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LANGUAGE IN INFANT COMMUNITY

In the Infant Community, much language acquisition happens along with the daily routines of the Montessori class such as getting dressed, preparing food, cleaning up, and engaging in art projects. Teachers narrate their activities, repeating phrases slowly, and use very expressive body language to ensure that even students who are new to Chinese or Japanese can understand and begin to learn the languages. They make use of a wide variety of activities to introduce not just nouns, but also adjectives and adverbs: "Let’s try to walk slowly," "listen to the faint sound we make when we put the cup down gently," or "feel how soft this silk cloth feels when you touch it with your fingertip.

Our highly trained Montessori toddler teachers also use many other activities:

  • Songs: our youngest students love to sing songs. Often, teachers supply picture cues along with music to reinforce the acquisition of vocabulary.

  • Storytime: throughout the day, students can join teachers in short story circles. Colorful picture books in both languages make learning new words fun.

  • Montessori three-period lessons: Our classroom is full of little objects– animals, plants, household objects—and picture cards with more items (colors, vehicles, clothes.) Teachers regularly guide students in learning vocabulary with a Montessori three-period lesson:

    • Naming things. A teacher will hold up an item – an apple, a pear, a lemon, a strawberry – and tell the child the name of each.

    • Verifying understanding. After the child has heard the names, the teacher will ask the child to identify an object. She’ll ask (in Japanese or Chinese): "Can you put the apple over here?", "Please put the pear on this plate", and "Hand me the lemon."

    • Asking for the word. Once she knows the child understands a word, she will ask them to say it. Holding up the fruit, she’ll say, "What is this?" or "Which one am I pointing to now?"

  • Language games. Teachers engage students in many games: matching objects to cards (always speaking their names as students make the match), finding the right card when a teacher calls out an object's name, and puzzles of all kinds.

Children who join the AIM infant community at age 18 months, even without a word of Japanese or Chinese, often graduate at age 3 being able to speak both of these languages equally well. Students often approach proficiency at the level of each child’s English language skills.

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