, chants, rhymes and carefully structure the day with familiar routines.  In Kindergarten it is common for native English speakers to speak English with their peers and when responding to their teacher.  As students move through the program, English speakers naturally use more Spanish and Spanish speakers use more English.  All students are learning a second language, so they not only learn language and content from their teachers but also from each other.

    How will learning everything in a second language affect my child’s English language and literacy development?

    Many parents are initially fearful that immersion may have a negative impact on their child’s English language development.  But research consistently finds that the immersion experience actually enhances English language development (Cloud, Genesee, & Hamayan, 2000).

    In full immersion programs (80:20 model), students develop initial literacy in Spanish.  Many cognitive processes that come from the ability to read, such as understanding the relationship between the spoken language and the written word, transfer from one language to another (Cloud, Genesee, & Hamayan, 2000).

    What does national research tell us?

    • Recent research shows that students, who participated in a Two-Way Dual Language Program, demonstrated strong self-esteem, felt academically competent, and held very positive attitudes toward other languages, speakers of other languages, and people they perceived as different from themselves.  In addition, most students also believed that being bilingual had made them smarter, able to perform better in school, able to think better, and would someday help them get a better job.  (Lindholm and Molina, 2006).
    • Students in a Two-Way Bilingual Program have better developed verbal skills (Center for Applied Linguistics, 1988).
    • Native English speakers in Two-Way Bilingual Immersion Programs maintained their English, added a second language to their knowledge base, and achieved well above the 50th percentile in all subject areas on norm-referenced tests in English.  The achievement of students educated in these programs equaled or outperformed their comparison groups being schooled in only one language, on all measures (Collier and Thomas, 2001). 
    • Immersion programs are the fastest growing and most effective type of foreign language program currently available in U.S. schools.  Most immersion program students can be expected to reach higher levels of second language proficiency than students in other school-based language programs (Met, 1998).
    • In addition to the added social and economic advantages of bilingualism, immersion learners benefit cognitively, exhibiting greater nonverbal problem-solving abilities, enhanced creativity, and analytical thinking (Collier & Thomas, 2005).

    What is the role of a parent in a Dual Language Program?


    Parents quite often feel some anxiety about having their child educated in a language, which they themselves do not speak.  They often worry about not being able to help with homework, or about not understanding their child’s difficulties.  Immersion teachers know that the children often come from monolingual homes and consider this when assigning homework. English dominant parents should expect some level of frustration to be expressed by their child.  The calm support of parents facilitates the adjustment to a new language and instructional environment.  It is important to realize that immersion provides a scholastic experience in Spanish.  To attain a higher level of bilingualism parents should look for Spanish language experiences outside of school:  Spanish television, radio, films, sports activities, and summer camps are among the many possibilities.


    The three most effective ways that a parent can prepare their child to succeed in school are:

    • reading together
    • talking together
    • answering your child’s questions about language. 

    Reading aloud with your child in your native language every day is very important.  It creates an interest in books, it enlarges your child’s vocabulary and it broadens his/her experience.  Visits to the zoo, shopping center, sports events, watching TV, cooking together and family chores all provide occasions for talking together.  Research clearly demonstrates that second language acquisition is dependent upon the first language development.  When you strengthen your child’s native language, he/she becomes more successful in learning the second language.