LANGUAGE IN ELEMENTARY
The immersion language approach at AIM continues into the elementary grades. Children choose either the Chinese/English or the Japanese/English track (although some truly trilingual students may spend time with all three languages).
THREE TEACHERS, THREE LANGUAGES
The AIM private school program is staffed by three trained Montessori elementary school teachers. One head teacher is a native Japanese speaker, another teacher is a Chinese speaker, and the third speaks English. Each teacher speaks with the students in his or her native language, throughout the day.
A COMBINED CLASSROOM, WITH SPECIFIC LANGUAGE AREAS
Japanese students spend most of their day on the Japanese side of the classroom, while Chinese students are on the Chinese side. Children at similar levels from both programs also come together in the library, where the English-speaking lead teacher delivers lessons in English. This setup enables us to offer a larger social group, comprised of both Japanese and Chinese speakers, to maintain a rich, mixed-age classroom with a wide variety of materials.
TRANSLATING THE MONTESSORI MATERIALS INTO CHINESE AND JAPANESE
We have begun to translate the entire Montessori elementary program into both Chinese and Japanese. After a year of looking for commercially available programs and reaching out to schools across the globe, we have come to realize that what we want to offer hasn’t been done before. So we are blazing trails by translating our rich Montessori curriculum into both Chinese and Japanese. This process will take us a few years – but we’ll ensure we stay ahead of our students as the program will grow with them!
Japanese or Chinese are not relegated to an hour or so daily of specialist language classes. Instead, students receive lessons across the curriculum in both English and either Chinese or Japanese (those who are trilingual may receive lessons in all three languages.) Children learn math, geography, science, and history in English and Chinese or Japanese.
To cover the broad, engaging Montessori curriculum fully, and to do so in three languages, requires time. Our private school program for the elementary years is a full-day program, 8:30 am – 4 pm. We found mornings were too short to fully explore the rich Montessori program. And by relegating Japanese and Chinese to shorter afternoon specialist classes, they became second languages in a bad sense. They were less valued by students, a mere adjunct, and not an integral component of daily life.
SOCIAL LANGUAGE ENVIRONMENT
In AIM’s private school program, we actively encourage students to use Japanese and Chinese not just with teachers, but also as a social language in the classroom. As many students come up to AIM’s private school program from our Montessori Children’s House, they already have the habit of speaking in Japanese or Chinese to their friends. We encourage this social use of language throughout the elementary years by dedicating certain areas of our classroom to Japanese or Chinese environments, where the children are expected to speak in these languages with each other and with their teachers.