Stonecreek Montessori Academy’s Spanish immersion program gives students the unique opportunity to rapidly acquire the Spanish language, while building a strong foundation in a broad range of Montessori skills.
Full Spanish language immersion achieves bilingualism. Children learn language best by experiencing it naturally, by being immersed in it. In that way, our Spanish program aims to achieve correct pronunciation and phonetics.
A rich Montessori environment supports optimal Spanish language learning by tying language to a broad range of everyday activities. A portion of each classroom day will include Spanish to help students acquire the language and terminology needed for everyday life. Stonecreek students will also be exposed to a variety of environments, where they will be able to use the acquired skills and vocabulary in interactions with other students and members of our community. We will take different small trips to gardens, learn how to make Latin American dishes, and participate in local service projects that will develop Spanish language skills in day-to-day activities.
Why Spanish Immersion Class?
Montessori is the perfect environment for learning a second language because it naturally provides many ocf the key elements for optimal language learning:
◦ Differentiation. Children learn language at different speeds and levels. Good language instruction is able to differentiate in speed, method, and emphasis. Montessori instruction is individualized by design. Our Montessori teachers are masters at observing each student and tailoring lessons to his or her abilities. As a result, no student is ever pushed beyond what he is capable of or held back to remain at the level of his peers. Each child is free to progress at her own pace, guided with nurturing support by a native speaker who understands her unique growth as an individual.
◦ Real-life interactive instruction. Linguists look for opportunities to provide language in a real-life context, rather than out of textbook pages. In the Stonecreek Spanish immersion environment, teachers are responsive to children’s activities. A child who works with the pink tower learns about abstract concepts of size; one who sets the table learns the names of household utensils; another who runs across a classmate’s mat receives vocabulary centered around walking slowly and respecting the needs of friends. Montessori environments abound with words of objects and ideas — from animal figurines to actual screw drivers, from math concepts to the language of good etiquette — all words they don’t have to memorize from a textbook, but rather get to use and hear everyday in the classroom! This is Spanish the way it should be learned: through interactive experience.
◦ Care for a child’s growing sense of self-esteem. Children learn better when they aren’t anxious about being put on the spot and expected to perform, when they are confident in themselves and “at home” in their environment. In much of traditional language instruction, children are called upon in a group to say things in the other language. This can provoke performance anxiety. In contrast, mistakes in a Montessori environment are always learning opportunities. Much of the interaction at Stonecreek happens one-on-one between the teacher and the child, so there is no threat of failing in front of one’s peers.
◦ Knowledge of grammar. Especially in the elementary years, knowing grammar is critical for becoming literate in a second language. Montessori excels here as well. Students at Stonecreek start learning the parts of speech with the Montessori grammar symbols as early as Montessori preschool, and continue a rigorous grammar program in the elementary years. (This formal teaching of grammar at such a young age is only possible because of the sensorial nature of Montessori grammar materials. If you’ve never experienced them, please come visit — they’re quite wonderful!)
◦ Clear, intentional language. Children absorb language habits from their environment. How teachers speak is critical. That is why having a native Spanish speaker is critical, as is the classroom element. At Stonecreek, the Montessori classroom is a part of Spanish class and the discussion there involves careful discussion of specific classroom elements, rather than going to a sterile or separate classroom to learn words and lessons that do no connect to the students’ experiences.
◦ Modeling. Children learn language better if they are used to repeating what adults do. Linguists are amazed how naturally this happens in Montessori: our students are used to teacher demonstrations followed by their own student practice. They have internalized learning by modeling after their teachers! Thus, they naturally want to repeat after their Montessori teacher, when he speaks in Spanish, fostering strong language skills.
◦ Cultural competency. Language is inevitably tied to culture. In fact, children often default to speaking the language of the surrounding culture. A Montessori classroom provides a rich environment for cultural experiences. Practical life activities can incorporate Spanish customs, from foods we prepare together, to the type of fabrics we use in our materials. Songs and stories from Spanish-speaking areas of the world bring Spanish culture to life in the classroom. And, of course, the strong Montessori geography program enables our students to locate the cultural regions where Spanish is spoken on the world map!
◦ An early start. Language learning happens most easily during early childhood. In fact, Dr. Montessori first identified a “sensitive period” for language early in life, where children can effortlessly absorb language skills from their environment. The Stonecreek Spanish immersion program leverages the child’s “absorbent mind” by surrounding him with Spanish so he can absorb his second language just as naturally as his first.
In the end, Stonecreek’s Montessori environment and language immersion are the perfect match!
Stonecreek is committed to the value of not just learning elements of Spanish to pass tests; our goal is to help children become truly fluent in a second language. To this end, Spanish is included in the class every day for an hour, for all classes. All interactions with our Spanish teacher during the day are conducted in Spanish, rather than having an English discussion about Spanish terms and grammar.
Spanish is the second most widely spoken language in the World. It is estimated that 406,000,000 persons in the World speak Spanish. In the United States alone, 34.4 million people, equivalent to 12.2 percent of the entire population age five or older, speak Spanish at home. In today’s world, there is a high demand for bilingual professionals who can communicate fluently in both Spanish and English. However, the benefits of bilingualism are not only professional. Becoming bilingual, especially from an early age and at higher levels of proficiency, offers a wide range of benefits to children.
