Bilingualism Can Help Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder

If you’re a parent who has a child with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), then you’re familiar with how tough it can be for some children to unconsciously shift their attention between tasks. Shifting attention from one task to another is known as task switching or set-shifting and is an executive function that involves specific parts of the brain, like the prefrontal cortex. This brain structure also plays a role in the development of ASD. Recent research suggests that learning a second language may boost cognitive flexibility in areas like this and benefit those with ASD.

What is the Prefrontal Cortex?

The prefrontal cortex is part of the cortex that covers the front part of the frontal lobe. This is an area in the brain that helps you shift your focus and attention, unconsciously, and is also a brain structure that’s involved in ASD’s development. Automatically switching from one task to another without breaking concentration or re-focusing on the new task can be a tad difficult for some children with ASD. New research recently published in Child Development reports that being bilingual may possibly help children with ASD improve their ability to do just that—unconsciously shift their attention between tasks.

Being Bilingual May Increase Cognitive Flexibility

Being bilingual, and having the ability to switch between languages, may help increase cognitive flexibility, especially in children or adults with ASD. Over the past decade scholars and researchers have significantly debated whether having the ability to speak two languages improves executive functions. In fact, the term “bilingual advantage” was eventually coined because so many within the field believed that being bilingual clearly improved the executive system. With advances in technology, brain imaging studies have plainly demonstrated that bilinguals suppress their desire to use certain words from one language, in order to use words and grammar from another. In other words, speaking two languages is a workout for your brain.

Speaking Two Languages May Train the Brain Differently

Bilinguals learn a range of social tasks, such as verbal or non-verbal communication and how to read people. Some researchers think that bilingualism may even enhance some executive functions, like conflict resolution and working in a group, because switching between two languages helps the speaker see the world in different contexts.

Being Bilingual May Help Build Brain Muscle

It seems research is suggesting that speaking two languages may help flex some brain muscles and enable the brain to switch focus from one task to another without even breaking a sweat! So you can imagine, then, why so many within the field are focusing on these new research findings and why they desire to repeat studies with a larger sample size: it has huge implications for those with ASD.

Bilingualism May Even Offer Brain Protection  

Another benefit of being bilingual is that it may help protect the brain from dementia, stroke and brain injury. The thought process is similar: bilingualism boosts cognitive reserve. When executive function begins to decline, like in dementia, being bilingual seems to offer some cognitive protection by keeping parts of the brain fit. In other words, these brain structures may not age as quickly in people who are bilingual because these areas of the brain are more resilient. Whether you have ASD or not, it seems learning a second language can benefit your overall brain health. Just like briskly walking thirty minutes every day helps your heart to stay healthy, being bilingual is a way to stay cognitively fit.  

Being Bilingual Offers Those with ASD an Advantage

It’s evident that current findings may affect families when making educational decisions for their child with ASD. This research is only the beginning; hopefully, families who have a child with ASD will see more rigorous studies from scholars and scientists in the future.

 

Is Your Child Ready for Preschool?

by Tori Galatro

The typical age children enter preschool is 3 or 4 years old to prepare them for kindergarten at age 5. Many parents worry that their child may not have reached the appropriate developmental milestones for preschool, and don’t know when the right moment is. Deciding on the readiness of your child for preschool is not an exact science. No child enters preschool perfectly developed in all areas, and they shouldn’t be. Preschool should challenge them and help them to develop skills they don’t already have. So if they don’t check all of the skill boxes, don’t panic, and you don’t necessarily need to wait either.

However, there will be certain elements your child will have to deal with in preschool. They will be separated from you for multiple hours, asked to follow a routine, and follow simple instructions. In some cases, they may be expected to be potty trained. If they feel overwhelmed, frustrated, or alienated by these demands, that won’t help them to develop those skills any faster. Feeling calm and confident is important to social and emotional development, which helps with every other life skill. If your child is excited to be at preschool, and feels positively about the environment, they are more likely to learn and develop in that environment. It’s totally normal for children to experience separation anxiety and feel overwhelmed or upset, but preschool should not feel consistently scary and negative for long periods of time.

