Giving Children the Gift of Bilingualism
Wonder employs a model of bilingual education known as immersion. Similar to a bilingual family setting, both English and Hebrew are used on an equal basis within the school setting. Our goal is that children become functionally proficient in both languages as well as acquiring a deeper understanding of, and appreciation for, the cultural nuances imbued within each language. Our method employs the practice of additive bilingualism, meaning that children’s primary language is developed and maintained as a second language is added.
Some of the features of this educational model are as follows:
Immersing the child in another language and learning it by experiencing it in everyday activities that are familiar to the child, like eating, playing, dressing up etc.
Complete separation of languages, where each teacher speaks only one language without translating, while allowing children to use native language resources such as peers and the Hebrew/English-speaking teacher
Ample time for interaction between children (such as through the use of cooperative learning and project work) allowing children to practice their new language skills with their peers
Exposure to meaningful and developmentally appropriate literacy and a print-rich environment in both languages, where reading and writing are tools used to share ideas, collaborate towards goals, and express feelings.
The Teaching Model
Our classrooms are run using a non-hierarchical, co-teaching model with 3 teachers working together as a team. Each teacher speaks only in his or her native language at all times when in the classroom (the only exception being in cases where a child is in danger and needs to understand what is being said to him immediately (safety being the primary concern in any early childhood classroom).
There is no designated “Hebrew time” or “English time.” Rather, educators work together to provide whole group, small group, and individualized activities conducted in each teacher’s respective native language. When one teacher is leading an activity, particularly with the whole group, it is the responsibility of the co-teacher to act as a support to his or her partner, facilitating the activity, guiding children who may need extra help, and documenting the learning process. Because this model of education demands a high level of communication and cooperative planning, teaching teams meet weekly to reflect, share observations, and build curriculum based on these observations.