На русcком | In English
Программа является интеллектуальной собственностью. Копирование запрещено.
Methodology and Goals:
Core Methodology for All Ages:
Learning material in cycles (we do not abandon any themes-we work in cycles, periodically returning to old themes and revising and expanding them and using words in new ways and in new contexts and constructions)
Encouragement of group decisions and requests made in English (the group votes on the story we read, the group decides whether we want to play cards or draw a picture, etc. This very strongly motivates children to use their English, and teaches children to make compromises and work together. All of this, of course, occurs within the context of equally beneficial options chosen by the teacher. )
Use of a variety of methods for teaching (songs, pictures, games, stories, physical acting-out, drawing, and later some writing) to appeal to the variety of interests the children have (for example, when studying animals, we [depending on the group level], may use drawing, song, charades, guessing games, card games, and role playing with stuffed animals to learn not only names, but tell about our opinions of them, talk about what they can and can't do, discuss whether or not we're scared of them, and where they live...)
Opening and closing rituals (every lesson begins with a big group hello and then with each child, or the children as a group, responding to our questions of the day, and ends with a song or very short movie, and a big group good-bye)
For ages 3-4
Goals: At this age, we mirror the language-learning process through which children learn their native language in a focused but fun manner. We learn to express our emotions, our likes and dislikes, our desires. We learn to describe the world around us in terms of color, shape, size, etc. We learn classroom rules in English so that we can, as a group, have a friendly classroom (no hitting! no pushing!). We learn action verbs, animals, and the names of toys, and how to say where things are located.
Methodology: We move around...a lot! Children at this age do not have a very long attention span, so we work in short bursts. Russian is not used in the classroom at all. While children take a long time to start speaking freely, they quickly absorb and understand language at this age. Everyone is encouraged to speak through games requiring spoken replies, songs, and our everyday rituals and greetings.
For ages 4-5
Goals: Expanding on our existing vocabulary, we begin to meet and use different verb tenses of English. From merely knowing "run," we move on to more complicated constructions like "He is running," or "I want to run." We work on answering questions in full phrases, rather than just "yes" and "no." We reinforce familiar vocabulary, and add to it more advanced vocabulary. We learn to describe the world in greater detail.
Methodology: Using the basic vocabulary and comfort level we have already acquired, we move further and into more detail. When reading stories, we play: I ask questions for them to answer about the story, or I take a story the children know well, change it slightly in a funny way, and they have to notice and fix my "mistakes". Our games
become more complicated, we begin to supplement our lessons with creative work like drawing, learning with that new vocabulary. At this age, attention span is a bit longer, so we can spend more time on these more complicated projects, which always have a linguistic element (there's no "sit here for 10 minutes and draw a picture" in our classrooms!), and which fill the children with pride in their work. Lastly, we meet for the first time the English alphabet. Reading is absolutely delayed until children are comfortable reading in Russian, but they all get to know their names and all the letters of the names of their classmates in our daily warm-ups.
For ages 5-7
Goals: At this age, preparation for school, whether it is a Russian school or an English school, is one of our priorities. We learn the sounds of all the English letters, little by little, and through games, we learn to read. We continue to add vocabulary, a lot of it very fun vocabulary chosen to reflect the interests and things children of that age want to talk about (castles, robots, etc.). We move towards more spontaneous speech, with children working together in pairs or small groups to ask and answer questions, or to act out stories we've read. By now, our basic "hello" and "how are you?" has evolved to include many more questions, rotated each day, that require children to tell me the day of the week, or each one to list their favorite food, or to tell me the weather. Since English questions can be complicated, and often sound very similar ("Who/how," "what/where/when/why"), we work on making sure that with or without context, the children can recognize and answer different kinds of questions.
Methodology: Games continue to play a big role, but longer attention spans allow longer creative activities, and give us a bit more freedom to really communicate in English. The classroom becomes slightly less structured, in order to give children the time and space to add comments or make statements in English-in short, to communicate! Russian is occasionally used, but if a child asks a question requiring a longer answer, and one that is beyond their English language level, they are encouraged to wait and ask after the lesson ends.