Pay attention to your child’s development and wait for the moment where they reach the happy medium, where the demands of preschool are fun and challenging at the same time. If you’re not sure if they are ready, remember that you can always start helping them to develop these skills at home. They can also begin by going part-time, and increase to full-time at a later date.

Potty Training

Some preschools don’t require that children be potty trained, while others are very strict about it. Either way, it’s a great skill to focus on with your child at home to help them learn other important skills like communicating their needs, personal hygiene, and using self control. Make sure your child understands that hand washing is part of the same activity, no matter where they are or who they’re with.

Concentration, Independence, & Communication

Unlike potty training, these “soft” skills will help your child to participate in activities, have their needs met, and learn from the lessons being taught to them. Help your child to practice doing designated activities for 10 to 20 minutes at a time, do simple chores by themselves, and express themselves verbally, even if they aren’t using complete sentences. Get them to be around other children, even if they aren’t directly interacting yet.

Emotional Coping

Most children need to be eased into being away from their parents for an extended period of time. Few children can be expected to adapt to this right away without a little practice first. Leaving your child with a babysitter of family member is also great practice for you if you’re feeling just as apprehensive as them about the separation.

Energy Levels

Preschool requires some serious energy and the ability to follow a routine. If your child is taking long mid-morning naps and isn’t used to a schedule, a great way to get them ready for preschool is to mimic the routine of preschool at home. Also, making sure they get good quality sleep at night starting at a reasonable hour in the evening, and exercise during the day, will help them stay energized and healthy overall.

The quality of the preschool you choose is just as important to their development as the age they start. At home and at school, your child will learn and grow best if the people around them are showing them care and attention, listening to them, and paying attention to their needs. Again, don’t worry too much that their age match the exact average for their class.

It’s always possible that they could skip a grade later if they are placed in the correct developmental age group now. And remember that if you’re concerned about your child’s development in any way, you should always talk to their doctor. Addressing concerns about their development now, even if that means holding them back, will help them in the future.

 

At Tessa International School, a nurturing, caring and challenging environment is who we are. Potty training is not required for the younger ages. We’re committed to creating a partnership between home and school environments. To find out more, feel free to contact us at 201 755 5585.

Social Emotional Learning: Implementing Sociograms

Classrooms are fundamentally important for the intellectual and emotional development of children. What happens in the classroom has a lasting effect on the rest of a child’s life. Outside of the home, this is where children commonly learn values and behavior norms. To this end, preschools are incorporating the concept of Social Emotional Learning into their education.

Why is Social Emotional Learning important?

Social Emotional Learning (SEL) integrates various aspects of education and life skills into the school curriculum to help children grow in all aspects of their life. SEL involves coordinating several aspects of the child’s life together to create a dynamic education strategy; this strategy helps children succeed in school, in their careers, in their relationships, and in their lives.

Research shows Social Emotional Learning increases the achievement rate of an individual by 11 percentile points, as well as encourages positive habits and behaviors in a child. These behaviors include kindness, empathy, sharing, gratitude, and other positive traits. This education helps children grow up to be responsible adults who are comfortable with social interactions, reducing the risk of stress and depression in growing children.

There are 5 key skills that are taught through Social Emotional Learning:

  • Self-Awareness: SEL helps a child to understand her or his own emotions, judge his or her strengths and weaknesses and become self-aware of inner thoughts and the personal and societal consequences of their actions.
  • Self-management: It guides a child into independence as she or he takes control of emotions, behaviors, actions, and reactions.
  • Social Awareness: SEL also helps children become aware of other cultures and backgrounds, to understand them, and empathize with them.
  • Relationship Skills: It guides children into developing and maintaining healthy relationships and helps them act within social norms.
  • Responsible Decision Making: SEL teaches children to make responsible decisions for themselves, knowing the consequences of their thoughts, and actions for the community.

It is important for teachers to implement this kind of learning into their classrooms. SEL helps young children learn these valuable skills at an early age. This way, as adults, they are able to manage relationships, both social and professional, with ease. Teachers can implement these life lessons through sharing personal experiences, allowing the children to partake in daily social activities, teaching children about different cultures and social norms, helping them develop social skills, and creating a diverse social and cultural mix in the classroom where everyone interacts with each other. And this does not need to be stand-alone lessons. It can be incorporated into all learning.

