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.


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.

Learning A New Language Through Music: Why Is Music So Powerful?

Whether you are trying to improve your young child’s English language proficiency or develop their skills in a second language, you cannot go wrong by using music.

Preschool children’s brains are sponges. They learn very quickly. But they are too young to sit and take notes, nor will they conjugate verbs for homework. They will, however, sing songs all evening long, containing multiple verses and extensive lyrics.

Why is Music Such a Great Learning Tool?

When learning a new language, music has proven to be one of the handiest tools available to teachers. Researchers have noted that many of us as adults can hear a tune from sixth grade French class and recall it with surprising accuracy. Why is this?

Teacher Demonstrating Tambourine Playing

  1. Music is sticky. That is, it sticks in our memories for a long time. We learn lyrics as a part of a melody, and not separate from it. You can have a few weeks’ worth of lessons packed into one song. At first the lyrics may not make much sense to the child, but that doesn’t matter. They will learn the vocabulary over time and the song’s meaning will reveal itself. It’s best to stay out of the child’s way and not over-explain the vocabulary. How many of us learned a song like “Frère Jacques” when we were kids and still somehow remember the lyrics in adulthood, not ever knowing what they mean?
  2. Music is emotional. Songs play an enormous role in our own nostalgia. When used as a teaching tool, they connect the children to the material. If the material you are trying to teach has a strong emotional component, it will be absorbed much quicker than if it has no emotional pull at all. Psychologists note the power that music has on people across races and cultures worldwide. They theorize that music can stimulate a reward system in the brain by indirectly asking the listener to predict future beats and sounds. There is also excitement produced when there are new and unexpected beats and sounds. Hearing music in a classroom lets the students connect any visual elements from the lesson to the song, and those elements are also remembered. The emotional power of music should not be underestimated.
  3. Music is fun. Just because students are enjoying themselves does not mean that they are not retaining the material. Unfortunately, a very outdated belief that learning only occurs when students are quiet, still, and not smiling still influences some educational institutions. On the contrary – singing a melody, clapping in rhythm, and dancing all provide a solid foundation for vocabulary and verb usage. And it is an absolute blast! Children will engage in this willingly if not completely cheerfully. Once out of the classroom for the day, preschool kids will not hesitate to sing their songs at the diner table, in the bath tub, or in the car. Get them together with a few friends and you have reinforcements to bolster any songs that have a missing word or two.


Teachers across different disciplines, both primary and secondary are regularly incorporating music into their lesson plans. There are few tools out there that effectively produce the same strong level of recall. No matter what distractions occur after the lesson, children can still repeat a song word for word later that day.

At Tessa International School, we believe in using proven methods to engage students and are very pleased with how music contributes to language learning – children play and have fun while learning. We are committed to opening the world to our students and learning new languages. Please contact us so you can see how your child can thrive in our school.

Why Role Playing is Important for Child Development

It’s a known fact, among parents and child care professionals, that children love to role play. They will try on outfits, create dialogue, and use any household object to create a character for as long as their playmates will cooperate. Children will pretend to be almost anything they can find a prop for. However, this isn’t the only reason why daycares, preschools, and early learning centers often feature a costume box and role playing stations. You may be surprised to discover that the process of acting out roles and exploring new identities is an important part of personality and logical development.

Developing Objective Thought through Role Play

As an adult, when you need to think your way through a problem or consider something from another person’s point of view, you sit down and think about it quietly. But where do these tools for objective thought come from? Perspective is a logical skill, much like math, and it has to start somewhere. Acting out a role is similar to ‘asking yourself’ how someone else might feel or act in a situation. Children think of it as playing but if you watch them, they are exercising their understanding and trying to understand how another person would think and respond. In many ways, this form of play will help children to be more logical, diplomatic, and empathic as they grow up.


Role Playing ‘House’

Why do children love to play House more than any other role playing game? Because it is the center of human interaction. They use their own families along with books and media depictions to determine what it means to be a ‘mother’ or ‘father’, something that will stick with them and shape their relationships for the rest of their lives. Playing House with children from other kinds of families and cultural backgrounds can serve to expand their idea of family to include these new variations. In this acting game, they explore how it feels to try on the authority role or the supportive role and practice family dynamics with each other in a way that will give them perspective when they get older.

