Cascades Academy Independent School PK-12
A Peek into Pre-K: Second Language Acquisition and our school-wide theme of Inclusion
A Peek into Pre-K:  Second Language Acquisition and our school-wide theme of Inclusion

As you've surely heard by now, our school-wide theme for the 2017-18 school year is inclusion. Teachers of all grade levels and subjects have been working to incorporate this theme into curriculum throughout the year, and Spanish class is no different. In past blogs I've written about the neurological benefits of 2nd language acquisition, but today I want to also emphasize the more esoteric benefits of the study of world languages, especially in early childhood. A recent article in The Atlantic reviews studies that indicate that children who speak multiple languages are better at understanding other people. The data suggest that this is true not only those who are fluent but those who are simply exposed to another language in their daily lives. Inclusivity is made possible by empathy and the ability to understand and value differing perspectives and sets of experiences, and the study of world language tones and develops children's skills in these areas. Miss Emily and Miss Colette have a wonderful Loris Malaguzzi quote posted outside the Pre-K classroom, which reads "A child's most sought-after goal is to recognize themself in others, and to find in others parts of themself." As children are exposed to a new language, and as they begin to use that language themself, the langage and the people who speak it seem less different. Students are able to see commonalities more easily and it becomes easier to accept and even embrace a world in which all different kinds of people have a place.

~ Hailee Newman, Lower School Spanish Teacher

Children as Collaborators

In our Pre-Kindergarten program we aim to promote a social-constructivist approach to learning, seeing children as collaborators. One of our guiding principles (adopted from the Opal School) is the idea that:

"No child lives or learns in isolation. Children learn and become themselves through interaction and relationships with other people, ideas, objects and symbols."

This past week this principle has been particularly prominent in my mind as I observed and reflected on the interactions of the children. Numerous times each day both small and large moments stood out to me as poignant and powerful, as children shared their knowledge, strategies, questions and connections with one another, exemplifying the significant role relationships play in their learning.

We talk often in our class about how we can be inspired by the ideas of others. Rather than feeling that it is "copying," we make connections to all of the wonderful ideas our friends are trying out and decide to play with those ideas ourselves. I have heard children express inspiration they drew from the ideas of a classmate. I have heard children ask a friend for help learning how to draw or create something the other is skilled at. In the following video Tela, (who has been persistently practicing drawing unicorns to get better at it) supporting Mahela with step-by-step guidance.

Another principle from Opal School that fits with our own philosophically is the interconnection of learning with relationships.

"A strong academic program is best supported within a system of reciprocal relationships among people, ideas, the natural and built world and the content and skills of the disciplines."

This next video shows Henry, working in his journal on a drawing of a dream he had the night before. It beautifully demonstrates this system of reciprocal relationships, fostering the thinking of each child involved as they connect their ideas, questions and perspectives.

~ Ms. Bachofner, Pre-Kindergarten Teacher

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