Teachers can use the help of sociograms to map out social interactions and create a socially dynamic classroom, especially with older students.

How to construct a sociogram:

To begin, ask each student to write down the name of two other students with whom they would like to partner up with in a group activity.

Now, collect the names from all of your students and construct a flow-chart. Circling the different names in different sizes, you will be able to create a visual of the degree of popularity among students. Here’s an example of a completed sociogram.

You will be able to observe three distinct patterns on your sociogram:

  1. Isolates- These are students who have not been chosen by any other student in the classroom, or those who have been chosen only by other isolates. This could be a matter of concern for the teacher.
  2. Gender- Another division that is observable is a gender division. This can be very common among kids of a young age, yet teachers make take note to try and encourage greater unity across gender lines.
  3. Groups- This pattern involves a certain group or “clique” which has been formed, and could be a matter of concern in the classroom.

While sociograms won’t provide all the answers to social problems in the classroom, they are a useful guide and tool. By identifying the groups and patterns, teachers can concentrate their attention more specifically.

Sociograms can help a teacher identify the relationships between groups in their classroom. By using the data they have collected, teachers can implement SEL in a more organized fashion, tailored to the needs of their own, unique classroom.

If you have questions or concerns about Social Emotional Learning or implementing Sociograms, contact Tessa International School.

 

The Remarkable Advantages of Social Emotional Learning: A Case Study

Educational paradigms are currently undergoing a profound and fundamental change. As we learn more about how children’s brains develop, educators are increasingly shifting away from a narrow focus on content, punctuated by occasional standalone lessons on social and emotional development, and into a new mode of instruction in which these formerly separate realms are integrated into one holistic curriculum. A recent case study demonstrates the success of these principles put into action.

CASEL, SEAD, and SEL

In order to understand the significance of the case study, we must first understand the principles of Social Emotional Learning (SEL). The Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL) has developed a coordinating framework to be utilized by educators, families, and communities to promote intrapersonal, interpersonal, and cognitive competencies in students. To that end, CASEL has developed a framework of 5 Core Competencies.

  • self-awareness
  • self-management
  • social awareness
  • relationship skills
  • responsible decision-making

The Aspen Institute’s National Commission on Social, Emotional, and Academic Development (SEAD) works closely with educators, community leaders, families, employers, and partners like CASEL to fully integrate this approach into K-12 academic curriculum. The goal of SEAD is to compile and release a Report From the Nation, which will outline specific actions intended to usher in a new era of education. This model will support the full development of students, providing them with the skills and emotional maturity to excel not only in academics, but into adulthood.

Case Study: Capital City Public Charter School

SEAD’s first report in the series is a case study of a Washington, D.C. charter school. Capital City provides an innovative learning environment for its 1,000 K-12 students by being part of the Expeditionary Learning network, which emphasizes mastery of academics, production of high-quality work, and development of character.

In practice, this results in “learning expeditions”, such as when 3rd and 4th grade classes compared Washington’s temperate forests with tropical rainforests, incorporating trips to a local park and the National Zoo into the lesson plan. Another example is when 9th graders studied the ecology of local fish, with an emphasis on habitat preservation/restoration and the impact of human activity on fish populations.

This holistic and engaging approach to education makes Capital City fertile ground for the integration of Social Emotional Learning. SEAD’s case study demonstrates this by zeroing in on teacher Samantha Clark’s 6th grade math class. In this lesson, students have been learning geometric concepts by working, alone and in groups, on blueprints depicting their city. Clark calls a volunteer (Brandon) to the overhead projector to display a tightly scripted “peer critique” protocol for the feedback process.

  • First, Brandon describes exactly what he is working on and mentions problems he is having completing his portion of the project.
  • Next, Clark asks “clarifying questions” to fully understand Brandon’s concerns.
  • Then she provides specific feedback, leading with positive comments and following up with helpful guidance.
  • Brandon is then given a chance to respond before returning to his group to put into practice what they have just learned.

