The European Commission has spoken out in favor of the early age learning of at least two foreign languages: putting children in contact with other languages right away can help them, not only to learn them faster, but also to get to know their mother tongue better while progressing in other fields.The bilingualism promoted by the school aims at developing knowledge, attitudes and skills that train them as bilingual and bicultural individuals, in order to facilitate their active participation as citizens of a global community.
The Thomas More school offers an innovative educational offer, in line with European training standards on Early language learning.
The teaching of foreign languages is provided by qualified mother tongue teachers and takes place from the first grade of primary school with nine hours a week of English and two of Spanish. Language teachers, within the whole school, speak only the foreign language they instruct pupils.
For Spanish, bilingualism is developed with the ‘Enfoque Comunicativo Orientado a la Acción’; method, which puts the student at the center of interaction and responds to his/her communication needs and interests.
The method aims to promote pupils’ autonomy and is articulated through activities, games and exercises that stimulate creativity while encouraging social interaction..
For the first two years of primary school, children are offered an immersion in the English speaking world. Receptive skills, listening and reading are privileged, while supporting the skills that students develop simultaneously in Italian. Children are divided by levels of linguistic competence, in order to offer lessons that are appropriate to each one’s abilities, avoiding mechanisms of boredom or, otherwise, frustration. In primary school, therefore, there are three language classes with students from the three school sections. In middle school, on the other hand, there are four levels and they are “vertical”: the language classes are in fact made
up of students from all middle classes, divided by levels.
The Total Physical Response method is always actively used to introduce new terms, thus associating a movement with sound with the aim of promoting memory while prompting the contextual return of verbal terms or formulas.
Up until the second grade, children's answers to the teachers’ questions can also be in Italian: speaking English is not initially imposed but understanding is privileged. The teacher stimulates a form of interactional game with students, allowing to talk and express oneself, taking place by establishing a direct relationship: when a need arises (shoe to tie, permission to go to the bathroom, to have a bottle opened, help to put cheese on pasta or to close the backpack) the boy or girl will be able to express their need in Italian but, immediately after, they will repeat the same sentence, suggested by the teacher, in English.
Based on a family and home model, the elements to be used in the classroom are initially provided without defining them with grammar terminology. Grammar is in fact dealt with starting from the third grade, when you begin to give a formal name to the words and the function they have in the sentence, as happens in Italian.
Starting from the third grade and all following school cycles, communication with language teachers must necessarily be in the language, except for students of the first level only in the case of new enrollments.
With listening and reading, great importance is given to the Productive skills competences: speaking and writing, starting from the first year of primary, is favored with creative writing of short texts on topics identified together with the children. The projects for reading and sharing stories, moreover, keep the curiosity of girls and boys high, so that the study of the language is not an imposition but a tool used to move forward in the discovery of oneself and others, in the ever globalized world we live in.
The confirmation of the acquired linguistic and communication skills is guaranteed through the certifications issued by the University of Cambridge Examinations (Cambridge English Language Assessment), and by the Cervantes Institute for DELEs (Diplomas de Español como Lengua Extranjera), the only qualifications officially
accredited by the Spanish Ministry of public education and internationally recognized.