Exploring Careers through Role Play

When children decide what they want to be when they grow up, they typically enact their desire through role play. Putting on a fireman’s hat and pretending to rescue people or wearing a doctor’s coat and pretending to make a diagnosis can empower them to feel that this goal is attainable. While not every child decides so early, and many who make a decision do not continue on that path into adulthood, it’s fundamental to a child’s development for them to understand their potential and their options, and to see themselves in different roles.


Preschools and parents alike will often try to provide a wide selection of role play toys like carpenter kits, pretend food, magnifying glasses, and so on to give children the opportunity to test as many career possibilities as they care to. Some teachers can even provide guided development by purposefully introducing career-toys to the collection and explaining or demonstrating how someone in that job might think, feel, and act.

Role-playing is an important part of early childhood development because it helps children to understand each other and the world around them. Children who have ample opportunity to role play and guides that can supplement their pretending with new information, gain useful insight that will help them for the rest of their lives.

The next time you see your child wearing a silly costume and speaking as a character, remember that they are teaching themselves logical and emotional skills and consider joining in for a while to provide the benefits of your experience.

If you’d like to learn more about how young minds develop during the preschool years, please contact us today.


Yoga in the Classroom: Learning Healthy Habits

Yoga is a traditional Indian practice, introduced to Western culture by enthusiasts desiring to integrate meditative exercises into a bustling modern society. In sanskrit, yoga means union of body and mind; achieved through focused deep breathing or pranayama, with a series of postures or asanas. Through the years, yoga has evolved from its spiritual origins, gaining popularity as a form of physical exercise to tone muscles and lose weight. Counselors often use meditative or mindfulness techniques when teaching self-awareness skills, ways in which one regulates their thoughts and emotions during stressful situations.

The Benefits of Introducing Yoga to the Classroom

Through practice, deep breathing combined with rhythmic exercises brings awareness to your body, helps to lower your heart rate, reduces blood pressure, relaxes muscles and increases blood flow to the brain. Perhaps this is why other venues, like schools, are incorporating yoga, and making it a part of a child’s everyday experiences in the classroom. In 2005, several international Education and Health interest groups came together to form a non-profit organization, the International Association of School Yoga and Mindfulness, dedicated to integrating mindfulness based programs into K-12 schools. Teaching toddlers yoga practices benefits their brain’s development in a safe, playful way that encourages each child to explore their inner and outer worlds. Learning healthy habits at a young age is important to each child’s individual success at living a fulfilling adult life.


The Healthy Habits Kids Gain from Yoga

  • Self-Awareness ~ Holding various postures or asanas helps your child to connect to their inner world and explore thoughts and feelings. This is an important tool for your toddler as they are just beginning to develop a mental picture of who they are in relation to the world.
  • Self-Management ~ Yoga cultivates social and emotional learning through mindfulness strategies that aim to strengthen your child’s responses to stressful situations. Exercises like deep breathing and repetition of sayings or mantras, nurture your child’s abilities to self-manage their emotions so they can respond calmly and thoughtfully instead of reactively and defensively.
  • Responsible Decision Making ~ Deep breathing or pranayama stills the mind for thoughtful decision-making. It’s important, especially while in early developmental stages, to teach children to listen attentively, so that they develop a habit of making good decisions.   
  • Physical Benefits ~ Yoga is a great way to stretch tensed bodies! Holding each asana for a short length of time increases your child’s sense of balance and coordination. It also helps to build flexibility and muscle strength!
  • Social-Awareness ~ Any teacher or parent knows that teaching a two-year-old how to see a perspective outside their own and empathize with others is a tall order! Yoga is fun and child-friendly at any age, as many of the poses already have silly sounding names. Some studios have adapted traditional poses for children or even given them playful tags such as: Cat Pose, Airplane Pose or AppleTree Pose! When children imagine they are stretching like a cat or flying like a plane, they are role-playing. This opens up the door to learning other perspectives and begins the journey of empathizing with others.

Kid doing fitness exercises

Reasons Kids Love Yoga

  • It’s playful! Teachers are able to openly engage with children by incorporating sound into classroom yoga techniques. In downward dog, encourage children to bark like Fido, or meow like a cat when stretching like one!
  • It’s educational! Yoga is also a unique way to improve memory. Teachers can have students say the alphabet or count while holding a pose. This useful tool is excellent for children struggling to keep still or focus their attention.