This process keeps students engaged, on task, and working together harmoniously. “I don’t see social and academic skills separately at all,” Clark says. “I don’t think first about designing a lesson and then think next about how to develop students’ social-emotional skills. It’s all one.”

To ensure high-quality instruction such as that provided by Clark, Capital City teachers are supported by instructional coaches, given dedicated time to create lesson plans, and frequently meet with other teachers across all grade levels to discuss overarching concerns and goals.

As a result, this charter school outpaces its overall district in growth of student proficiency (as measured by PARCC), and 100% of Capital City’s graduates go on to enroll in college. Despite these impressive achievements, head of school Karen Dresden is always striving to improve. “Our job is much broader than preparing kids for a test;” she says, “we’re preparing kids to do well in college, in careers, and in life. We want to make sure that they have all those skills.”

Other Examples

Also included in the case study are four other examples of successfully implemented SEL approaches.

  • San Francisco Unified School District – The pre-K – 12 math curriculum is taught using principles of “growth mindset,” in which students are taught to expect and embrace mistakes as learning opportunities. This approach focuses on enhancing conceptual thinking, problem-solving skills, and procedural fluency, avoiding the strict right/wrong binary that has led so many students to believe they are “bad” at math.
  • Facing History and Ourselves – This non-profit organization engages students in an examination of social justice issues throughout history with the goal of encouraging students to engage in and understand their role in an active democracy.
  • New Tech Network (NTN) – The NTN focuses on project-based learning, integrating content knowledge with critical thinking, communication, collaboration, and student responsibility.
  • Center for the Collaborative Classroom – This non-profit provides continuous learning for teachers to support the academic, ethical, and social development of children.

Integrating SEL into academic curriculum is clearly beneficial for not only students, but for teachers, parents, and communities as well. By utilizing these principles we can raise the next generation to be socially conscious problem solvers, effective communicators, and well-rounded humans, leading to a better future for all of us.

For more information on innovative approaches to learning, contact us!

How Children Learn Languages Naturally Through Immersion

Immersion language learning may sound like something that can only be done living abroad, but this is absolutely not the case. Even monolingual people have experienced the central premise. If you’ve ever made a new group of friends who use a phrase you’re unfamiliar with, then find yourself using it constantly in a week or two, you’ve already been through a very minor form of language immersion. Parents who want their children to learn a second language during their early linguistically-adaptive years can understand why their preschoolers won’t learn a language by rote memorization of vocabulary sheets and grammar rules, but instead through immersion.

Immersion and Fluency

When babies are learning to talk, we don’t start them off with written flashcards. Instead, they start experimenting with phonemes (the smallest audible parts of a word like “ba” and “ko”) that sound like the sounds the adults around them are making. As they start to speak, they also pay close attention to how others around them speak and the responses they get from their new words. Eventually, they form meaningful sentences to express needs based on their understanding of what the words they are using mean by experience and observation. In other words, all children learn their first language through immersion. Learning their second language is no different.

family, children and people concept – happy mother and daughter drawing and talking over green background

The Bilingual Household

‘Naturally’ bilingual children are simply applying that adaptive language learning stage to two different language sets. Bilingualism occurs when a child is regularly exposed to communication in both languages. This can occur at home or at school, as long as the exposure is consistent and immersive.

In the Classroom

You don’t have to have a multilingual family or travel with a toddler to give your child the gift of additional languages at a young age. Immersion can easily be created in the classroom simply by changing the linguistic context of the lessons and conducting them in the second language for the majority of the school day. This gives students, not only the opportunity to self-motivate, but also the desire to do better. In an immersive classroom, the children are asked to think, listen, write, and speak primarily in the target language, helping them learn how to interact comfortably with each other and the instructor while learning the language together.

Tessa International Preschool

Tessa International School is an immersive bilingual preschool that emphasizes bilingual language learning  We take pride in our successes bringing bilingualism to our students. In our classrooms, the children learn from their native speaking teacher and teaching assistant, and from each other. Parents are consistently surprised by the speed and completeness with which their very young children can learn a new language. Children naturally learn language through immersion, and your toddler can start learning their second, third, or even fourth language right away with us. Whether you’re a classic monolingual English speaking family or your toddler speaks your native language better than the local one, Tessa International School will be proud to teach your child Spanish, French, or Mandarin in an environment that nurtures, challenges and provides educational excellence in a wonderfully rich learning environment. For more information about how children learn language or to schedule an interview with us, please contact us today!

