Thesis Project Proposal by Lisa West, Jill Herzig, Jill Katrin, Pat Holte, and Karin Rigdon : LUSENET : M.Ed./International Falls : One Thread

Thesis Project Proposal

Submitted by

Lisa West, Jill Herzig, Jill Katrin, Pat Holte, and Karen Rigdon

March 10, 1999

A. Background

Numerous studies have shown that a second language is best acquired from zero to ten years of age. In the Northern sector of the United States many students' first educational experience is at the secondary level when learning a second language is not considered "optimal." According to research, when the "windows of opportunity" are closed, language retention is more difficult.

The five researchers working on this project have experience in a variety of educational settings ranging from Early Childhood to Junior High. One member of our team currently works at a parochial school that has had a second language program ranging from preschool through eighth grade, for the past two years. The remaining team researchers work in the local elementary public school system at the elementary level that does not have a second language program.

Statement of the Problem

Our research question is : Should small, rural, public elementary schools offer a second language program for students in kindergarten through fifth grade at the optimal brain developmental phase?

Rationale for the Study of the Problem

The focus of our research is to investigate the rationales for implementing a second language program at an elementary level to serve as a basis for establishing and continuing such a program in the International Falls area. We will concentrate on comparing various Northern Minnesota schools through the use of a questionnaire by addressing the following: program costs, teacher/pupil ratio, type of program and teaching methods, for the purpose of determining an "ideal" curriculum. We will be looking at both public and private schools with comparable demographics to International Falls, Minnesota schools.

A preliminary review of relevant professional literature has revealed a great deal of research supporting the introduction of a second language at an elementary school-age level. Our literature search thus far has consisted of preliminary Internet searches, ERIC database searches, and attendance at seminars on brain research. In continuing our literature review, we will further utilize the Internet sources and various professional publications. We will also look at second language programs being taught in Northern Minnesota. Studies of second language acquisition range from brain research to qualitative and quantitative research, which document the evidence of the positive effects of foreign language programs at the elementary school-age level.

Definition of Terms

Windows of opportunity: A period when the brain demands certain types of input in order to create or stabilize long-lasting structures. ( Sousa, 1998, p. 3).

Secondary level: Students attending grades ninth through twelfth grade.

Optimal brain developmental phase: The period of time which represents children from birth to age eleven when the brain requires input necessary for acquiring a second language with the same fluency as the child's native tongue. (Sousa, 1998, p. 3).

Second language program: Instruction in kindergarten through grade five which introduces students to listening, speaking, reading, and writing in another language other than their native tongue.

Language acquisition: The time period when a language other than the native tongue is being learned.


Sousa, David, A. (1998). Learning Manual for How the Brain Learns. California: Corwin Press.

-- Anonymous, March 16, 1999


Hello Lisa, Jill H., Jill K.,Pat and Karin;

The format in which you have submitted your research project is good and your statement of the problem is certainly one that is very achieveable. The results of your project will be excellent information for your school district and you may become directly involved in working toward making this happen. Your proposal is accepted - continue to be concise and enjoy this research process! Mary Ann

-- Anonymous, March 21, 1999

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