Hawaii: Immersion expands learning

Harold F. Schiffman haroldfs at ccat.sas.upenn.edu
Mon Aug 14 13:21:09 UTC 2006

Immersion expands learning

by Cynthia Matsuoka - THE GARDEN ISLAND

Editors note: This is Part 2 in a three-part series on Hawaiian immersion
classes at three local schools. Part 1 discussed the history of Hawaii as
a bilingual state, and three programs that Kapaa-area schools have

At Kapaa Elementary, the Hawaiian Language Immersion is one of the
schools-within-a-school and this year services just under 60 students.
Kindergarten and first-grade students are taught by Namomi McCorriston, a
new teacher; second- and third-grade students are taught by Aliholani
Rogers; fourth- and fifth-grade students are taught by Sam Kaauwai. They
are assisted by part-time teacher Joan Torio. Formal instruction in
English reading and writing begins in the fourth and fifth grades.
Research in immersion programs in New Zealand shows a solid understanding
of reading in one language will carry over in the acquisition of another
language, Rogers said.

At the beginning, Rogers said she had to translate books written in
English, type up the translations and then paste the translations over the
English words to produce books in Hawaiian. She said over the years, more
and more materials written in the Hawaiian language have become available.
Rogers now has a science series written in Hawaiian, and is waiting for a
translated math investigations program formatted on disks to arrive. She
has a classroom library of storybooks in Hawaiian, although she still has
available the old books with the glued-on translations.

Rogers said the availability of materials in Hawaiian are due to the
efforts like the Hawaiian Studies and Language Programs Section of the
Instructional Services Branch in the Office of Curriculum, Instruction and
Student Support of the Department of Education, Hale Kuamoo at UH-Hilo,
Aha Punana Leo and fellow immersion teachers. Rogers said immersion
teachers are constantly developing and sharing materials and curriculum.
Rogers is working with students at Kauai Community College who used to be
in the immersion program to extract stories from old Hawaiian newspapers.
She hopes Hale Kuamoo can publish the stories so all immersion programs
can have one more piece of Hawaiian literature.

As the availability of textbooks and materials in the Hawaiian language
has evolved, so has the Hawaii State Assessment for immersion students. At
first, third-grade immersion students had to take the test in English.
That didnt make sense. You can't ask the kids to take it in English when
we haven't even started formally teaching them in English, Rogers said. A
compromise was to translate the test. The translated test, however, was
awkward and unclear, partly because the original in English was not
written well, and partly because things get lost in translation, Rogers

You couldn't tell if the child was having difficulty or doing well because
of the content or something in the translation, Rogers said. Last year
students took the Hawaiian Aligned Portfolio Assessment for the first
time. It was a test written in Hawaiian, not translated, based on the
Hawaii Content and Performance standards benchmarks and included authentic
forms of assessment. For example, students were recorded as they read to
determine if they hit the applicable reading benchmarks.

Rogers said it was a good collaboration between Hawaiian language
immersion educators and the people from the testing division. At present,
the fifth graders still have to take the HSA in English. As the only
immersion teacher at KMS, Pua Rossi services three grade levels. Only
Hawaiian language and social studies are taught in Hawaiian.  The students
are mainstreamed in the other courses. It is difficult for students to
have to go back and forth between instruction in English and Hawaiian,
Rossi said, but the they do their best.

Rossi has nine students in her sixth grade class, three students in her
seventh grade class and four students in her eighth grade class. She had
expected to start from scratch with the older students this year because
their teacher last year did not speak fluent Hawaiian, but was surprised
that her students still got it and are doing well. Last year, to support
the KMS teacher, Paul Williams, resource teacher for the Department of
Educations Hawaiian Language Immersion program, went in once a week, as
did Kaliko Mokuahi and Kanani Durant from Hoola Lahui Hawaii, to teach

Rogers said Hoola Lahui Hawaii is a good community resource for the
Hawaiian immersion programs. At Kapaa Elementary, they provide exercise
classes for the students and help to tutor students in science and math.

 Cynthia Matsuoka is a freelance writer for The Garden Island and former
principal of Chiefess Kamakahelei Middle School. She can be reached by
e-mail at aharju at kauaipubco.com.



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