How Interactive Whiteboards Help Children Learn

When many of us grew up, having a white board with colorful markers seemed part of an exciting wave of innovation. No more dusty erasers! Now those are giving way to interactive whiteboards.

These fantastic teaching tools help children learn in many ways:

Interactive White Boards Allow for More Interaction and Customization

Each lesson, teachers can prepare slides, similar to a PowerPoint presentation. However, the software for interactive whiteboards allows teachers and students to annotate what has been written directly onto the screen. For example, if a teacher wants the whole class to solve a math problem, the equation can be typed by the teacher on a slide. Then in class, a student (or group) can go up to the screen and work on solving it using a special inkless “pen”. If there is a mistake, the student can erase it. Unlike an overhead projector, the screen projection can be very large and there is no fumbling around with strange angles. If something is erased by mistake, there is an easy “undo” button that can simply be clicked. If teachers would like to use a hardcopy of a student’s work as an example, they can simply print it out.

Teachers Can Transition Seamlessly Between Topics

The slides can be created and saved by topic for a day, a week, or an entire unit: it’s all up to the educator. If a child misses a day of class, all the teacher needs to do is print out the slides and provide some additional notations. When students struggle with a concept, it is easy to go back over previous slides to make certain that they understood the previous material. Having an interactive whiteboard allows teachers greater organization techniques that everyone will be grateful for.

Objectives Can Easily Be Incorporated into Slides

In a classroom pressed for space, it can be hard to find additional areas to present the day’s objectives amidst the artwork, student work, calendars, and weekly schedules. However with an interactive whiteboard, teachers can post the lesson’s objectives anywhere on the slide. For example, the phrase “analyze the descriptive language in a poem” could be placed on all slides pertaining to that lesson, so that students remember the ultimate objective. This, in turn, will help students develop metacognitive skills so that they are aware of their own academic skills as they develop them.

Links Can Be Integrated into Slides

Today, there is so much supplemental educational material available on the internet, it’s extremely helpful if educators have an efficient way to share it with their students. Whether it’s a video of an inspiring speech or of penguins protecting their eggs, teachers can link to it directly through a word or picture. There is no time lost running over to a computer.

Teachers Can Control Boards from Anywhere in the Classroom

With a special remote accessory, teachers may walk around the classroom as students work while simultaneously annotating the slides and progressing through the lesson. This tool provides teachers with the ability to look at student work to ensure that students are indeed internalizing what is being taught. Furthermore, it allows teachers the ability to manage the whole classroom and see that everybody is on task.

Allows for Interactive Games and Activities

Teachers can create slides that allow students to click on possible answers during review games. This demonstrates if children have learned the material, and allows students to have fun going over what they have learned. Once teachers learn the different functions the software allows, the possibilities seem endless. Students enjoy going up to the board to work, and teachers can keep these games or amend them in the future. Younger students can also problem solve with puzzles and so much more. The possibilities are endless!

Interactive Whiteboards Can be Mobile

Schools can purchase mobile boards that move from room to room. Not every school has teachers fixed in permanent rooms, but there is no reason why technology can’t adapt to meet their needs. As long as the software is on a teacher’s computer, they can use any interactive whiteboard for any lesson.

Interactive whiteboards are, without a doubt, a great feature for a school to have. Students will have more exposure to technology, which is essential in our ever-changing technological world, feel more connected to the material, and teachers can feel better organized with their lesson plans.

If you have any questions about our teaching methodology at Tessa International School, please contact us.

Spanish Language Learning: Bilingual Programs Build Connections

Dual language programs, starting as early as PreSchool, introduce bilingualism and diversity into the classroom, exposing youngsters to different languages, cultures and experiences. Children’s brains are like sponges and they soak up other languages more quickly when they begin learning at young ages. This ability decreases with time. This is due to early brain development and centers of the brain responsible for language acquisition. In fact, learning two languages simultaneously reinforces vocabulary learned in each language! A surprising benefit of learning another language is the strengthening of the English language!

