Educating the Whole Child: Language
Language is woven into all parts of the program. Toddlers are very excited by language. Isolated photographs of common objects, and real objects, are used for learning names. Words are attached to experiences: “Would you like a sweet taste, or a sour taste?” Stories, songs, conversation, simple explanations, and questions add to their understanding.
On Learning Letters
We teach your child letters through the sounds they make using:
- lower case (not capitals)
- handwriting in print
- named by sound (“mmmm”, not “em” for “m”)
If your child already knows letters by name, we explain that each letter has both a name and a sound: “ess” is the name of the letter and “sss” is the sound. Knowing the sounds of letters is a better aid to reading acquisition than learning their names.
In the primary class, enrichment of vocabulary continues through the use of classification cards, sensorial materials, and activities. Fine distinctions between words (broom/brush, string/thread) and long words (tyrannosaurus rex) delight the children. Stories, poems, plays and ordinary conversation are important in the environment, but no one is ever pressed to perform. The aim is to increase children’s knowledge, organization of thought, and confidence in their ability to use and express their minds.
With the sandpaper letters, children learn sensorially the forms and phonetic sounds of the alphabet. The children make words with a special movable alphabet; they may write words in this way for a long time before they realize that the words can also be read. After this, various materials lead the children through print to cursive, through phonetic and non-phonetic patterns, analyzing parts of speech and forms of sentences, and finally into “total reading”. Not all of this work may be accomplished in the primary class. Our aim is to encourage and delight the children with the magic of language, not to pressure them.
In the elementary class, language work continues, including word study, history of language, analysis of sentences, construction and style, spelling and vocabulary. The children write and illustrate stories, poems and research reports, sometimes quite long; and often research is presented orally to groups of classmates. Total reading includes a critical approach, the ability to question what has been read and compare different points of view. Materials are presented in all areas of the curriculum to aid in the development of reading at all levels.
At the middle school level, students read a wide variety of books as part of their Literature Studies. Vocabulary lessons continue. Every student participates in the writing of the school newspaper, through which style, grammar and composition lessons are reinforced. Our Voices time allows students to practice public speaking in a variety of formats, from expository presentations to sharing memorized poems.
Foreign language is an important part of our overall language program. Students learn Spanish starting in the primary program and continuing through middle school. As the children grow the amount of time spent focusing on foreign language study increases. The curriculum is presented as a rich, multi sensory experience. Our students take delight in singing, speaking, listening, reciting, conversing, and learning about Spanish cultures worldwide.