Children gain several benefits, in both social and emotional development from yoga in the classroom. It teaches self-care practices meant to lead to inner fulfillment. It aids in strengthening the necessary skills one uses to navigate life’s struggles with greater ease. Animal poses are a playful and imaginative way to introduce meditative practices to children. It fosters the future successes of each child, to creatively teach healthy lifestyles!

Tessa International believes in incorporating yoga into the classroom. Contact Us to learn more at 201.755.5595 or email

10 Great Family Activities in Hoboken

Hoboken, New Jersey, probably isn’t the first city that comes to mind when brainstorming family vacations and outings, but after enjoying the numerous activities Hoboken has to offer, it won’t be forgotten! Are you looking for new adventures for your family to experience together in Hoboken? Here are ten great ones to get you started!


Hoboken Historical Museum

Known for its kid-friendly fire museum, the Hoboken Historical Museum educates and intrigues! Reserve your spot for story time on the website, and note the summer camp listings for your tiny historians!


Puppetonia (Symposia Bookstore)

It doesn’t get much more creative than this. With their fun, interactive, and musical shows, the whole family will be laughing and learning in a memorable way. The puppets and puppeteers incorporate education and social skills in story-filled, imaginative ways. This is a surefire gem in Hoboken! Be sure to review Puppetonia’s schedule today.


My Gym

Developed specifically for children aged 6 weeks -10 years, My Gym helps kids grow emotionally, physically, and socially. The state-of-the-art facility is known for its one-of-a-kind atmosphere promoting fitness, fun, and adventure. Parties, classes, and camps are further ways to take advantage of this awesome Hoboken resource.


Urban Jungle

Urban Jungle is a gold mine when it comes to promoting learning and development, uniquely. Peruse the website for details on parties, open play, and drop-off toddler classes, too. You won’t regret this one stop shop for family fun, exploration, and important social stimulus for children.

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Hoboken Public Library

Free is key… especially when books are nearby! Tiny Tots Story Times and Lego Block Parties are just the beginning of what the library offers. Grab a pass to the museum for a fun, free day out, and explore the opportunities offered on Family Saturday FUNdays. There’s a reason families enjoy libraries… it’s an endless amount of resources, spaces, and times together for creative play.


Hoboken Cove Boathouse

Free and open to the public, the Hoboken Cove Boathouse is an amazing space to get on the water and go for a row with your family. Pack a picnic, walk the nearby nature paths and touch the Hudson River, thanks to this non-profit location run by volunteers. River trips are 1-2 hours long, weather permitting. Before you leave, be sure to say “Thank You!” to those who make the Boathouse happen.


Farmer’s Market

Local fresh fruit, veggies, and vendors, welcome you to the Garden Street Farmer’s Market. Feel extra healthy and ‘happy to be home’ as you wind the market aisles with your family. Colors, smells, tastes and sounds are so vibrant in this environment, your children will request to return week after week! Mark your calendar for the dates and hours listed on the website.

Picnic in a Park

Grab your water bottles, juices, snacks and a blanket, because nothing is more restful and replenishing than hanging out at a park. Hoboken has so many options, it’s likely you will not have to go far to enjoy a family outing at one of these free locations.


FROYO with a View

When the weather starts to warm up, take a visit to 16 Handles. This fun frozen yogurt place offers all the topping and flavors you can imagine, and is located next to an incredible view of the Manhattan skyline. Kids will love identifying the different buildings across the water while chowing down on their favorite flavor.

Kids-In-Charge Day Out

Just say the name of this idea and your children will leap into the air! Invite your children to brainstorm 2-3 things they’d like to do together, today. What will you need to wear? What will you need to bring? What are the sights and sounds they expect? Should you pack a camera or invite a friend along? Follow their directions and play along. No doubt, you’ll all be laughing in no time.


In summary here are 10 great family activities in Hoboken:

  1. Hoboken Historical Museum
  2. Puppetonia (Symposia Bookstore)
  3. My Gym
  4. Urban Jungle
  5. Hoboken Public Library
  6. Hoboken Cove Boathouse
  7. Farmer’s Market
  8. Picnic in a Park
  9. FROYO with a View
  10. Kids-In-Charge Day Out

Tessa International School is proud to call Hoboken, NJ its home location. For more information about our school, mission, and admissions, please contact us. We would love to widen our family for yours.


