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!

Skills to Teach Preschoolers That Will Help Them Later in Life

Many of the skills children learn at a young age stay with them throughout their lives. If you want to help kids develop into happy, healthy, social, and self-sufficient adults, it’s important to encourage certain habits and ways of thinking at an early age. Let’s look at some of the best skills to introduce to children in preschool that will help them later in life.

Language Skills

Language skills are fundamental to a great deal of what children learn throughout their lives. Learning how to read and communicate verbally lets kids absorb all types of information, ask questions, and develop their own ideas. Evidence shows that literacy is not only about developing language skills but contributes to a variety of life skills. Experts disagree about how early children should learn how to read. At the very least, however, preschoolers can learn the alphabet and start to develop a varied vocabulary. There are a variety of ways to foster language skills in children. One of the best ways is simply by talking to them. Having a designated storytime each day is also important. Don’t rely on media such as TV and the internet to give children language skills. While they have their place, they are more passive and don’t encourage thought and interaction as much as a direct conversation. Giving kids pencils, chalk, shaving foam, wooden letters, pens, markers and much more with which to scribble and start experimenting with letters and words helps them foster early writing skills.

Social Skills

Social skills are essential for many areas of life. To some extent, these overlap with language skills but only to a point. People who are proficient with language and have extensive vocabularies may lack essential social skills. Learning to get along with others involves listening as well as talking, the willingness to share and self-manage emotions. These abilities don’t always come naturally to young children. Teaching children to take turns, share toys, and consider the needs of others helps lay the groundwork for functional personal and professional relationships later on. It’s equally important for shy children to speak up and learn to be assertive when necessary. Games, sports, and group activities requiring cooperation help children learn such essential social skills.

Motor Skills

Physical skills, such as gross and fine motor skills, are essential for helping children navigate their way through life, feel confident, and learn to use tools. These types of skills are useful in a variety of fields, such as technology, engineering, cooking, sports, the arts, and many other areas. Hand-eye coordination is also necessary for writing and drawing. Many activities that children naturally enjoy, such as running, arts & crafts, playing ball games, swimming, riding bikes, and climbing help to develop these abilities. Today, children often get tethered to electronic devices at an early age. It’s important to make sure they stay active, spend time outdoors, and engage in physical play. In addition to helping them develop motor skills, this helps them learn healthy habits.

Reasoning and Problem-Solving Skills

Many problems in life, both professional and personal, require reasoning and problem-solving abilities. If children in preschool start to develop these skills, they’ll be more resourceful and self-sufficient as they get older. Many games and puzzles that are fun for children also help them think their way through problems. You can foster these abilities by talking to children about problems that arise in everyday life or theoretical questions, such as “how do plants and trees grow?” “how can we fix this broken table?” or “what’s the best way to get to the shopping center?”. This gets kids accustomed to using their minds to solve problems and empowers them to know that they can.

Creativity

In addition to introducing children to specific skills, it’s also important to encourage their creativity. Kids are naturally creative. The only question is how much the adults who supervise them allow them to express their creativity. A certain amount of free play helps them develop their imaginations. Artistic activities such as drawing, painting, building with blocks, play dough, and singing are all great for fostering creativity.

At Tessa International School, we help students work towards International Baccalaureate accreditation. This curriculum framework provides so much in the way of giving children life skills at a young age that will be useful throughout their entire educational journey and their lives. Qualities such as care, respect, empathy, and much more are emphasized daily, preparing children to be leaders of the 21st century. Not to mention happy world citizens, as they are immersed in another language and other cultures. To find out more, contact us.

 

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.

3 Games You Can Play at Home to Help Teach Your Child a New Language

Support your child’s academic language learning with fun games at home! Little ones respond best to homework when it is made into a game. Playing language games with your child is not just a great way to help them retain and build on their language learning, it is also an opportunity for you to learn the language with them, complete with a study buddy to practice with! Here are three fun language games to play with your child at home that will help them remember, absorb, and begin to actively use their new language skills.

Game #1: Clap Rhymes and Songs

“Cho-co-la-te, Cho-co-la-te, bate, bate, el chocolate”

Nothing sticks in the brain better than the combination of rhythm, rhyme, and clapping in time to a beat. From jump-rope games to circle rhymes, children have been learning this way for decades, if not centuries. One of the best ways to help your child become familiar with speaking a new language confidently is to practice saying it in rhyme with the aide of a fun clap pattern or even a little dance. Find children’s songs and chants from the language’s culture of origin and teach them to your child at home or use their vocabulary lessons to make up rhymes of your own. To help the meanings of the words sink in, use an English version as well and practice them side-by-side.

