Developing a child’s use of language is an integral part of the entire school day and all curriculum areas. Answering children with words to express their feelings and ideas, encouraging them to consider events in different ways – these things happen during group time, story writing, book and event discussions and any time a child has a conversation with a teacher or another child.
These are the prime opportunities for learning, when a child is interested and engaged in discussion. The words and concepts they learn are their most important tools for present and future learning.
Books and story-records are an important part of our curriculum. Reading aloud to children allows them to identify with characters, use their imaginations and learn about their world. They are also learning that stories have a beginning, middle, and an end. Reading and talking about books enriches a child's spoken and listening vocabulary.
We also use books as a source of information to answer children's questions about the world.
Each story is dictated by a child to a teacher; the child is in charge and the teacher is the scribe. The ideas of each child are respected, promoting a sense of self-worth and empowerment. Story writing is important because it:
- develops a child's memory and ability to recall past events,
- encourages the child to communicate more effectively,
- develops a sense that his/her ideas are important and worth writing down,
- allows a child to express any feeling he/she may have,
- develops an awareness of how spoken word becomes a written word.
With our performing arts specialist, the children enjoy creative expression when they tell and direct their own stories in small groups, as well as participate in the stories of others. We call this our dramatic storytelling project. The author of each story directs it and chooses his/her own role as well as those the other children will play. This is an empowering process that enhances each child’s sense of worth and love of storytelling, especially since the stories are not censored. This activity is fun, nurturing and encourages children to work together and appreciate each other’s ideas.
We also have small group activities that strengthen self-confidence and promote awareness of cultures and lifestyles.
All children need caregivers that understand their language and their culture in order to feel secure and establish a language relationship; with this in mind we have a bilingual component in our curriculum and several staff at Buen Día speak both languages fluently. This gives children an opportunity to communicate in their home language while progressing in the second language. Language influences how children perceive the world, organize their experiences and communicate. So it is important to allow children to speak in the language with which they feel most comfortable and give them ample opportunities for expression.
Our curriculum not only focuses on language but also on culture, traditions and beliefs. Families are encouraged to share a cultural tradition, holiday, food, job interest or subject of choice with us. For example, one parent prepared a snack with the children called “pan de muerto” for Día de los Muertos. Another parent who is a bilingual doctor talked about working in a hospital. In these ways children are exposed to different experiences and possibilities. When the school supports each family’s lifestyle and traditions, children feel a sense of self-worth; the school becomes an extension of their home and children learn that speaking another language and having another culture are very special.
During the week we present Spanish activities such as number concepts, the names of the fruits and vegetables, songs and games. We also speak Spanish throughout the day in our small groups, during meals and while children are playing. Other ways that we approach the language are by reading books, listening to music in Spanish, labeling all the toys, furniture and art work in the school in both languages, writing stories, displaying cultural exhibitions in our Social Studies area, singing, displaying photographs the children bring and communicating with the parents in Spanish.