How Does Language Learning Affect Brain Development in Children?

Raising a child who is bilingual may seem like a daunting task. Maybe you learned a second language as an adult and you remember how difficult it was for you, or maybe you aren’t sure if a child is capable of picking up the intricacies of two separate languages. You may not realize that a young child’s brain is vastly different from an adult’s brain. Research tells us that, not only are children great at learning and retaining new languages, but learning multiple languages earlier in life actually has a greater overall cognitive effect than learning them as an adult, and not just with future language acquisition.

Languages Make the Brain More Adaptable

In “The Cognitive Benefits of Being Bilingual” by Viorica Marian, Ph.D. and Anthony Shook, they discuss how children as young as seven months old benefit from being raised in a bilingual environment. This might seem shocking to many, as children haven’t yet acquired verbal language skills at that age. However, being exposed to multiple languages helps infants “better adjust to environmental changes,” and the benefits continue throughout their life as “the bilingual brain can have better attention and task-switching capacities than the monolingual brain”. In short, learning multiple languages helps your brain learn how to effectively change gears, conform to new or unusual situations, and function well in new environments.  


Bilingualism Keeps the Brain Healthy in Old Age

Isn’t the brain amazing? Communicating in a new language is exciting, but there are so many additional benefits to language learning just for your brain. The benefits of bilingualism for brain development extend into old age as well. According to Marian and Shook, “bilingual seniors can experience less cognitive decline”. Learning a new language now can help you retain your brain power later in life, and the same applies to your child.

Bilingualism Can Help in Your Child’s Career

Early second language education will help your child both now and in the future. According to, bilingual job candidates can earn about 2% more than their monolingual counterparts. Knowing a second language also makes you a better candidate for business travel, which enables you to take better advantage of paid business trips. The perks of learning a second language extend into many other aspects of life.

How Can Parents Help Teach their Children Learn?

In addition to choosing an excellent school for your child to attend, you can also be a major driving force in your child’s language acquisition. Incorporating a second language at home, combined with the instruction your child receives at school, will greatly improve the speed of language acquisition. This article from has some excellent suggestions for teaching your children at home, and you will benefit as well! Learning a second language with your child can be an enriching experience for you both!


Finding a school that incorporates a bilingual curriculum for young children is a challenge. Many schools don’t begin teaching a second language until high school, which is well into a child’s academic career, or, at a young age, they teach the language in insolation, for twenty or so minutes a day, which is not effective enough for language acquisition. At Tessa International School, we understand how important it is to provide a solid foundation for bilingualism early in life. This is why we teach 80% of the school day in a second language (Spanish, French or Mandarin) from preschool. Your child’s brain is at a point where it can easily begin to acquire a second language, and we want to see all of our students succeed in language, academics, and in their personal lives as they grow.

If you’re ready to help your child get on the path to being bilingual, please contact us for more information about our school, what we stand for, and how to enroll your child today.

10 Awesome Activities in Hoboken to Keep the Kids Busy After-School

by Tori Galatro

Whether your son or daughter has just started first grade or they’re already filling out college applications, after school activities are a great way for kids to explore their individuality, make friends, continue their learning outside of school, and develop new skills. New York City offers amazing opportunities, but there’s no need to make the trek during the week when you have so many fantastic options right in Hoboken. With so many programs offered, we won’t list them all, but here are just a few to get you thinking:

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There are endless advantages to getting your child involved with after school sports. The City of Hoboken Recreational division offers all of the classic options. For kids with a less competitive spirit, Mimi Yoga Hoboken offers great after-school classes for both kids and teens where they’ll cultivate flexibility and strength, as well as skills they can take outside of the studio, like focus, stress management, and mindfulness. (Image from MimiYoga)

Improv Groups

Brave Bright Theatre Kids is an improvisational theater group for kids in Hoboken. Stressing creativity and expression, the group has a great reputation for building confidence and self-esteem, especially among shyer kids. Parents rave about the difference they see in their children after just a few classes.

