BERNARDS TOWNSHIP, NJ -- Fourth-graders in Bernards Township schools will learn to speak some basic Spanish words and writing, starting this fall.

Fifth-graders will continue to move to nearby rooms and see different teachers under the “platooning” idea begun on a trial level last year. Students will begin and end the day with the same homeroom teacher, but move as a class for two-period blocks during the day.

Students in grades 3 to 5 will see more computer training while continuing to spend time learning how to use the media center.

Sign Up for Basking Ridge Newsletter
Our newsletter delivers the local news that you can trust.

These were some of the elementary school programming changes for the fall described to the Board of Education on Monday night, July 22.

Fourth- and fifth-graders will receive 30 minutes of introduction to Spanish language and culture two days a week, said Kathy Stotler, K-12 world languages supervisor.

They will learn to memorize words and phrases, how to ask and respond to questions, describe things and state their preferences. Units will center on the topics of celebrating birthdays, friends at school and geography and culture of selected Spanish countries.

Students will be evaluated for report cards by their ability to converse with a partner, and read and write the language.

Stotler said she hoped students would be “just enough excited about learning a language and not be scared by it.” As students age, it will interesting to see if they stick to higher levels of Spanish instruction, or take other of multiple languages, she said.

Stotler said she had been in the district for seven years, and this will be the first step to bring world languages into elementary schools.

Kristin Fox, assistant superintendent for curriculum, said “platooning” was begun last year, with each of the four elementary schools tailoring the concept as educators saw fit. This year the process will be standardized across the district, she said.

 “Platooning” was implemented to allow teachers to concentrate in subjects that are their strengths. Students would be introduced to the process of seeing different teachers for different subjects, as they will when they advance to middle school for sixth grade.

Fox said a parent survey of parents of children in the four elementary schools showed support for the idea of some student movement during the day. Some parents expressed concern with the number of books a students would have to carry throughout the day (there are no lockers in fifth grade) but more than two-thirds said they thought their children held a strong connection to their teachers and were prepared to enter middle school, said Fox.

Thomas Misiak, supervisor of science and technology, described how students will spend time in computer labs, learning things like how to create folders and sub-folders, since the schools will have two fewer computer teachers this year.  Board President Robin McKeon reminded that students will be using Chromebooks more often during class time.

The educators’ program can be viewed on the school website under “Board of Education” and “board presentations.”