Bilingual Programs

Some schools are using computer apps to teach Spanish and other languages, but that’s no match for academic institutions that employ bilingual teachers. There is some concern regarding the amount of time children are spending glued to a screen, so many schools are working on finding middle ground solutions to monitor student usage instead of banning screens altogether. Bilingual academics are equally engaging without the necessity for a screen. A full immersion program is the best way. This affords children the opportunity to really become bilingual, with a teacher who is a native speaker.

Fluency in more than one language helps strengthen cognitive flexibility and many other cognitive skills, teaching students to think outside of the box! Integrating bilingual programs into schools helps build cultural competency, creating environments that are empathetic and supportive, and demonstrating the value of diversity.

The benefits of dual language education need not stop at the chalk board! Parents, you can engage in language activities outside the schoolroom, continuing the learning at home–you may find that  you even learn something too! Of course, it’s not the same as a full immersion bilingual program, but it’s better than nothing:

Teaching Tips

  • Greetings ~ Begin the day with saying, “Buenos Dias!” or “Hola! Me llamo Michael,” when meeting new people. Integrate Spanish words into everyday phrases!
  • Tactile Involvement ~ Anchor words by giving your child something to hold or touch, visually supporting the information learned. If teaching the color green, “el verde,” use a piece of green construction paper cut out in the shape of a leaf, “una hoja!” Turn learning into an interactive art project!
  • Movement ~ Dance or act out words! Using movement is another method that anchors words learned by helping with processing and memory. Try playing charades or Pictionary in Spanish! Turn learning into a family game everyone can join in after dinner or on the weekends!
  • Tell Stories ~ When reading from picture books, children derive meaning from context clues. Children’s stories are also pattern-based and use lots of repetition, which further assists anchoring new words!
  • Sing Songs ~ Melodies and rhymes help to create patterns that are easy to remember. Almost every popular radio hit has a hook that draws in listeners; it’s the same for children’s songs. Another tip is trying to sing “echo” songs, where your child repeats lines back to you. Repetition is key to learning any language! So why not have some fun with it?
  • Ask Questions ~ Ask supportive questions, engaging your child to use the language they’re working on. For example: instead of asking, “Que es esto?” (What is this?) try, “Es un gato?” (Is this a cat?). Phrasing questions in this manner uses word repetition, supporting new words learned by providing context clues.
  • Counting ~ When washing hands, count to ten in Spanish! Uno, dos, tres!
  • Shared Activities ~ If your child is helping you bake cookies, use basic words for the dishes needed to mix the batter. For instance, ask your child to hand you una cuchara, a spoon! This is an extremely powerful way to help your child learn Spanish because it provides emotional tactile involvement!

Global Classroom

Research shows learning other languages, like Spanish, has cognitive and cultural benefits on developing minds. Bilingual programs beginning as early as PreSchool send a message to children that the world is a small place and that the world is their oyster. It also strengthens our sense of global awareness and unity, in and outside the classroom! When engaging your child at home, remember to use words in context and to repeat words. And always: have fun and be flexible!

Extraordinary Benefits of Mandarin Language Learning for Children

Mandarin Chinese is the most widely spoken native language in the world, with 960 million people using it as their first language. Despite China’s many regions, language groups, and dialects, Mandarin has been the lingua franca of China and Taiwan for more than 500 years.

As China has grown in recent decades to become a world power, the Mandarin language has increased in importance for international business and foreign relations. China is now the world’s fastest growing economy, and adults increasingly find that the ability to speak Mandarin would be a useful skill to have. Moreover, most governments and international businesses have a preference for multilingual employees.

However, Mandarin is a notoriously difficult language for Westerners to learn. Without an alphabet, there is no accurate count for the total number of written characters, but it is estimated to be around 60,000. And it is very difficult for speakers of non-tonal languages to learn to adapt and correctly mimic the tonal nature of the spoken words.