Dance and Theater ClassesImage result for Hoboken Children's Theatre

Acting isn’t the only skill kids can learn in a quality after school theater program. From set design to chorus to dance, theatre gives kids the opportunity to find their individual strengths. Hoboken Children’s Theatre has after school classes for grades k-12 with increasing skill and experience levels. (Image from Hoboken Children’s Theatre)

Libraries and Bookstores

Public libraries are a staple after school location and local meeting place for any community and the Hoboken Public Library has a great reputation for being safe and kid-friendly, offering homework help and a full calendar of kids programs. Rainy and cold days are especially great for book browsing. Little City Books is a beloved local children’s bookstore and one of the few places where you’ll be proud when your child begs you to buy them something.

Learning New Skills

No matter how broad your education, everyone wants a unique skill that sets them apart. For low-key and crafty kids, M Avery Designs has sewing classes for kids and teens where they’ll start by making simple stuffed animals and work their way up to making their own clothing. (Image from M Avery Designs)

Parks and Playgrounds

With almost 20 different parks, Hoboken is a great place to live when the weather’s nice. Pier A, Pier C, and Frank Sinatra Park are unique spots to bring your kids to play after school, known for their gorgeous views of the NYC skyline. Columbus Park, located slightly more inland, is also a great option and has two fantastic playgrounds. Play frisbee, bring the dog, or just sit and people watch.


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Learning an instrument takes a lot of practice and many kids tend to lose focus with classical instruments like piano and violin. Luckily, many teachers in Hoboken offer instruments that will be more familiar and exciting to most kids like drum lessons at The Drum Den. Another local shop that also offers rock n’ roll instrument lessons is Guitar Bar, but classical instrument options are also available, as well as banjo and voice lessons.

Visiting a Museum

Going to a museum may not be the first thing on your mind after picking up the kids from school but The Hoboken Historical Museum is actually a great after school option. It’s open until 7pm Tuesday to Thursday, it’s free for all children, and it has great educational programs for kids of all ages. The Hoboken Fire Department Museum is also a part of the historical museum. Especially exciting for little ones, kids have the opportunity to sit in the driver’s seat and ring the bell of a 1930s fire truck.IMG_3170 copy

Art Classes

Urban Arts offers an extremely diverse range of art classes for all ages, including mixed media and illustration, giving kids a chance to develop their creativity as well as hone technical skills. Classes include discussions of art theory and history as well as end-of-session exhibitions of student works. (Image from Urban Arts)

Tessa International School in Hoboken has a range language immersion classes as well as other enrichment skills and activities, all conveniently in the after school hours. Contact Us for more information.

5 Compelling Reasons Preschool/Early Education is so Important

Young children have an innate desire to learn and explore. Notice how children will begin to investigate their world as soon as they can walk and begin to experiment with language as soon as they can talk. Children attempt to make sense of all the new sights, sounds, and textures they encounter. Now, imagine if they were in an environment that presented them with a variety of new experiences and answers to the many questions they have. Their world would be one giant learning adventure that stimulates their minds and satisfies their curiosity. That’s what preschool and early learning facilities do for the children they serve.


At home, parents may teach their children words, songs, rhymes, and a love for books, but preschool provides the structure and opportunities to build upon this foundation. Children desire to understand themselves and their world, and a preschool setting facilitates that desire. According to the research findings put in a report entitled, “The Current State of Scientific Knowledge on Pre-Kindergarten Effects,” children who attend preschool or early learning programs are “better prepared for kindergarten than kids who don’t.” Preschool and early learning benefit children in at least the 5 following ways:

Encourages curiosity

Parents may wonder if their children are born curious. Young children are constantly exploring, touching things, and asking questions. While this may seem to be a challenge at times for parents in the home environment, it is the perfect behavior for preschool. Preschools encourage children’s curiosity by allowing them to have many hands-on experiences that provoke thoughtful questions. Teachers are always on hand to stimulate thought and then provide answers. For example, while exploring dirt, bugs, and worms, children may ask “do worms have eyes?” or “do bugs fly?” This opens up a curiosity-based learning opportunity.

Fosters a love of learning

Children are natural lovers of learning. Watch their faces fill with wonder as they watch an egg hatch or learn how birds build their nests. Early learning environments nurture that inborn love for learning because the curious nature of the child is free. At preschool, education is done through playtime. This connects playing (fun) with learning (education). Richard Ryan, Ph.D., a psychology professor says when you combine learning with play, kids will “experiment with everything from attitudes and ideas to shapes and colors — all in the name of fun.” Preschool teachers are not so concerned about the extent of their learning at this age but on fostering a love for learning.

