Preschool Age (0-5)- In our Spanish Immersion Preschool and Parent-Child classes, our method for language instruction includes a music lesson (Music Lingua) and a story. In our music class, we use music, movement, and stories to present thematic concepts and key vocabulary. The emphasis is on hearing the spoken language, learning the songs, and in the process, learning target vocabulary and responding to commands. Kids get much more practice speaking and hearing the language and the combination of singing, games and art make the classes dynamic and fun.
During story time, we use books and puppet shows to prime children’s brains to the cadence and sound of the Spanish language, to enhance their vocabulary, and to convey the feelings of the author or storyteller. Over the course of the year, children hear many stories repeatedly. Through the use of rich language and repetition, we are priming children’s brains to be ripe for language acquisition.
Elementary Age(6-12)- Elementary-age children in our Spanish enrichment classes and camps are asked to communicate more actively in the target language. Classes focus on songs, short plays, and conversational practice. The teacher might play a call and response game that requires students to listen attentively in order to comprehend and respond with accuracy. By the end of this class, students begin writing a few phrases and words with which they are familiar. Practice in reading progresses gradually at this stage. Students also study the geography, cultures, and history of the countries that speak the focus language.
In our more advanced classes or groups, grammar is introduced in a more conscious way. An effort is made to present grammar in an imaginative manner, avoiding the abstractions of traditional grammar books. Verb conjugations may be learned orally by reciting the forms rhythmically while clapping, singing, gesturing, or marching. Children are also asked to write things of their own such as: a letter, a description, or a short summary of something that has been read or experienced.
At Bella Lengua’s Spanish Immersion Preschool, we dedicate time each day to play, both indoors and outdoors. During play, children are able to freely choose and direct their activities. This type of play allows kids to explore their thoughts and feelings and act out scenarios they’ve seen or heard in real life. Play also motivates the children follow rules and stick to roles assigned during play. This, in turn, helps them develop their ability to regulate impulses, coordinate with others, and make plans. When disagreements between children crop up during play, kids have a chance to work through their differences and arrange a compromise.
There is documented research that shows that early exposure to music can lead to positive outcomes such as increased brain density and an increased skill in math and logic. At the same time, because music and language learning are complementary, our Spanish Immersion music curriculum supports language development. Music fine-tunes the ear for language processing and, in turn, it strengthens then related cognitive (brain) mechanisms (Kraus, Strait, & Parbery-Clark, 2012).
At Bella Lengua, children in our camps and preschool participate in art activities frequently. Our approach offers a balance between letting kids explore, tinker and create through self-directed activities and providing them with direct instruction. Some days, our art activities are teacher directed and they provide a link to the cultural or thematic topics that the children are exposed to during their music lesson and their work time activities. Other days, we create a environment in which children can can experiment with different objects and mediums and enjoy art for themselves.
At Bella Lengua preschool, camps, and classes, everyday life and beauty are brought into science, engineering, and math. Our intent is not to soften STEM— but to connect artistic and scientific creativity.
Science: Our method for science instruction is based on observation and inquiry. Students are immersed in science during walks, gardening, cooking, painting, and experimentation, to name a few. These real world examples and applications guide students to use inquiry and observation to deeply understand science within our world.
Technology: Studies on the implementation of technology (especially the used of screen-based technology) in early childhood education are not entirely positive. For this reason, we primarily use “high tech” devices as a teaching tool (for adults).
Engineering: Students build and create using engineering concepts. Playing with blocks and other “loose parts” is one example of how engineering is placed into our curriculum. Geometric forms are also used in art and drawing to support the logic needed to make engineering concepts reality.
Math: At Bella Lengua, we incorporate practical applications of math for things like cooking, music, and art. Math is also introduced through movement, rhythm, and play. We use manipulatives to make concepts like adding and subtracting concrete realities.
At Bella Lengua, the children have many opportunities to move and practice their large motor skills each day. In our half-day and full-day preschool programs, children have two or three scheduled outdoor activity times daily. In our summer camps, older kids have outdoor breaks and walking field trips to the library, and the beach. During this time the children climb, slide, swing, run, and socialize with their peers. In the classroom, kids practice yoga and make use of a rocker board, rocking horse, and a sit-and-spin.