◦ Personal benefits. Learning Spanish today allows your child to further enjoy her tomorrow. Being able to speak Spanish enables your child to more easily travel the whole Spanish-speaking world and to interact with Spanish-speaking people in our communities here at home. In the long-term, being bilingual can free up a student’s time to pursue other activities in his later schooling: high school language requirements will be met with ease and college admissions look favorably on students who can speak more than one language. As an adult, knowing Spanish of course can open up additional job opportunities.
◦ Cognitive benefits. Recent research indicates that being bilingual may actually make people more creative and better at solving complex problems. Bilingual children may also have an edge in executive function, or the ability to consciously direct their activities, which is highly correlated to school and life success! Recent studies have even shown that full bilingualism may delay the onset of Alzheimer’s symptoms!
◦ Academic benefits. While some educators and parents may be concerned that speaking and learning in more than one language may negatively impact academic achievement, many studies actually point to opposite results. Knowing another language well actually imparts a stronger ability in meta-language skills, such as understanding grammar rules. Compared to mono-lingual children, bilinguals also appear to have an edge in achieving high scores in standardized tests, such as the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT).
Q. How does it work?
A: Spanish Immersion means that your child is immersed, or surrounded by the Spanish language during her class. Your child will enjoy all of the elements of a regular class, just in Spanish! In this language immersion environment, when a child is enjoying an activity he learns the educational concept and the language at the same time.
Newcomers to class will immediately hear Spanish words; however, the teacher will utilize English as required to ensure children understand the rules and expectations, get to know their teacher and are made to feel comfortable. Throughout the day, our Spanish teacher, when necessary, will show or dramatize what they are saying. However, in a school environment virtually every opportunity provides self-explanatory translation and so the student can grasp meanings from their very first day in class.
If the teacher believes that a child does not understand certain Spanish expressions from the context, it will be explained briefly in English, before resuming in Spanish. This will ensure that no child feels “lost” or confused. Our objective is to encourage students to enjoy Spanish and provide the strong foundation of a Montessori approach. The prerequisite for this, of course, is to make sure your child feels secure and comfortable in his or her class.
Q. What is the best age to introduce a child to a second language?
A. The earlier a child learns a language the better. Younger children are without inhibitions and so will speak naturally and with native-like pronunciation. Furthermore, learning a second language, like learning any skill, is a wonderful opportunity to keep young “sponge-like” brains active and stimulated, setting a good habit for later life. It is said that even if a child discontinues the practice of a second language, some benefits will remain with the child.
In addition to developing a lifelong ability to communicate with more people, children may derive other indirect benefits such as self-confidence and awareness of other cultures. Knowing a second language does prepare us better for life in the multi-cultural, multi-lingual world of the twenty-first century, and can provide a competitive advantage in the workforce.
Q. Will a second language interfere with my child’s English ability?
A. In most cases, learning another language enhances a child’s English ability. Children do occasionally bounce back and forth between languages as they learn, but this is both expected and helpful. Children truly begin to think in both languages, rather than self-translating. Comparing two language systems aids with the understanding and use of each. Reports have demonstrated that overall, children who have learned a second language earn higher standardized test scores.
Q. Is it harder for a child to acquire two languages at once?
A. There is no evidence to suggest this. A child doesn’t have to be exceptional to become bilingual; as long as the child is exposed to two languages throughout early childhood, he or she will acquire them both. Additional activities at home are not required for the child to successfully learn a second language. However, we can advise you in this regard if you wish to enhance your child’s experience.
Q. What types of materials will be used in the classroom?
A. Stonecreek will use a variety of materials in each classroom that will help each student develop all of the areas previously mentioned. Depending on the age and level of the students, our teacher will present them with a variety of options that will allow them to explore new areas as they work with a wide range of materials. For example, Latin American folklore music as well as short clips from movies will allow SMA students to get exposure to the different Latin American Spanish spoken in various countries, as well as to the variety of cultures and customs in each country.
Additionally, we will incorporate fun activities, such as cooking and short music performances, where students can have the opportunity to practice the vocabulary, grammar and phonetic skills acquired in class to an everyday setting and situation. This is a great opportunity to incorporate other subjects such as math, music and science into our Spanish program!
Another great example of materials is the Three-Part Card Work students will be using. During this activity, students will be exposed to the Spanish language by developing the following five areas:
• Matching Work: Children associate concrete objects to pictures. Material sets include card and manipulative. Flavors, Colors, Numbers, Fruit, Table Setting, Insects, Animals, Vehicles.
• Listening Work: Children listen and respond with body movement and repetition to songs, stories and sounds.
• Three-Part Card Work: Children recognize the written word. Material sets include control card, picture card, and word card.
• Card Placement Work: Children place words into the appropriate context.
• Sentence Work: Children create and speak the language. Material sets include work boards and a variety of subject, verb, and object cards.