But this learning difficulty does not hold true for children. Young children are still developing their primary language skills, and their brains are highly receptive to learning and adaptation. The ideal time for a Westerner to learn Mandarin and achieve fluency is at a young age. Moreover, aside from the practical gains of knowing Mandarin as an adult, studies show that children benefit in many ways from learning Mandarin while they are young. Here are just a few:

Develop Accurate Hearing and Interpretation of Sounds

Learning tonal languages is easier for children, who are sensitive to the differences in sounds. The younger a child begins learning, the more accurately they can replicate these sounds. Furthermore, this familiarity with tones and sounds actually helps cultivate musical ability in children. A study at the University of California in San Diego found a strong correlation between fluency in a tonal language, and the development of perfect pitch. Perfect pitch is indicative of certain advanced cortical processes. So not only does Mandarin potentially benefit the brain, it potentially makes the child a better singer!

 

Better Interpretation of Symbols

Since Mandarin writing relies on thousands of character, learners of Mandarin Chinese have to read and interpret a vast number of visual symbols, activating more regions of the brain than English, which relies on a phonetic alphabet. Through learning Mandarin, children can become more adept at visual communication, more readily interpreting symbols in visual art and understanding nuances in symbolism and visual communication.

Improved Hand-Eye Coordination

While most Western languages are written in one direction, the act of writing Mandarin characters requires brush or pen strokes in multiple directions, with differentiating hand pressure. Writing in this way has been shown to improve fine motor skills and spatial recognition in children.

Stronger Math Skills

Yes, there is actually a scientific correlation between learning Mandarin and improved mathematical ability. Scientists theorize that because Mandarin representation of numbers is less abstract than Arabic numbers, and because the act of practicing handwriting requires repeated counting, young children gain greater familiarity with math and with numeric thinking. In learning Mandarin, the mathematical concepts are integral to the language fluency, and not a separate subject activating a different part of the brain.

Because Mandarin Chinese involves learning language, sounds, drawing, and math all at once, it activates more regions of the brain and improves cognitive development overall, even in adults. In fact, speakers of Mandarin use more of their brain more of the time, unlike English speakers who tend to alternate between left and right hemispheres. In theory, this more balanced brain could lead to greater overall creativity, enhanced problem-solving, and increased emotional intelligence.

With all these benefits for the mind and brain, Mandarin language learning for children is sure to be an asset for their whole life, regardless of their eventual interests or profession. Get them started today!

 

Building A Foundation with The International Baccalaureate

As our world continues to globalize, today’s students need exposure to international cultures and ideas. Those students who are fortunate enough to have access to an International Baccalaureate program receive not only an excellent education but also a solid foundation for the future.

For nearly fifty years, International Baccalaureate (IB) has offered programs for preschool and elementary, middle school and high school. Schools must apply for IB accreditation and demonstrate that they maintain IB’s rigorous academic standards and philosophy. (GreatSchools.org)

International Baccalaureate differs from Advanced Placement, also a respected and rigorous program. While AP courses carry the option of earning college credit through points on end-of-course exams, IB does not. However, IB begins the academic rigor as early as preschool and focuses on the social-emotional development of the student in addition to the academic development. IB offers an entire curriculum with an interdisciplinary approach, rather than a set of subjects taught in isolation to one another.

Developing the Whole Child

In an IB setting, schools focus on the development of the child as an individual. Beginning with the Primary Years Programme, students work in the core subjects to focus on several themes:

  • Who we are
  • Where we are in time and place
  • How we express ourselves
  • How the world works
  • Sharing the planet
  • How we organize ourselves

In these early years, IB programs utilize an inquiry-based approach to examine different issues present in today’s world, and incorporate the ideas in all areas of their learning, from math and science classes, to humanities and arts classes, to social studies, and physical education. Children learn by asking questions and working with one another to solve problems, facilitated by their teacher. (GreatSchools.org)

Moving to the Middle Years Programme, students continue making connections between their studies and real world events and issues. Students begin to develop analytical thought. IB believes that thoughtful, reflective questioning and analysis ought to have a place in all areas of a child’s life, rather than just in the classroom. Students develop the skills to become thoughtful people, and life-long learners, who can interact positively and empathetically with diverse groups.

