BERKELEY — Learning a second language takes effort, especially when the learning happens during teenage years or adulthood. But during early childhood, the human brain is wired to learn language.
The earlier a child starts learning a second language, the greater their chances of achieving full fluency.
For the last 40 years, Ecole Bilingue de Berkeley, a pre-K to 8th grade school, has offered an innovative international curriculum taught daily in English and French, complemented by language instruction in Spanish and Mandarin starting in middle school.
What makes EB special is not only the acquisition of a second language, but also the integration of the French and American curriculum.
Let’s take a virtual tour of EB’s classrooms to see how this carefully constructed curriculum and co-teaching leads to deep learning and fosters a unique viewpoint.
In first grade, the French and English teachers are leading their weekly period of bilingual co-teaching. They engage the students in brainstorming words, in both languages, for polygons, as the class builds a bilingual poster, color-coded by language.
The students have already done daily math activities around the shapes as part of their morning routine with the Number Corner calendar, in French four days a week and in English once, and this activity will solidify their learning.
In a third grade classroom, the students are engaged in the editing process for their informational writing piece in French. As part of a bilingual writer’s workshop program, they have already written a piece in the same genre in English, so they are already familiar with the process and are now transferring their skills and knowledge to French.
Students learn from a curriculum that draws on the best elements of two different sets of standards and teaching tradition; this adds another dimension to their learning, as they not only learn another language but are constantly exposed to different ways of looking at the world.
This is reinforced through work on social and emotional learning and multicultural events like the Festival of Lights or the World Celebrations Day. Over 60 nationalities are represented in EB’s student body, contributing greatly to the development of students who are truly world citizens.