Frequently Asked Questions:
What is the difference between "English with a native speaker" and "English with a Russian teacher"?
A lot of this depends on the teachers. But typically, native speakers are less conservative with their language, and speak to children more how they would speak to any child. They teach language not through translation exercises and the memorization of tiny phrases, but through games, images, conversation, and context. This allows the children to have an experience much closer to language immersion. Most native speakers do not understand Russian. This is a blessing, and a curse. On the one hand, the children can only communicate in English. On the other hand, the teacher has no clear way, in some cases, to see if the child has understood. And additionally, some native speakers are not aware of the grammar of their own language. As a native speaker of English, who teaches children and adults and who also speaks Russian, I am pleased to be able to offer both the immersion experience of a native speaker and stubborn insistence on English use, with the ability of a Russian to confirm comprehension. Further, my knowledge of English grammar allows me to, in a logical way, gradually and without ever mentioning "grammar" teach the children not just words, but the architecture of the language.
What makes lessons at Akuna Matata better than lessons at a big language school?
Having worked at big, international language schools myself, I have found the approach allowed by Akuna Matata superior in a variety of ways. First of all, at big language schools, the requirement of finding lots of teachers means that standards may be lower for teachers. They need to find native speakers, and they find them, and try to train them on site. The turnover is high-teachers come and go frequently.
In order to make this slightly chaotic arrangement possible, such schools create and insist on highly-structured thematic blocs. These themes look good on paper, but in reality are the absolute furthest we can get from recreating the learning process through which children learn their native language-and isn't that our goal? A parent would be very unlikely to spend 2 weeks intensively studying food names with a child, and then move on conclusively to other themes! Instead, they would slowly, cyclically, and repetitively teach their child about the world around them, always working to make sure the child can use the vocabulary before abandoning it for new words. Additionally, the strict focus on one set of vocabulary at any given time may mean a child is faced with a theme completely uninteresting to them, and after sitting in boredom for some weeks, lose interest entirely.
Secondly, the need for bigger schools to create order comes at a big price: the price of a teacher sensitively responding to the needs and interests of each individual child and group. One group may love moving around and jumping; another may be more quiet and orderly and focused. With a bigger school, to guarantee uniform "production standards," these differences are disregarded. In a smaller school like Akuna Matata, teachers can intelligently respond and customize lessons and approach to make sure each group both has fun, and in consequence can learn better. Children learn songs better if they like them-why not spend time making lessons that they like?
Thirdly, many schools may try to sell a pseudo-scientific, but fundamentally unrealistic picture of the work required to learn a language! They would like you to think there is a quick way to learn a language perfectly and without much commitment. Sadly, this has been repeatedly shown to be untrue. There is a limited window in which the child's brain is able to learn a language natively, and a lesson or two a week is not enough for that. At Akuna Matata, we work with parents to find way to add English time outside of preschool if they are interested. Plus, if children are interested, then outside of lessons all teachers who know English are happy to interact in that language.
At Akuna Matata, English is neatly incorporated into the child's day-to-day activities, and there is always an opportunity for informal contact outside of lessons in English.
What is the most important thing to help a child learn a second language?
First of all, the word "child" here is very important. Children learn language far better than adults, because they can learn it without explicitly studying its grammar-their brains have an instinct for language. So if you want your child to start learning before they go to school, congratulations on making the best decision possible when it comes to language studies!
It is very profitable and exciting to proclaim that you have found the "secret" for learning languages quickly-schools make lots of money selling this myth. But the truth of how to learn languages quickly is much less secret and exciting: the secret is time spent hearing, speaking, and using that language. So what is the point of developing a methodology, if the most important thing is time? There are two important reasons that intelligent, sound methodology is crucial. First, it allows children to instinctually grasp the grammar of the language more quickly. It's the difference between someone giving you a math equation on paper without explanation over and over until you somehow "get it," and a person showing you how it works until not only do you "get it," but you can make your own new equations with the same rule. Secondly, good methodology can inspire genuine interest in learning a language. If we have one teacher, or English nanny, or tutor, who sits with the child forcing them to repeat boring phrases, or trying to teach them, far too early, the difference between a preposition and an adverb, I can guarantee the child will stop trying to learn. But if the teacher finds a way to make learning fun, that energy will fuel learning in his/her classroom, and in future.
