Our world has changed dramatically over the last few decades and is becoming increasingly interconnected. Succeeding in the 21st century will require a foundation of basic knowledge, new ways of thinking, and strong language skills. Bilingualism carries concrete advantages and improves abilities for children who grow up speaking a second language. Learning another language is a step towards understanding other cultures and joining the global community.
Bilingualism increases mental flexibility for children. Bilingual children have two or more words for a single object, concept or idea. Bilingual children are more willing and able to learn even more languages and show an increased analytical orientation to language. Children who study a second language score higher on verbal standardized tests conducted in English. Bilingual children also perform better in math and logic skills than children with one language. Learning a second language helps children build self-esteem, creativity, problem-solving skills, and math ability.
Bilingual children maintain a strong sense of their own identity while developing sensitivity towards other people and cultures. Since bilingual children need to be aware of which language to speak in a particular situation, a bilingual child is more cognizant of the needs of their listener/audience.
Knowing two languages gives children a head start in competition for universities and career choices. It also provides them with an invaluable tool as they become productive members of our society regardless of their field of study or eventual career.
In order to reap the full benefit of bilingualism, exposure to the second language should begin as early as possible. The chances of achieving full fluency in another language are much higher if study begins during early childhood, since the human brain is wired to acquire language during this critical period. Immersion duplicates the conditions in which we all learn our first language—extended contact with a community of fluent speakers—and is by far the most effective method of language teaching.
How do we help each child reach his/her full potential in all areas of life, not just pure academics through rote memorization? How do we build self confidence and motivation to explore and learn? These are the primary goal of a Montessori program. All of our activities promote the development of social skills, creative, emotional growth, and physical coordination as well as cognitive preparation. The holistic curriculum allows the child to experience the joy of learning and to develop self-esteem and independence. GMIS also incorporates music, arts and physical education to broaden the child’s senses and development.
In order for self-directed learning to take place, the learning environment room, materials and social climate must be supportive of the learner. The teacher provides necessary resources, including opportunities for children to function in a safe and positive climate. Each child learns exactly where each subject matter is, how to share the resources with others and how to complete a task. The teacher thus gains the children’s trust, which gives them confidence to try new things at the child’s own pace. Success with his or her exploration builds further self-confidence and greater exploration.
Montessori materials are multi-sensory, sequential and self-correcting materials that facilitate learning of skills and concepts. For example, the pincer tool in the practical life section is fun for a young 3-year-old actually serves to develop the child’s dexterity for writing in the future. Understanding through visualization is a significant part of the Montessori learning process. A child learns counting with actual objects and beads. They can see and feel how the beads lengthen as the number gets larger. They can see multiplication and subtraction taking place. From this foundation, they can easily transition into abstract reasoning.
A Montessori teacher functions as a facilitator of learning. She is a role model, designer of the learning environment, provider of resources , demonstrator, record-keeper, and observer of each child’s growth and development. She encourages, respects, and loves each child as a special, unique individual. She also provides support and education for parents and joins them in partnership to nurture the development of the child.
Each Montessori classroom operates on the principle of freedom within limits. Every program has its set of ground rules that differs from age to age and is always based on core Montessori beliefs of respect for each other and for the environment. Children are free to work at their own pace with materials they chose, either alone or in cooperation with others. Through observation of the children in the class, a teacher can determine which new activities and materials should be introduced to an individual child or to a group of children. The goal is to encourage active, self-directed learning and to strike a balance of individual mastery and group collaboration within the whole community.
Dr. Montessori observed that in general, children seem to exhibit major step-function jumps in social requirements and cognitive abilities. Also, these jumps seem to occur in 3-year increments. At GMIS, children are grouped into 18 months to three years, three to six years, and elementary ages The three-year-age grouping in each class provides a family-like environment where learning can take place naturally. More experienced children share what they have learned while reinforcing their own learning. Repetition of introduces different aspects of work previously encountered. As children master a subject the child has opportunities to teach that subject to others in his or her group.
The language program begins with readiness activities. It is imperative that each child be allowed to progress to a state of physical and mental readiness before formal language exercises are introduced. The child will experience matching cards, stories, poetry, listening games, and other preparatory activities. Children will learn Mandarin Chinese in a prepared Montessori environment, through activity-based lessons under the instruction of our own highly experienced teachers. No prior Chinese language skills are necessary to participate, but all children must be at least 2 years old at the start of our program. Children will be grouped by language level as well as age to ensure that every child gets the most out of his or her Montessori and Mandarin Chinese experience.
Mathematics is introduced when the child demonstrates interest and readiness. We match each child’s ability with the appropriate materials so that his learning experiences are both positive and rewarding while providing optimal learning at each stage of development. Introduction to mathematics begins with a clear, sensorial impression derived on the child’s part from manipulation of objects, movement, and activity. As each mathematical concept is internalized, the child weans himself gradually from concrete objects and then progresses to the abstract level that is required for a more advanced math curriculum. This method of instruction, devised by Dr. Montessori, has proven to be successful in teaching math skills while enabling the child to enjoy working in the subject. Each child benefits from this concrete introduction to abstract concepts such as decimal system identity, commutative and associative properties, and cube vs. square concepts. Kindergarten students work with the math operations of addition, subtraction, multiplication and division using Montessori Golden Bead material. The success that the child meets here inspires confidence and a desire to seek out future learning experiences.
During the first two years, students are introduced to exercises about practical life, such as spooning beans, pouring water, and polishing silver. These exercises satisfy the child’s need to imitate adult behavior and increase their levels of independence. These exercises also lengthen attention span and aid in the development of fine and gross motor coordination. As time goes by, practical life exercises evolve from the care of self into the care of others and the environment, which then can lead to activities such as science experimentation and discoveries.
Sensorial exercises involve innovative educational materials that develop and refine the child’s sensory organs. The child learns to grade and sequence objects according to various attributes. These activities give the student a clearer, deeper understanding of sequences, groups, and sets, while preparing the child for the more advanced math and geometry activities of the kindergarten year. The student also meets a rich vocabulary in the process and learns to discriminate perceptually by using the senses.
These activities are designed to help the child become aware of and appreciate the diversity of the world. By examining the human, plant, and animal worlds, the child gains exposure to the life that surrounds him or her. The child is taught to respect and take care of the environment. Even the younger child experiments with air, water, and electricity, among other elements. The child is able to develop his intellect by thinking about the relationship between the causes and effects of each experiment. Rather than just inundating the child with a lot of facts and information, experiments allow the children to grasp a clearer understanding of their physical environment through hands-on activities. The child then develops new ways of thinking and sharpens his or her memory.