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?

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  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.

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.  

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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 Time.com, 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 PBS.org 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!

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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.

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.

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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.

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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.

The Career Benefits of Multilingual Education

There is no greater gift you can give to your child’s future career than a multilingual education. The business world is an international one, and the most successful companies have locations across the globe. Companies are always on the lookout for bilingual new hires and one of the most common complaints of young professionals is that they didn’t learn more languages (or learn more thoroughly) when they were younger. By helping your child learn additional languages when they are very young, you can set them up for higher quality positions for the rest of their lives.

Language and the Young Mind

By the time the public school system starts offering language classes, it’s too little, too late. The human mind learns languages best during the infant and toddler stage, preparing each person for the complex communication required for further learning. Study after study has found that “in the domain of language, infants and young children are superior learners when compared to adults, in spite of adults’ cognitive superiority”. Children from bilingual families, for instance, will always have a deeper, more inherent grasp of both languages than their peers who try to learn a second language. By the time the traditional high school language classes begin, the brain has solidified into it’s one-language way of forming thoughts and picking up the structure of a new language can be incredibly difficult.

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Domestic Opportunities

English may be the national language, but it is by no means the only language spoken within the US. Companies are constantly seeking bilingual new hires, who experience a ten to fifteen percent pay increase for the value of their skills. When a staff includes people who speak multiple languages, a company can reach out to every local community, not just the English speaking ones. This means that your child’s linguistic abilities not only grow their own cultural awareness, but can influence any business they are a part of to greater cultural service. Especially in industries that cater to multicultural families, polyglots (people who know more than two languages) are desperately needed to translate and explain policies and opportunities to their non-English-speaking clients.

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International Opportunities

The more languages you know, the more countries you can do business in. Whether your child grows up to be a doctor without borders or an international entrepreneur, markets and communities open up before them. Representing a corporation, they can also offer a courtesy few Americans can manage effectively: meeting clients in their own language. In addition, when culture, as well as language, is taught to children at an early age, they gain a deeper and more inherent understanding of how to interact with people from that culture courteously, without any common cross-cultural faux pas occurring.

Interpreters and Translators

Anyone with good manners and a strong grasp of two or more languages will always be welcomed as an interpreter or professional translator. These positions open up whole new realms of travel and import. Interpreters are needed everywhere from ESL classes to the UN, giving your child an amazing range of opportunities based on a single set of skills you can teach them before the age of six.

People who fluently speak multiple languages have an easier time getting a job, traditionally make more money than their monolinguistic counterparts, and can find unique business opportunities all over the world. Many people seek a second language later in life, but by then their brains have already settled into the thought patterns of a single language. By educating your toddler in multiple languages, you are effectively setting them up for a long and successful career, no matter what they choose to be when they grow up.

If you’d like more information on French or Spanish language learning for young children or to enroll your child in the Tessa International School, contact us today! Multilingual and multicultural early education is our passion and we’d love to share it with you and your child!

5 Benefits of Childhood Bilingualism

Benjamin Lee Wharf, a Yale linguist, was the first person to explore the possibility that bilingualism shapes the way we act and think. Although parts of his famous language theory, the “Sapir–Whorf hypothesis,”, remain hotly debated, many recent studies have supported his theory that bilingualism does have a distinct effect, particularly early in life. Many studies suggest that learning more than one language has the potential to unlock amazing mental capabilities and benefits as children grow and mature.  

Multitasking

Research conducted on 6-year-old test subjects produced some interesting and encouraging results The children were grouped into two even sets: children who were bilingual, and children who were monolingual. Researchers gave the children various tasks designed to test their multitasking abilities. The bilingual children were able to switch their attention between tasks with greater ability and speed. The researchers behind this experiment felt that this type of increased ability stems from the skills and brain development acquired during their language acquisition. They concluded that switching between two separate languages regularly may increase the activity in our brain responsible for multitasking.

Brain Health

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Some researchers liken the brain to a “muscle”, growing and changing as we “exercise” it regularly, making it stronger and healthier in the long run. In a 2011 study, researchers found strong evidence to support the theory that bilingualism can support overall brain health and delay cognitive diseases such as Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia. Although there is no cure for these diseases, this study suggests that learning multiple languages may increase our “cognitive reserve,” the brain’s ability to use its resources and resist damage. Learning multiple languages is a perfect way for children to  “exercise” and grow important areas of the brain.

