Academic language immersion? Total Physical Response? Target language allotment?
If some of these terms regarding bilingual schools are confusing for you, we understand. Touring your first bilingual school is much different than touring a monolingual school. There are certain questions about teaching style, academic environments, and teachers that are essential to ask before enrolling.
In bilingual schools, it’s all about the approach, goals, and their alignment with your goals. Different language-immersion schools have different standards, staffing, and procedures. To make sure you’re prepared for your first tour, we’ve compiled a list of 5 essential questions to ask the program director. Asking these questions will not only provide you with a deeper level of understanding of the bilingual system, but also allow you to tell which bilingual school is best for your family.
#1 How much of the target language is taught in the classroom?
This question is important because it showcases the school’s dedication to the target language. The target language allotment is essential to note so you can have a better understanding of the school’s day-to-day schedule and emphasis on language development.
At Jump! specifically, the breakdown is as follows:
- For Preschool, the core content* is done in 100% target language immersion.
- For our Pre-K program, the core content is done in 85% (5 hours) target language immersion.
- For Kindergarten, the core content is done in 75% (4.5 hours) target language immersion.
- For 1st grade the core content is done in 75% (4.5 hours) target language immersion.
(*Core content = language arts, math, circle time, calendar time, social studies, science)
#2 How are the teachers trained?
It’s equally important to ask the program director how the teachers are trained. Did they come from monolingual schools? Are they preschool-certified? What is the training process for an immersion school like? These questions are loaded, but necessary to ask because an immersion experience is a unique and specialized one.
Here at Jump!, our teachers are trained specifically with the immersion method in mind. All of our fantastic staff is trained thoroughly by the program director. Our lesson plans and curriculum are designed to accommodate for children learning both languages at once. Even more, our teachers are trained to focus on even the smallest of details when setting up their classrooms: even the most minute visual aids are expressed in the target language.
#3 Are the teachers native?
This question is most often missed because parents often assume that the teachers should simply speak the target language, and are qualified enough. However, being a native Spanish or Mandarin Chinese speaker is absolutely essential. For children to really become fluent in a language, becoming surrounded by native speakers improves pronunciation, cultural sensitivity, and provides a truer and more authentic immersion experience. For example, at Jump!, 100% of our staff are native speakers.
#4 What is the environment of your school? More of an emphasis on fun, or academics?
This is more of a general question to ask that can work for any type of school, but it’s especially important to ask of bilingual schools because each bilingual school has a different emphasis on fun and academics. Some schools are entirely academic-based and very serious in their language and academic pursuits. Others are more interested in providing the fundamentals of a target language in an academic setting. Still others, like Jump!, provide a rigorous academic setting that instills language fluency with all the essential fun.
It’s important to know what works for you and your family when asking this question, so don’t hesitate to bring it up to the program director.
#5 Tell me more about the interactions between teacher and student. Is there a language barrier?
This is a common, but necessary, question that parents should ask their program directors. The interaction between teacher and student should have one common theme: patience. Teachers in an immersion setting absolutely must be patient with their students, as open frustration and even anger will reduce the effectiveness of an immersion setting.
In most immersion settings, teachers are prompted to use Total Physical Response. This is a teaching tactic which utilizes the whole body to physically act out what the teacher is trying to demonstrate. This tactic is the visual version of context clues: “acting” out the lessons promotes a deeper sense of understanding, and thus eliminates the language barrier between teacher and student. The learning and immersion experience, using this method, is seamless.
Hopefully, these five questions will leave you feeling better prepared for when you attend your first bilingual tour! If you have any other questions, feel free to call one of our centers in Westfield, Livingston, or Edison for more information.