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Language Acquisition in the Early Years

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St. Nicholas School recognises the power of language in today’s rapidly changing global society and realises that the ability to communicate in more than one language is important for global citizens who can make a difference in the world. English is our inclusive language that unites the learning community, and also our main language of instruction.

As an international community,  we value and celebrate all mother tongues. Families come with a rich and diverse cultural and linguistic background and also a range of linguistic expectations of an international school.  For some families who transfer frequently between countries, English provides continuity of learning from one country to another.  

An immersive experience in English creates an authentic context for learning and language acquisition. In the Early Years, the morning greetings, smiles and gestures provide a welcoming atmosphere to the little ones. Music, rhythm and movement are one of the main languages of young children and through songs in their daily routine, our early learners begin to understand the language whilst having fun. English use is encouraged and celebrated so grouping the children with a range of home languages is an effective way to encourage the use of English when playing different games, as it may be the common language amongst them.  

Read aloud moments is a treasury part of the day in which children are exposed to high quality literature books that enchant them and develop the appreciation and enjoyment for listening to stories. A literacy-rich environment is in place, with books, labels, and opportunities for viewing print in a range of ways and purposes. 

As children grow and learn, they begin to see letters where they didn’t see before, learn about their names and get motivated to become “word detectives”. Not only do they interpret the images and retell stories, they begin to tackle the reading and writing of words. When children play-pretend, they like to make it look as real as possible and they come up with ideas of making signs and labels to name things. The first steps to what will be a marathon in the future!

Lead learners use the language of instruction in which they teach children both indoors and outdoors. For example, the Portuguese team uses Portuguese when communicating with children while the other lead learners use English with children at all times. During snack time, in the outdoor garden, may it be running, building sand castles or choosing a toy, the opportunities to live and interact with other children in order to develop not only language skills but social and emotional skills as part of a multilingual community is grand and supports learning between and across languages.

Maria Martha is a specialist in additional language acquisition as well as in the teaching of reading and writing from kindergarten until G1.

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St Nicholas Language Policy

Ellis, R. (1985). Understanding second language acquisition. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 

Krashen, S. (1982). Principles and Practice in Second Language Acquisition. Oxford: Pergamon Press. 

Vygotsky: Aprendizado e Desenvolvimento, um Processo Sócio-Histórico, Marta Kohl de Oliveira, 112 págs., Ed. Scipione.



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