Social Growth

Communication is extremely important in the modern world for cultural understanding. As children grow and mature, learning how to interact with different types of people is of huge social advantage. Bilingual children possess great potential for social skills, with an increased sense of empathy, both used in their personal relationships and even in their future careers. Language is the glue that holds society together. To possess greater language ability will provide a child with greater social understanding, skill and increased adaptability (not only linguistic, but a general ability to adapt better in multiple settings).

Abstract Reasoning

As we grow, we begin to think deeper and are capable of understanding more abstract thoughts. Our academics become more oriented towards problem-solving designed to test our reasoning skills and creativity. Studies have shown that children who understood two languages at an early age have an advantage at this type of learning later in life. Using multiple languages grows short-term “working-memory”, a brain tool specifically designed for problem-solving and rapid-fire action.  Bilingual children often show greater brain “flexibility” when it comes to solving problems and finding original answers.

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Many young children often initially struggle with sitting still and focusing on specific tasks. However, as they grow, their attention span often grows with them, allowing them to increase their focus. Some studies show that bilingual children possess a naturally stronger attention span. Even at younger ages, these children often possess the ability to focus on tasks and better understand what’s being asked of them. This is due to improved “executive control,” a cognitive mechanism responsible for mental decisions and focus. Some researchers feel that better executive control in bilingual children results from their ability to quickly see the difference between the words of different languages. By switching back and forth between two languages at a split-second’s notice, these children naturally grow their focus and attention to detail.

Although many new facts about bilingual development are yet to be discovered, many studies suggest that specific benefits come with learning multiple languages. As adults, we often struggle with learning foreign languages. However, language learning is much easier for children as they have an innate gift to do so and they do not compartmentalize in the way we do – language is language. Gifting  your child another language at an early age puts them at great advantage for their future.

For more information on language skills and development, please contact us today.

What is immersion education?

7Immersion education is a system in which all academic subjects are taught in a target language such as French, Spanish, or Mandarin. It’s best if it’s started when children are young as they are more able to pick up subtle nuances of language. The classrooms are efficient learning environments where classroom procedures and transitions move quickly.

Teachers are fluent and native speakers of the target language and they are committed to speaking the target language consistently. This means they speak the target language during instruction, transitions, outside play, and eating times. Teachers are highly attentive to students’ needs and their individual learning styles.

The classroom is a literacy rich environment with pictures, labels, and other meaningful visuals to help support the target language throughout the day. Teachers are skilled at aiding comprehension through non-verbal clues and strategic teaching strategies.

The day is organized and routines are consistent and key phrases and vocabulary are repeated often to help children gain a foothold on their vocabulary development. Children make connections across the curriculum as the target language and English curriculum are aligned which allows them to reinforce concepts and ideas in both languages.

Will your child lose their English?

Studies have shown that children in immersion settings perform the same if not better than children who are not.

What if you don’t speak the target language at home?

You do not need to speak the target language for your child to succeed and gain proficiency. Homework is designed in a fun and engaging way through songs and games to review classroom learning. Strong communication with your child’s teacher is a key component to success.

For more detailed information please contact Michelle at mvoice@tessais.org.

The benefits of an immersion education.

What is immersion education?

Immersion education is a system in which all academic subjects are taught in a target language such as French, Spanish, or Mandarin. It’s best if it’s started when children are young as they are more able to pick up subtle nuances of language. The classrooms are efficient learning environments where classroom procedures and transitions move quickly.

Teachers are fluent and native speakers of the target language and they are committed to speaking the target language consistently. This means they speak the target language during instruction, transitions, outside play, and eating times. Teachers are highly attentive to students’ needs and their individual learning styles.

The classroom is a literacy rich environment with pictures, labels, and other meaningful visuals to help support the target language throughout the day. Teachers are skilled at aiding comprehension through non-verbal clues and strategic teaching strategies.

The day is organized and routines are consistent and key phrases and vocabulary are repeated often to help children gain a foothold on their vocabulary development. Children make connections across the curriculum as the target language and English curriculum are aligned which allows them to reinforce concepts and ideas in both languages.

Will your child lose their English?

Studies have shown that children in immersion settings perform the same if not better than children who are not.

What if you don’t speak the target language at home?

You do not need to speak the target language for your child to succeed and gain proficiency. Homework is designed in a fun and engaging way through songs and games to review classroom learning. Strong communication with your child’s teacher is a key component to success.

For more detailed information please contact Michelle at mvoice@tessais.org.