AIM’s goal is to enable children to become fully bilingual, that is, able to understand, speak, read and write in both English and either Chinese or Japanese.
The Children’s House program has a Chinese and a Japanese track. In both tracks, the entire morning (from 9 am – 1 pm) is taught in the target language. All teachers in the classroom speak only in Chinese/Japanese with the children and with each other. Read aloud time, cultural materials and songs are Chinese/Japanese. Children are encouraged to speak Chinese/Japanese with each other during this time (once they have the language skills to do so).
In the afternoon, a head teacher stays in the classroom and continues instruction in Chinese/Japanese. She is joined by one or more English-speaking teachers, who work with the children to translate skills learned in the target language (e.g., counting or arithmetic) into English. The afternoons are also where English writing and reading is emphasized. (3-year olds who are ready learn the English letter sounds and the alphabet in the mornings, but in a Chinese/Japanese environment.)
Because the afternoons are where most English language instruction takes place, we require children who are no longer napping to stay until 3:30 pm; 3-year-old nappers are invited to nap at school, or may go home at 1 pm, after lunch.
We believe this 100% immersion approach is essential in enabling children to speak the language, and not just understand it. (Many other Montessori immersion programs instead have one teacher speak English, and one teacher speak the target language. Our leadership team has first-hand experience with this approach, and we are convinced that while children get some language exposure this way, they do not achieve the fluent, natural, actively spoken language skills that a 100% immersion program provides.)