I encourage parents with the possibility of doing so to hire an English tutor, or part-time nanny, to work with their child for some part of the week. This already adds to the minutes and hours of English interaction the child gets. If the parent knows English, I urge them not to be shy! Talk to your child in English. If neither of these are possible, then showing an interest, and giving the child access to games (even iPad games) or movies like Peppa Pig is another way to increase contact with the second language. It really does make a difference. Even if you don't see it at home (and many children are very reluctant to show or use their English with their non-native speaker parents), I see it in the classroom. Investing in using English now has significant returns in the future; better to work hard and regularly for some time now, when the brain is so eager and ready for language, than spend 10 years trying to learn in the future.
For more information on the mechanics of language acquisition, I recommend the website http://linguistlist.org/ask-ling/lang-acq.cfm. It is a very solid site from an international linguistics consortium that answers a lot of common questions. If language acquisition research is interesting to you (and it is to us!), we can either discuss recent research with you personally and how it connects with our lessons, or if you read English, give you tons of great studies exploring this topic!
My child has never been in an English lesson-can he/she still learn with other children who have been studying for longer?
While for a child, especially an older child, this can be somewhat difficult, it is certainly possible. This is due to the fact that we always include games and songs accessible to any level of English, and to the fact that we repeat core material daily, and specific vocabulary in cycles. If your child doesn't know the names of any food in English, no need to worry, we will be revising and expanding on it at some point anyway! We teach children to feel real pride in helping newcomers get caught up, and supporting and helping each other generally. While other children might be asked complicated questions, a newcomer will get slightly simpler ones for a while, with hints from the teacher and the group. And since we regularly do chants as a group, they can jump right in.
That said, if you are worried about your child being unable to understand or participate at the same level as other children, work at home is a good idea, even if just simply practicing and learning basic vocabulary. At any age, it is good for a child coming into the group to know (or practice at home): colors, numbers, basic animal names, basic action verbs, basic emotions, and if you like, either names of types of weather, types of food, or types of clothes. If they can practice this at home, they will much more quickly find their footing within group lessons.
Why isn't my child speaking yet?
When your child was first born, it didn't speak. It was surrounded by loving parents and relatives who spoke to it in Russian constantly, but it didn't speak. After a year or so, it began to speak...one or two words. Then some phrases. There were periods where the child made amazing leaps in knowledge and fluency-by magic, it seemed! By the time the child was around four, it spoke very fluently-not at the level of an adult, but it had clearly "acquired" the language.
The acquisition of a second language in childhood follows roughly the same process! For a long, long time, the child listens, then understands, but does not spontaneously use the new language. With encouragement, the child gives one word, then whole phrase answers. Then somehow, there is a magic moment where they begin to speak without your help, without your pushing. Not perfectly, but still-they've got the language.
The difference is that in their first language, the child had constant immersion. In learning a second, while good teaching can speed up the process, they don't have as much time. If we want them to get a second native language, we have to have both thoughtful lessons, and as much time around the language as possible. That initial silence is not lack of knowledge, or lack of progress: it is a natural step that children go through when learning a language! There's a lot of processing, organizing, and saving information in their brains that has to go on before they can freely use their knowledge, but they absolutely can get there!
What if I don't speak English or have the ability or time to supplement my child's lessons outside of the school?
Steps as simple as downloading games for the iPad or cell phone inEnglish (of course, with your good supervision!), or movies in English for your children to watch are always a nice option! But even if the extent of your child's learning is exclusively in-classroom, there will be concrete, irreplaceable results.
First, your child will have a far better accent. Having heard the language and its sounds, and practiced them from a young age, tricky sounds like "r" and "th" are much easier for them to recognize and reproduce. That native speaker accent will come, very often, quite easily to them when they start young. From the experience of teaching adults and watching them suffer over English's odd consonants, so alien to Russian, it's amazing to listen to the beautiful and unaccented speech that our young students can produce with almost no effort.
