Knowledge of grammar.
Especially in the elementary years, knowing grammar is critical for becoming literate in a second language. Montessori excels here as well. Students start learning parts of speech with the Montessori grammar symbols as early as preschool, and continue a rigorous grammar program through the elementary school years. (This formal teaching of grammar at such a young age is only possible because of the sensorial nature of Montessori grammar materials. If you’ve never experienced them, please come visit — they’re quite wonderful!)
Clear, intentional language.
Children absorb language habits from their environment. How teachers speak is critical. Our highly-trained Montessori preschool teachers are careful speakers, every day, all the time. We say things like, “I invite you to get up and wash your hands so we may come together for Circle Time” rather than, “Ok, Circle Time, kids!” And as we have two teachers in each class who speak fluently in Spanish or Mandarin Chinese, children also get to hear authentic, quality dialogue in Spanish or Chinese between adults as well.
Children learn language better if they can repeat what adults are saying and doing. Linguists are amazed how naturally this happens in Montessori preschool: our students are used to teacher demonstrations followed by their own student practice. They have internalized learning by modeling the lessons of their teachers! Thus, they naturally want to repeat after their Montessori teacher, when she speaks in Spanish or Chinese, fostering stronger language skills.
Language is inevitably tied to culture. In fact, children often default to speaking the native language of the surrounding culture. A LePort Montessori preschool classroom provides a rich environment for cultural experiences. Practical life activities can incorporate Spanish or Chinese customs, from foods we prepare together, to the type of fabrics we use in our materials. Songs and stories from Spanish-speaking areas of the world bring Spanish culture to life in the classroom, as do Chinese songs and stories. We also encourage those families who come from a Chinese or Spanish-speaking background to share the culture’s events, such as Chinese New Years celebrations, or the fall Moon festival. Naturally, the strong Montessori preschool geography program enables our students to locate the cultural regions where Spanish or Chinese are spoken on the world map!
An early start.
Language learning happens most easily during early childhood. In fact, Dr. Montessori first identified a “sensitive period” for language learning in children from birth to age six, where they can apparently effortlessly absorb language skills from their environment. A Montessori Spanish or Chinese preschool immersion program which starts as early as infanthood or the young toddler years and continues on at least until age six, leverages the child’s “absorbent mind” by surrounding him with Spanish so he can absorb his second language just as naturally as his first.