Frequently Asked Questions

Language Program

Q:  What is the language program experience like at Cambridge-Ellis?

A: At Cambridge Ellis, our students have the opportunity to learn Spanish, French, and Mandarin in an immersive, play-based environment focused on open-ended exploration and emergent curriculum stemming from the interests of the children.  

Q: How do teachers work with such a broad range of ages?

A: Children ages 2.9 to 6 learn language together in the classroom. The advantage of this model is that the oldest children use and model language, skills, and understanding of concepts for the younger children, who in turn benefit from watching and learning from and with their classmates as they navigate the different activities together. Teachers individualize their support and language learning activities and sometimes break into small groups to meet the language and developmental needs of the children.

Q: How does the language program differ from the day program?

A: The Language Program is similar to the Day Program in terms of philosophy (play-based, emergent curriculum, exploratory hands-on learning), but classroom time is shorter (three hours, four days a week), and the age range of the children in each classroom is larger (2.9 years – 6 years). 

Q: Does your child need to speak the language before starting the program? 

A: No, children do not need a prior knowledge base before entering the program. In each classroom, there are children who have never heard or spoken the language before, children who have one or more family members who speak the language with them at home, and some who have differing amounts of prior exposure.

Q: How does the program handle differences in skill levels?

A: In each classroom there is a considerable amount of whole group experience so that children of all skill levels can come together and feel a sense of community and belonging in the classroom. The teachers also separate the children into small groups to individualize the immersion experience and make sure more linguistically advanced children are challenged while less experienced children get the building blocks they need to learn the language. As children become more experienced in the language, their vocabulary grows, so teachers build on that vocabulary gradually.

Q: Does Cambridge-Ellis tackle reading and writing skills in addition to speaking?

A: It varies. For children at the top of the age range who are learning reading and writing in school, the Language Program reinforces these skills in Spanish, French, and Mandarin. However, we don’t use worksheets or use explicit instruction in these areas. Instead, the teachers use games and interactive activities to promote an understanding of sounds, characters, letters, and words.

Q: What are the benefits of having my child learn a foreign language?

A: Young children can learn a language (including vocabulary, sentence structure, pronunciation, and cultural contexts) very quickly. In fact, they can learn more than one language at a time. There is a large body of research indicating that learning a foreign language as a young child has a positive impact on brain development, such as developing stronger problem solving skills. Think of the brain as a muscle that is being exercised when engaging with foreign language. Additionally, learning a foreign language helps children broaden their cultural understanding and develop empathy, kindness, and compassion.

Q: Is there any way for my child to take more than one language throughout the year?

A: No. A key goal of the program is for children to move toward fluency, which requires time hearing and practicing the language on a consistent basis. However, the children do get exposure to the other classroom languages through language-program-wide events and weekly assemblies.

Q: What activities do language program students have access to?

A: As in our Day Program, Language Program students participate in music, Arts Adventure, nature programming, weekly assemblies, games and activities, cooking, playground time, and circle time — to name just a few!

Q: Can my child be a part of the language program without enrolling in the day program?

A: Absolutely! Priority is given to children already enrolled at Cambridge-Ellis during the day, but there are often open spots for new families whose children do not attend the Day Program.

Q: Can my child take a bus from a Cambridge Public School to the afternoon Language Program?  

A: Yes, we pick up children at their various bus stops and escort them to Cambridge-Ellis.  Since the buses do not drop children right at the school, we need to have a sufficient number of staff who can leave CES to pick up children. Please talk with the Language Program Director if you have questions regarding bus pick up.

"Children are not things to be molded, but are people to be unfolded."

— Jess Lair