First Navajo Language Immersion Teaching Methodology workshop aims to help students 'stay in the language'

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FARMINGTON — Navajo Preparatory School staff are working with college professors and a teacher’s organization to host a two-day workshop on increasing the proficiency of students learning the Navajo language in schools.

The first Navajo Language Immersion Teaching Methodology workshop will take place Friday and Saturday at Navajo Prep.

Educators will learn how to teach Diné Bizaad, or the Navajo language, in an immersion setting, said Navajo Prep Executive Director Betty Ojaye.

Ojaye said Diné is becoming endangered as fewer children learn it as their first language.

“We have to ensure our culture and language survive together because you can’t deal with one without the other,” Ojaye said.

It’s important to revitalize teaching the language in schools, Ojaye said, because that's the only place it can be taught in a regular, concise and structured manner throughout the day.

The Diné Language Teachers Association is co-sponsoring the workshop.

Jennie DeGroat, a senior lecturer from Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff, Ariz., and Sheilah Nicholas, associate professor at the University of Arizona in Tucson, Ariz., will run a series of workshops about spoken language development.

Friday’s lectures will cover several areas, including lesson planning and evaluations, and will introduce culture-based lessons and strategies to teach lessons in Navajo, said Rose Nofchissey, Navajo Prep Diné studies instructor.

On Saturday, attendees will practice what they learned by planning a lesson and teaching it to those at the conference.

The goal of the workshops is to explore and develop a support system for students to "stay in the language," Nofchissey said.

She said it can be a struggle for both students and teachers to remain fluent in the language when there are few opportunities to speak Navajo outside of the classroom.

As part of their graduation requirements, Navajo Prep students are required to take Navajo language classes as freshmen and sophomores.

Nofchissey said the school tries to surround students with the Navajo language on campus by integrating it into activities like cheerleading.

She also requires the first 10 minutes of each class to be spoken in Navajo, which helps students take ownership in learning the language.

“When they don’t have ownership, they are real passive learners,” Nofchissey said.

Joshua Kellogg covers education for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4627.

If you go

What: Navajo Language Immersion Teaching Methodology workshop

Where: Navajo Preparatory School, 1221 W. Apache St., Farmington

When: 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday

Cost: $180

More info: Go to navajoprep.com for more information and registration.

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