Develops social skills

One of the key objectives of preschool is to help children develop social skills. According to Kathleen McCartney, Ph.D., dean of Harvard Graduate School of Education, in Cambridge, Massachusetts, preschool is so important for children because it’s when “they learn how to socialize — get along with other children, share…” The opportunity to learn these important social skills occurs when children must take turns, work in groups, interact with a variety of different children, and not interrupt.


Strengthens self-management skills

The Center on the Social and Emotional Foundations for Early Learning states, “self-management is used to teach children (typically 4 years of age and older) to pay attention to their own behavior and to complete activities or engage in interactions using appropriate behavior. Self-management can help children use appropriate play and social interaction skills, participate in classroom routines and engage in instructional activities.” In preschool, children may be given tasks that require them to work within certain parameters such as completing a task at a particular time or in a certain order. This gives them the opportunity to manage their actions and check on themselves to make sure the task is done properly. For example, children may need to manage their hygiene activities such as washing their hands before snack time. They may need to regulate their behavior when told it’s clean-up time. Teachers often help children with self-management skills by displaying a chart with the desired behaviors and activities and other great whole-class and individualized methods to help the children along.

Boosts independence and self-esteem

Preschool may be the first time a child is away from his/her parents for an extended period of time. Although this may prove difficult for both parties at first, it can also very much work towards the children’s benefit. Children learn independence in a preschool learning environment which, in turn, increases their self-esteem. Sometimes parents wonder why their children seem dependent on them at home, but do things for themselves at preschool. Jennifer Zebooker, a teacher at a nursery school in New York City says that children are required “to pour their own water at snack, to throw away their plates, to hang up their jackets — and they do.” When you raise the expectations of children, they will perform.

Preschool gives children a solid foundation to build on as they enter kindergarten. Tessa International School is committed to providing children with an excellent, individualized, nurturing experience. For more information about our program, please contact us today!


Why Teaching Your Child a New Language Will Not Harm their English Skills

All parents want their children to thrive. Unfortunately, sometimes myths, rather than actual research, can lead our decisions as parents. A common piece of parenting folklore states that we might harm our children’s English language skills if we introduce the child to a new language during toddlerhood.

This is simply not true.

Busting A Myth

Access to different languages will allow children’s language skills to thrive. Children learn language structure without even knowing it, particularly at a young age, and can then apply it to their new language or languages.

The National Center for Biotechnology Information has determined that the ability to speak or understand more than one language actually helps brain development. In a study monitoring brain activity in bilingual individuals, they found that bilingual individuals had more brain activity in different areas of their brains than monolingual individuals.

The bilingual child’s brain is always active, differentiating between the two languages and their expansive vocabulary, particularly if the languages are taught simultaneously or in the same environment. This high level of brain activity, studies have shown, actually changes an individual’s ability to absorb new information. Essentially: learning a second language rewires the brain permanently so it performs language tasks quickly and efficiently.


Researchers at Cornell University have learned that young children who learn a second language have better attention skills and can ignore distractions easier than monolingual children. In our modern world, with distractions merely inches away from us, the frustration of continuous loss of attention for students, parents, and teachers, and eventually employers, cannot be overstated. It may seem counterintuitive, but learning a new language does not overwhelm a child’s brain. It helps it.

Languages Teach Empathy

The University of Chicago conducted a different study and learned that being multilingual increased empathy in children, allowing them to see situations from others’ points of view. Researchers noted that throughout human history, exposure to languages has aided survival through exposure to new ideas. What we are seeing with this study is evolution in action.


Languages also have different words for experiences and emotions, so empathy is engaged in the learning process. Multilingual children learn that languages are vibrant and organic, empowering them to appreciate the world’s many cultures.

The Cornell study researchers point out that learning to read, speak, write, and understand languages is part of what makes us human. Picking up different languages is simply what we do best.

What Learning Sounds Like

When children, particularly toddlers, are learning more than one language at the same time, they may occasionally use two or three different languages in a sentence. And of course, “sentence” is a relative term as toddlers speak in fragments, getting distracted from their main point, punctuating with constant “umms”, as they practice communication. Adding a few languages to the mix may frustrate the parent, who simply wants to know what is going on. It’s all perfectly fine. The child’s brain is simply trying to organize their thoughts into a system – one that will straighten out over time.

