Choosing the Right Bilingual Program: Curriculum


October marks the change of weather and announces the coming of the holiday season.  It also signals parents all across America to begin their search for the next school and/or educational programs for which they will enroll their children into the next academic year.  More and more, bilingual schools and programs are on the list of programs and schools to review.   With so many important things to consider when choosing a bilingual program or school, we have broken this section into a four part series to help you make the best decision for you and your family.

#1: Age Appropriate Curriculum


Age appropriate curriculum for language learning considers the various ways individuals learn at different stages in their development.  Age appropriate curriculum makes use of developmental differences as well as different learning styles and implements them accordingly. This may sound like common sense, but unfortunately many classrooms and institutions do not take the time to truly understand these developmental differences.

A true example to illustrate this is to consider two different approaches to teaching toddlers Spanish through parent and child classes.

  • The first one incorporates the parents by having them model the language through singing and dancing and interactive play.  The toddlers watching their parents naturally want to participate by singing and dancing or by simply observing.  Through these actions, the children pick up phrases from the songs and activities and learn to associate them with the action or object.
  •  The second class requires the parent to keep their child seated near them while the teacher shows a toy to a child and tells him what it is in Spanish.  When the toddler reaches for the toy, the teacher will not give it to him until he repeats the statement “yo quiero” and the Spanish word for the given toy.  Often times, a toddler becomes anxious because he doesn’t feel comfortable speaking yet he still wants the toy.  Once the child finally receives the toy, he is given less than a minute to play with it before a similar lesson is repeated for something else.

In this example, we can see that the second class failed to understand how toddlers best learn language and thereby failed to incorporate age appropriate curriculum to be most effective.  On the other hand, the first class embraced the way toddlers naturally learn language and designed the curriculum around it.  As a result, the first class has a much higher success rate with teaching the toddlers Spanish than does the second class and the experience was much more enjoyable for both parents and toddlers.


How To Determine Age Appropriate Curriculum:

Questions to Ask

  • What methodology does the program or institution use to design their curriculum?
    • Is this methodology supported by research to be effective for a given age group?  If so, what research do they use?
    • How is students’ progress assessed under this methodology?
  • Does the program periodically review and assess its methodology?
    • Does the program stay abreast on the latest research in language learning and have procedure in place to make changes to incorporate new findings?
  • How does the program or institution ensure that it is effectively implementing the curriculum?
    • Does it provide good training for their teachers and staff?
    • Does it have clear expectations for a student’s progress in learning the language and is it able to meet those expectations?
    • If expectations are not being met, does it have procedures in place to review and assess why not and to implement corrective action accordingly?
Visit our blog each week for the remaining three parts in this four parts series.


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