The high school program, or the Diploma Programme, continues to develop the whole student as it seeks to expand the minds of advanced students who wish to thrive. Students tackle six subjects as well as the “theory of knowledge.” They develop independent projects and also engage in community service. Ultimately, the full IB program aims to develop citizens of the world who can lead and engage with others around the globe.

Academic Rigor

Don’t confuse the holistic, whole-child development approach with an easy-going atmosphere that skimps on academics. International Baccalaureate programs are time-consuming and demanding. Many schools with IB programs require that students demonstrate academic proficiency before being admitted. The program prepares them for competitive universities around the world.

Students develop their higher-level thinking skills in an IB program. They prepare for final evaluations of projects and take end-of-course examinations to showcase their analytical and writing skills in the academic arena and, impressively, put together and present presentations from a young age. Students who successfully complete International Baccalaureate programs are awarded IB certificates that can be separate from their institution’s general diploma. The certificate carries prestige and is respected by educational institutions around the US and the world. (ibo.org)

International Baccalaureate students excel by developing outstanding critical thinking skills in arenas where they are expected to also contribute on a community, social, and ethical level as well. They learn that these aspects of our humanity should be separated. Learning starts early and continues for a lifetime.

Please contact us if you have questions about the International Baccalaureate programs.

How the Imagination Helps Children Learn

It’s not uncommon to see a young child step into the world of make believe. Relying solely on their imagination, children host tea parties and pretend to be Jedi knights. They turn boxes into castles and playgrounds into entire worlds of their own creation. The act of pretending — of stepping into a character and acting out a scenario — is an old standby of playtime. And it should be. Imagining is an activity that may seem frivolous on the outside, but it actually helps improve child development.

How?

The nature of role-playing is immersive. When a child steps into a role, they assume the life of the make-believe character, including their problems. For example, if the role-play of the day involves an explorer stranded on a desert island, those participating must act as the explorers would. They have to follow the “map” and find the “treasure”, all while fighting off the bad guys and escaping the island.

Not a bad way to spend the afternoon, especially when you can safely return home afterwards.

It’s a safe environment that allows for great fun while it also introduces a surprising number of learning opportunities. Interactive, engaging, and collaborative, children who engage in role-play, challenge themselves with situations they do not always face. Or, as with the child who is playing house, they challenge themselves with situations they may have seen adults face.

Group Of Children Enjoying Drama Class Together

There are so many ways in which role-play helps children succeed that it would be hard to list them all. But a few major ways role-play improves child development include:

Problem solving skills. Imaginary conflict is still conflict. Whether it’s making sure everyone has enough tea at the tea party, traveling to a far-off country, or slaying a dragon, these are all problems that require forethought and an understanding of consequence. The ability to think about a problem, project into the future, understand cause-and-effect, and create an abstract solution requires a huge array of skills. Through role-play, children are able to hone these skills, so they can draw upon them as they face challenges in the real world.

Language and social skills. Often, children will role-play in pairs or small groups. This not only makes it more fun, but it helps those participating learn how to clearly express themselves and pass along information. Even more importantly, children learn how to collaborate. These crucial social skills will benefit them for their entire lives.

Imagination and creativity. There’s no doubt that children are creative. Role-playing nurtures their inherent imagination, allowing them to let it run wild. Rather than stifling their need to express themselves, role-play gives an outlet that has the potential to appeal to all students, regardless of temperament or learning style. Down the road, this allows them to think creatively about more concrete problems.

Experimentation. Let’s say a child decides to step into the role of an engineer. They pretend to be an engineer, with all the responsibilities of the profession. Including, of course, building. Children may decide to spend time tapping into their creativity and creating buildings from whatever resources are available. And they may not always succeed. A bridge may fall. A tower may topple. And, like any resilient engineer, the child has the opportunity to try something new. Experimentation allows a child to engage in trial-and-error without worrying about the ramifications of failure.

It’s important for children to have fun when they learn, and role-playing is one of the best ways to accomplish this while also ensuring their development is being nurtured. Role-play activities are simple, often requiring nothing but the mind, and have endless benefits.

For more information, tips on child development and role-play in the classroom, contact us.