"Play gives children a chance to practice what they are learning" – Fred Rogers
The ways in which children acquire second and third languages in early childhood classrooms has been a topic of interest for many years. With increasing globalization, culturally diverse families are moving abroad and enrolling their children in international schools in which English or the local language is the primary language of instruction. Integrating these children into the school, the classroom and the social life of the community is crucial.
Teachers at the International School of Ticino enhance the language development of their students by encouraging their social interaction through play. Through this method, we set the precedent for making learning fun. Play is at the center of our curriculum because we base our early childhood program on a constructivist philosophy. The program focuses on language acquisition, as well as social, emotional, cognitive and physical development. We offer an important balance between teacher-centered and child-centered activities. Our teachers explore topics with their students in depth, encouraging the children to actively participate in their learning and to understand the world around them through their experiences.
Socialization and communication are integral aspects to learning for children and are integrated into the curriculum at the International School of Ticino. Children gain social skills as they interact physically, verbally and non-verbally with each other. Communication, both verbal and nonverbal, can be challenging for young children who are learning and developing social and language skills. These challenges are even more evident when the children have different cultural and linguistic backgrounds. When young children come to school with prior communication experiences they may use language in ways that differ from how it is used, taught, and expressed in the classroom. Children need time to adjust to the classroom's social and linguistic culture so they can be an integral part of the social play and learning process.
At the International School of Ticino, we help dual language learners understand communications by allowing them to experiment with the new language in a risk-free and low-anxiety classroom environment. Such environments support young learners by letting them express their ideas, desires, emotions, feelings and opinions. Children can learn new languages naturally as native speakers and second language learners interact with each other and find their own ways of communicating through play. With basic conversation skills children can quickly expand their vocabulary, enabling them to comfortably participate in social groups and to develop strategies for conflict resolution.
Through play, we aim to give dual language learners many opportunities to acquire a new language, to develop social skills and to improve communication abilities. At the International School of Ticino our educators remove the barriers that prevent children from playing and talking together. We create a classroom environment that supports the development of social, communication and language skills. As we reflect on our practices and integrate theories that best support children's learning, we aspire to create a school atmosphere and environment in which the children communicate and socialize, show respect, accept one another, collaborate and take pride in their play and work.