Summer improv class brings English, Spanish speaking students together

Catherine Kim, Reporter

Northwestern’s Center for Talent Development will launch a two-way immersion program that combines Spanish and English with improv classes for elementary school students this summer.

The two-way immersion program, called “Jugando con el Lenguaje” or “Playing with Language,” will be held from June 25 through July 14 for fourth through sixth graders. Children who are fluent in either English or Spanish are put in a class together to learn and interact in both languages.

In addition to learning how to perform, students will learn about stage performance as part of the improv class, said course designer Danielle Holtz. Activities will be added throughout the program to support their language skills development as well, such as dictating word choice in English or Spanish to help them learn how to have more deliberate control over their speech, she said.

“The goal is to make them better communicators in the end,” she said.

Evanston/Skokie School District 65 has been hosting two-way immersion programs since 2000 to “increase proficiency in both English and Spanish” and “help develop positive attitudes about language and multiculturalism,” according to the district’s website. Communication sciences and disorders Prof. Viorica Marian said, based on her study of Evanston bilingual students in two-way immersion programs, that those in this specific bilingual program have higher performance levels than their peers.

She added that these multilingual classes can have several positive social outcomes for children. Not only do they lead to greater awareness of self and linguistic skills, but they also boost interpersonal skills, cultural awareness and confidence, she said. The classes break down barriers and help them have a better perspective of others, she said.

“Anytime we interact with individuals from other cultures, other languages, it leads to better understanding of their similarities and things that unite us as people,” she said.

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