World Language learning starts in Children's House at age three and continues through Middle School with an innovative and articulated curriculum. At every level, lessons are specifically designed for the age and developmental level of the children. Both French and Spanish programs uphold the safe, welcoming and respectful environment of the school. The faculty strives to incorporate as much as of the spirit and practice of Montessori philosophy as possible. The growing ability to enjoy and use a new language communicatively - in real and compelling ways - is at the heart of the child's experience.
Children begin Spanish at age three and French in Kindergarten. Specialized teachers engage children in communicative lessons on language and culture themes. Lessons occur once a week in Children's House for morning Spanish classes and once or twice a week for afternoon Kindergarten French. Large group circle time lasts about 30 minutes and each small group meets for 15 minutes.
Entering Lower Elementary, students pursue either French or Spanish for their remaining years at West Side Montessori. Classes meet for 40 minutes twice a week. Students build basic vocabulary and cultural knowledge through games, songs, role plays, or mini-stories. At times, technology enriches the learning experience. The majority of communication centers on listening and speaking, because of the child's natural ability at this age to hear and acquire native sounds of a language. Some sight reading and writing activities create a bridge to literacy.
In Upper Elementary, 5th and 6th level classes meet three times a week and 4th level meets twice a week. Classes are 40 minutes long. Three classes per week in Upper Elementary are important for growing in the language at a pace satisfying to the student. In 2013, Upper Elementary World Languages began using the AIM (Accelerated Integrated Methodology) curriculum. This method weaves storytelling, the dramatic arts, and literacy in an integrated program which builds fluency. Full immersion is a key component of the program; students and teacher only use the target language. A variety of innovative motivating factors, such as gesturing and choral speaking, encourage students to stay in the target language. The AIM program offers extensive teacher training and West Side Montessori has provided AIM training and resources to World Language teachers. As the AIM curriculum is currently limited for Spanish, supplemental language and cultural materials may round out lessons, such as Así Se Dice, Level 1 and 2.
Middle School students have Spanish or French class for 40 minutes, four times a week. The two Middle School years form the equivalent of a first-year high school course, and after graduating, most students can expect to place in high school Level 2 Honors or sometimes Level 3 Honors classes. Students and families express that the language learning at West Side is an outstanding advantage leading into high school.
The French teacher organized an immersion/homestay trip to France for Middle School students in June 2014, and a trip to Quebec in 2012. Throughout the school's history, French teachers have led more than a dozen trips to French-speaking countries for students and families.