Secondly, your child will be prepared to deal with real English speech. We try in lessons to avoid slowing down speech, but aim to speak to the children in the same way, if with carefully chosen vocabulary, that a person would speak with an English child of the same age. Many adults have a hard time understanding native English speakers because of the sheer pace of their speaking. This will not only not be a problem for your child, but will be absolutely normal and understandable. That horrible "language barrier" that plagues so many adults will not be a problem for the child.
Thirdly, children who start early will go to school with confidence and enthusiasm. They will be a step (or many steps!) ahead of their classmates, and this feeling of pride is a wonderful motivator.
I have a child too young to have English lessons-what can I do?
One easy, and highly beneficial way to help your child, even before they can speak Russian, is to let them listen to English. Songs, stories on tape-anything! A child's brain over time loses the ability to tell apart sounds foreign to their language-they can't hear the difference. But if they hear the language from an early age, this ability is preserved. Some parents worry that hearing English sounds could hurt the child's Russian pronunciation. This is an important concern. Fortunately, it is something we have never seen happen in any irreversible way, and for good reason! Different languages have different collections of sounds. We are not trying to replace Russian sounds, we are adding to that vocabulary! Some children will need speech therapy for their Russian. Some English kids need it for their English. But exposure to a wider variety of sounds does not cause this problem.
My child doesn't want to speak to me in English! What can I do?
This is a surprisingly common phenomenon. When you speak English to them, it seems strange and they don't always appreciate the change. Usually with some time, this resistance fades. If you're having this problem, feel free to contact us and we can try to come up with a solution. And see below suggestions of how to use English in the home.
I know English. How should I talk to my child in English?
First of all, give yourself a big pat on the back for having learned a second language, and being ready to bravely pass it on to your child! It can be an intimidating process, especially if you are not completely confident!
Here's how NOT to talk to your child:
By making your time in English feel like an exam in translation ("А как будет цветы? Отвечай!"). Walking around quizzing them and scolding them will only make them more and more reluctant to speak to you in English. Pure nervousness and the strangeness of a parent speaking English all of a sudden can make a child who knows hundreds of words stare blankly when you ask them to translate something very simple.
Instead, try this.
To go back to our first example about flowers, why not do it this way: "Look! Flowers! Marusya, say flowers! Do you want a flower?" If you can, try to use phrases with them, and even if they don't respond, smile and continue talking!
Narrate life as much as possible in English with your child. Sitting at dinner, you can talk about what you're doing. "Ah, I need a fork! Hm, where is the fork? Ah, there it is. Now I can eat. Misha, are you eating? Good, you're eating. You're eating rice. Is it yummy? Yes? Great."
If your child seems to understand, and you're ready for some extra work, throw in questions: "What are you eating?" A good way, if they initially don't understand the question, to get them to understand, is to give an example like the one above. If you ask, "What color is your shirt?" and they don't respond, but they know colors, you can point and say "Is your shirt blue?".
If they're repeating "Мама, я хочу конфееееты!" look at them calmly and ask "What do you want?." If they can't answer, try "Do you want your iPad?" After a while, if they simply don't remember "sweets", say, "Oooh! You want sweets. Say 'I want sweets.'" When they repeat it, maybe you can give them a little reward...like some sweets! In any case, praise is a better motivator than criticism, in, of course, proper doses. In this way, without translation, they can get the meaning. If they don't know the answer, don't be angry, just firmly correct them and make them repeat the correct word.
Does this sound familiar? It should! It's a lot like how you spoke to your child when they were learning Russian!
In addition, you can start giving instructions in English. If you want the child to wash their hands, say in English "Wash your hands." If they don't understand, walk with them to the sink, turn it on, and demonstrate. Repeat the phrase. And narrate: "Ah, good. Masha is washing her hands. Wash wash wash!" Sing it, even! This kind of "say, then show, then say again" is easy to do, and in no time you will be able to, if not use English to have deep philosophical conversations with your child, then at least use it conduct the majority of your
everyday activities. If you want tips on how to do this with different activities, or you ever want to check and make sure you are using the right word or phrase, we are always happy to help.