The bottom line is that research clearly shows that first language proficiency does not decrease by learning a new language. There are many benefits to learning a second language, and a child’s mind can only expand and grow from exposure.

We firmly believe this and invite parents to contact us if they wish to learn more about our educational philosophies.

Whole Brain Teaching Methods for Pre-School Students

“Class?” “Yes?”

This step is intended to capture students’ attention with a single word. Students are taught that when the teacher says the predetermined word (usually “class”), they are to respond as a group with “yes”.  The catch here is that the students are taught to respond in a mirror image of the teacher, so if the teacher says “class, class”, the students are to respond with “yes, yes”. Teachers should practice improvising and using as many variations of “class” as they can imagine. This ensures that the technique remains interesting to the students, thereby keeping them entertained, engaged, and looking forward to the instructions that are to follow. This step is especially important for preschool aged children, as they are just learning to mimic and copy.

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Classroom Rules

Once a teacher has the attention of the students, it’s imperative that he or she lay down the classroom rules. Each rule is associated with a specific physical gesture, so over time the combination of muscle memory and memorized rules becomes second nature. The rules and their associated gestures are:

  1. Follow Directions Quickly – Move your hand or finger in a swimming motion forward.
  2. Raise your Hand for Permission to Speak – Raise your hand then make a talking motion with your mouth.
  3. Raise your Hand for Permission to Leave your Chair – Raise your hand and make a waving motion with your fingers.
  4. Make Smart Choices – Tap your temple on your head.
  5. Keep your Dear Teacher Happy – Make the letter “L” with each hand and place it by the corners of your mouth to motion a smile.

Hands and Eyes

This is the step where the students are required to really focus on what the teacher’s instructions are.  When the teacher announces “hands and eyes”, all students are to look at the teacher, sit up straight, and hold their hands together. The “hands and eyes” statement is a simple reminder to the children that they are about to receive instruction. This is the time for the teacher to make their point and since preschool-aged children tend to have very short attention spans, it’s important that the point be short (less than 15-25 seconds), sweet, and uncomplicated. Remember that the end result should be pieces of information that are chopped up into small enough bites that a preschool aged student can effectively retain and then reteach the information to his or her peers.        

“Teach.” “Ok.”

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The Teach-OK step is the instructional part of the lesson. The teacher divides the students into groups and teaches small pieces of information with the aid of hand movements and/or physical gestures. After the teacher completes instruction, he or she announces “teach”, to which the children respond “ok”. This signals the students that it is time to repeat the same information and gestures to their peers. During this time the teacher should be moving among each group and assessing which children adequately retained and are able to re-teach the lesson, versus those that are struggling. This process repeats itself until the entire lesson has been taught.


This step coincides with Teach-OK. As the students are re-teaching their classmates, they should take turns using and mirroring the gestures or physical movements that accompany each step. The least complicated way to accomplish this is to count the students off by ones and twos, so that when it’s time to switch, each child knows that it’s their turn to perform the mirror image of their peer.


At any time during the lesson the teacher may announce “mirror, mirror”, accompanied by a specific gesture. This command signals the children to stop what they are doing and mimic the teacher. This step should be used to regain the class’s attention when the children begin to lose focus. It offers a brief time out and a chance for the students to recollect their thoughts.


For preschool aged children, students should receive points marked on a smiley face or a frowny face on the board, depending upon how they performed (up to three points per face). Every time the teacher marks a point on the smiley face, the students should be taught to respond with a quick cheer or applause, and each time a point is marked on the frowny face they may groan out loud (though this may not be something a teacher wishes to adopt in his or her classroom). This practice ensures that the entire class is cognizant of overall performance. At the end of the day a surplus of smiley face points should be rewarded with an extra few minutes of playtime or storytime.

The practice of Whole Brain Teaching emphasizes active learning and engages a student at the level they are most comfortable with for their age group. This fun and interactive method ensures that even the youngest student will retain and understand their lessons more comprehensively. For more information on the benefits of Whole Brain Teaching and how it applies to preschool aged children, please contact us.

Tessa International School

Office: (201) 755-5585 | Location: 720 Monroe St. Hoboken, NJ 07030