It is absolutely understandable that your child might show some signs of anxiety when learning a second language during the first few weeks or months of school. Children in a bilingual language program are being placed in a situation where they may have difficulty understanding what teachers tell them or may feel like they are not keeping up with the class. Children may need to use their native tongue to communicate, but the teachers will always try to link this communication back to the second language. Teachers use a variety of methods outside the language, such as using gestures to give clues as to their meaning in order to link the verbal communication with something the child already knows and understands. As a result, your child may sometimes feel confused in the classroom instruction or learning process. In addition, sometimes your child may not understand the reason why (s)he has to learn a second language. We have observed that parental support is extremely important in supporting and encouraging a child through this learning process.
What should I do? It is normal for children who are becoming bilingual to switch between languages and occasionally mix the two languages. This is known as code switching. This occurs naturally and depends on the audience and purpose of the communication. Code switching generally occurs when a child is trying to clarify a statement or resolve an ambiguity. It is also used to attract or retain the listener’s attention and to elaborate. Children sometimes mix two languages when attempting to communicate a word or an expression that is immediately accessible to him in one of the languages but not the other. Like monolingual children, bilingual children also play with their two languages by making words rhyme, inventing new words or using certain words in inappropriate contexts.
Code switching and language mixing are mostly temporary phenomena in the second language acquisition process. As children become more adept in their two languages, the perceived need or desire to combine them is greatly reduced.
Children understand that each language has its own vocabulary and syntax. They also understand that certain people with whom they come in contact do ot speak both of the languages that they speak. Consequently, they learn to use only one of their languages with them. Parents are encouraged to speak to their children in their native language and/or designated “family language,” so as to serve as an appropriate and correct language model.
The “prepared environment” is Maria Montessori’s concept that the environment can be designed to facilitate maximum independent learning and exploration by the child.
In the prepared environment, there is a variety of activity as well as a great deal of movement. In an elementary classroom, a small group of six- to nine-year-old children may be using a timeline to learn about extinct animals while another child chooses to work alone, analyzing a poem using special grammar symbols. Sometimes an entire class may be involved in a group activity, such as storytelling, singing, or movement. In a preschool classroom, for example, a three-year-old may be washing clothes by hand while a four-year-old nearby is composing words and phrases with letters known as the movable alphabet, and a five-year-old is performing multiplication using a specially designed set of beads.
In the calm, ordered space of the Montessori prepared environment, children work on activities of their own choice at their own pace. They experience a blend of freedom and self-discipline in a place especially designed to meet their developmental needs.
Maria Montessori was born in Chiaravalle (Ancona), Italy to Alessandro Montessori and Renilde Stoppani. Montessori was the first woman to graduate from the University of Rome La Sapienza Medical School. She was a member of the University’s Psychiatric Clinic and became intrigued with trying to educate the “mentally retarded” and the “uneducable” in Rome. In 1898, she gave a lecture at the Educational Congress in Torino about the training of the disabled. The Italian Minister of Education was in attendance, and was impressed by her arguments sufficiently to appoint her the same year as director of the Scuola Ortofrenica, an institution devoted to the care and education of the mentally retarded. She accepted, in order to put her theories to proof. Her first notable success was to have several of her 8 year old students apply to take the State examinations for reading and writing. The “defective” children not only passed, but had above-average scores, an achievement described as “the first Montessori miracle.” 
Because of her success with these children, she was asked to start a school for children in a housing project in Rome, which opened on January 6, 1907, and which she called “Casa dei Bambini” or Children’s House. The success of this school sparked the opening of many more, and a worldwide interest in Montessori’s methods of education.
Maria Montessori died in The Netherlands in 1952, after a lifetime devoted to the study of child development. Her early work centered on women’s rights and social reform and evolved to encompass a totally innovative approach to education. Her success in Italy led to international recognition, and for over 40 years she traveled all over the world, lecturing, writing and establishing training programs. In later years, ‘Educate for Peace’ became a guiding principle, which underpinned her work.