Game #2: Story Time Mad-Libs

“Once upon a time there was a prince whose favorite fruit was …”

Young children can get bored of normal flashcards quickly, but they make excellent props for games instead. If you have a set of simple color, noun, and verb flash cards, make up a story with your child that frequently uses these words. Let them fill in the blanks with their own ideas, as long as they’re in the new language, or use the flashcards to give them a clue what you’re thinking. You can also take turns making up lines in the story and using the flashcards to remember the right foreign language vocabulary word.

Game #3: Name That Snack

Then, of course, you can always use snacks as the motivation and inspiration that they so often are for young children. Traditionally, this game is played with colored candies, asking your child to name the appropriate color before they get a treat. You can make the game healthy instead with fruits, veggie chips, and other snack foods. When your child can ask for their favorite treat in the new language they’re learning, be sure to grant it to them (within reason). This activity can then open the door to further foreign-language conversation around the breakfast and dinner table. Inspire inquiry by showing your child how to lookup a word you both don’t know.

Practice at home is a great way to help your child retain and expand on a new language they’re learning in school. The more they stretch their minds to use the new vocabulary with familiar and fun concepts, and practice naming and talking about things in the new language, the more confident they’ll become. For a strong academic foundation for a preschool bilingual education, please contact us today!

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!

French Language Learning: 5 Reasons Your Child Should Study French

Why encourage your child to learn French? So they can order pommes de terre at La Bouche Cafe with a perfect accent? Well, yes. But that’s not the only reason. There are more benefits to learning French than showcasing your language skills in a fancy restaurant. French is a versatile language with wide-ranging benefits. Below are some of the top reasons your child should study French.

Foreign language study at an early age leads to improved academic performance in all subjects, improves a student’s ability to focus, and provides priceless opportunities to study foreign cultures. But you might ask yourself, “Why French?” Or rather, “Pourquoi le Francais?”

More Than 270 Million People Speak French on Five Continents

French is one of the world’s fastest growing languages with many French-speaking countries experiencing rapid population growth. In addition, it is projected that by 2025, French will overtake German as the most spoken language in Europe.

The International Organization of French Speaking Countries consists of 84 member nations. French is the 6th most spoken language in the world and the second most learned foreign language in the world. Learning French for the sole purpose of traveling to France and partaking in the country’s culture justifies the hours of study it takes to learn a foreign language. Speaking French also opens up the cultural door to over two dozen African nations as well, including Morocco, Tunisia, and Algeria.

Speaking French Provides an Advantage in the Job Market

Many employers look for individuals who speak both English and Spanish. There are, after all, a huge number of individuals in the US whose first language is Spanish. So why not learn Spanish instead of French? It comes down to supply and demand. France is the world’s fifth biggest economy. That means American corporations want to do business with France and in France–not to mention the aforementioned nations where French is the official language.

If speaking French is an uncommon skill, that means the person who speaks French becomes more valuable. In other words, because French speakers are rare in the US, the demand for French speakers outpaces the supply of French speakers. Speaking French also provides unique opportunities in Canada, Switzerland, and many nations in Africa.

French is the Language of Culture and Travel

Throughout history, the French have excelled at cooking, fashion, theater, the visual arts, dance and architecture. A knowledge of French gives the learner cultural insight that proves valuable while traveling. More than 79 million people visit France yearly. There’s a reason for that. Speaking French also makes traveling in Africa, Switzerland, Canada, Monaco, the Seychelles and other places much more pleasant. French is an official language of United Nations, the European Union, UNESCO, NATO, the International Olympic Committee, and the International Red Cross.

Learning French Makes Learning Other Languages Easier to Learn

French is one of the ‘big’ Romance languages and lends itself brilliantly to learning other languages, including English. Those who study French in school have a distinct advantage when attempting to learn Spanish, Italian, and Portuguese. Plus, it is easy to learn French when your first language is English, since so many English words come from French.

Tessa International School’s mission is to prepare children to be bilingual, happy world citizens and productive leaders of the 21st century. At Tessa, children are introduced to other languages and cultures from preschool – the age when children are most likely to absorb another language with ease. This ability decreases with time, so contact us now to have your child become bilingual!

 

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.

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.

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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.