When they arrive at school, little children do not offer any resistance in relation to English, and quickly learn songs and basic commands used in the routine. When children are older, because they are more competent in the mother tongue, it may be necessary to use it mixed with English to guarantee the adaptation and involvement in the activities (in case they have never had contact with English and find it “strange”). Little by little, the use of Portuguese by the teacher becomes unnecessary, ensuring the simultaneous process of acquisition of both languages in a fun and easy way. The step right after oral comprehension is speaking English, which occurs as the child acquires a repertoire of words that enables him/her to make sentences. At Builders we do not “force” the use of the language, but rather offer an environment that stimulates the use of English. Each child has her own rhythm and responds uniquely to stimulation. Thus, it is normal that some will speak first while others take more time just listening until they can communicate in this language.
Second language acquisition naturally occurs little by little. The whole school routine is in English and the child is exposed to the language in contextualized and significant situations.
From K4 on, students’ vocabulary increases and our objective is to make them more capable of understanding English instructions, commands, questions and the routine while starting to express themselves as well. We use material that is adopted in American schools.
Using visual, audio, and detailed planning of contextualized activities we create a favorable learning environment to stimulate learning and use of English. Each week the students are exposed to different themes that are worked throughout the day such as story time, circle time, meeting time, center time, play time, arts, drama, etc.
We also teach songs and nursery rhymes to enrich their vocabulary. Not only that but we celebrate various holidays that are celebrated in English speaking countries, like Saint Patrick’s Day, Halloween and Thanksgiving; always as a cultural and fun celebration, not religious.
In Elementary school, additive bilingualism happens through our English Language Program. This means the second language is acquired while the first is maintained – it is a partial English immersion. We follow the Brazilian National Standards, and our English Language Program was designed with the help of advisors to ensure that it follows the National Standards and our standards of excellence. The classes given in Portuguese are: Portuguese, Mathematics, History, Geography and Science; classes in English are Language Arts, Mathematics, Science and Social Studies. Our textbooks and programs in the ELP are the same as those used by native speakers. Bilingual children switch from one language to the other, creating a “bridge” between both that enriches each learning experience. Transversal and multidisciplinary projects, in a curriculum that integrates both languages, facilitate this connection and promote access to information, considering knowledge as a whole.