After the 1907 establishment of Montessori’s first school in Rome, by 1913 there was an intense interest in her method in North America, which later waned. (Nancy McCormick Rambusch revived the method in America by establishing the American Montessori Society in 1960). Montessori was exiled by Mussolini mostly because she refused to compromise her principles and make the children into soldiers. She moved to Spain and lived there until 1936 when the Spanish Civil War broke out. She then moved to The Netherlands until 1939. During a teachers conference in India she was interned by the authorities and lived there for the duration of the war. Montessori lived out the remainder of her life in The Netherlands, which now hosts the headquarters of the AMI, or Association Montessori Internationale. She died in Noordwijk aan Zee. Her son Mario headed the AMI until his death in 1987.
Aside from a new pedagogy, among the premier contributions to educational thought by Montessori are:
- children as natural learners
- instruction of children in 3-year age groups, corresponding to sensitive periods of development (example: Birth-3, 3-6, 6-9, and 9-12 year olds with an Erdkinder (German for “Children of the World”) program for early teens
- children as competent beings, encouraged to make maximal decisions
- observation of the child in the environment as the basis for ongoing curriculum development (presentation of subsequent exercises for skill development and information accumulation)
- small, child sized furniture and creation of a small, child-sized environment (microcosm) in which each can be competent to produce overall a self-running small children’s world
- creation of a scale of sensitive periods of development, which provides a focus for class work that is appropriate and uniquely stimulating and motivating to the child (including sensitive periods for language development, sensorial experimentation and refinement, and various levels of social interaction)
- the importance of the “absorbent mind,” the limitless motivation of the young child to achieve competence over his or her environment and to perfect his or her skills and understandings as they occur within each sensitive period. The phenomenon is characterized by the young child’s capacity for repetition of activities within sensitive period categories (Example: exhaustive babbling as language practice leading to language competence).
Learning a second language at an early age
- Has a positive effect on intellectual growth and enriches and enhances a child’s mental development
- Leaves students with more flexibility in thinking, greater sensitivity to language, and a better ear for listening Improves a child’s understanding of his/her native language
Kathleen Marcos, ERIC Clearinghouse on Languages and Linguistics
Much attention has been focused on the importance of early foreign language learning. Some research reports that younger children learn languages better than older children and adults. With so many demands already placed on children, parents ask, Is it important that my child learn a second language at a young age? If so, why? What can I do to help my child learn a language?
Harris Teeter’s Together In Education program is a fund raising program for schools (public or private- preschool through 12th grade) in our communities. When customers purchase select Harris Teeter Brand products using their VIC card, Harris Teeter contributes a percentage of those purchase dollars to the schools of their choice. Schools use the money as they see fit on anything from basic supplies to band equipment or computers.
You can link your Harris Teeter VIC card to IMS by clicking here: Link My Harris Teeter VIC card to 6519
Our school has elected to participate in the School Scrip Program, Weaver Street Market’s donation program for local schools, preschool through 12th grade. Your purchase of a School Scrip Card (aka a Gift Card) allows you to donate 5% of your purchases directly to the International Montessori School.
If you would like to participate in the School Scrip Program, please visit either Weaver Street Market grocery store and purchase a rechargeable Gift Card (also known as School Scrip Card,). When purchasing the card, be sure to tell the cashier to use School Scrip Number 218 for school. This will ensure that we receive the 5% donation.
Then, use this Scrip Card (Gift Card) each time you shop at Weaver Street Market in Carrboro, Hillsborough or Southern Village or at Panzanella Restaurant.
You must purchase your gift card prior to ringing up your groceries. For more information about Weaver Street Market, please visit their website.
For every dollar you spend at at Weaver Street Market or Panzanella using a Scrip Card, IMS will receive back 5%.
Click Network for Good to be directed to our page at Network for Good to donate using your credit card.
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