Excellence Through Bilingualism
At FASRI the most important benefit of a bilingual education is how it opens a child’s mind to the world; building a deep understanding of differences. Bilinguals have a more informed, enlightened and empathetic view of people and cultures and this makes them better citizens of the world.
Younger children have a superior ability to learn a second language and the advantages of bilingualism are clear. Not only does speaking multiple languages help us to communicate with a wider range of people, but bilingualism, or multilingualism, confers distinct advantages to the developing brain.
Student language acquisition is our focus in the Maternelle/Pre-elementary environment. Our immersive program encourages listening and getting used to the sounds of another language. Our teachers adopt a visual and lively way of expressing themselves, pointing, miming, and amplifying facial expressions voices to guide children carefully through the learning process. Progressively, children begin to reproduce some of these sounds, words, and later, sentences.
In the our Maternelle/Pre-elementary curriculum, students learn in French for the majority of the their day. English language lessons are designed to nurture a love of reading and develop their learning skills; to build bridges between the two languages. Our students soon become very proud of their new ability to speak another language, and teachers reinforce and encourage their progress daily.
The guidelines developed by the French Ministry emphasize the acquisition and comprehension of fundamental skills in addition to content so there are many areas where the American common core standards and the French curriculum overlap. Students are able to learn the same set of skills in multiple languages because they do not need to re-learn them in each language. The fundamentals of reading learned in French and English while in kindergarten and 1st grade are the same ones the students will use later to read in Spanish.
Educators at the French American School have developed a collaborative co-teaching system as a means for covering all the necessary subject matter and for fostering greater intellectual agility among our students. In history, for example, the English and French teachers might present a collaborative lesson about revolution, analyzing the same events from two cultural and political perspectives. The subject areas that are co-taught in the 1st and 2nd grades include reading, creative writing, geography, science, and math. In 3rd grade - 5th grade, civics, mathematics, literature, and creative writing are taught collaboratively by both French and English teachers. Watch dual-language learning in action!
A successful immersion program builds over time. It takes 6-9 years for our students to reach grade-level proficiency in both French and English. During the culminating years of our program, a student’s language skills mature considerably, and they develop creativity, critical thinking, and depth of knowledge.
Language arts are taught in French and English, social studies in French, and math and science in English. A third modern language, Spanish, is introduced in the sixth grade and as studies confirm, our students acquire a third language with greater speed and ease than their monolingual counterparts. Project-based learning, which lies at the heart of our program, develops critical thinking skills and empowers students to take ownership of their own learning process. Completing a challenging curriculum in three languages is a huge achievement, and our students display remarkable academic skills and also a sense of confidence in themselves.
Research shows that an international education fosters greater self-awareness about identity and culture, and sensitivity and respect for differences in ethnicity, race, gender, class, religion, physical ability or sexual orientation.
An International Edge
The FASRI experience is about more than the ability to say things in another language. Our school provides a unique training ground where young learners develop into intellectually agile and culturally competent thinkers. An international education allows students to transcend borders and engage with the world.
Whether their families come from Rhode Island or from another country in Europe or Africa, our students benefit as they connect each day with people from other nations and cultures. Our educators and staff come from Belgium, Estonia, France, the UK, Algeria, Ivory Coast, Senegal and the US and have worked and lived all over the world. Each member of our community contributes their own ideas, perspectives, and expectations and students gain the ability to engage and communicate with people across cultures and language.
Our graduates are prepared to function within an interdependent global society: language is a key vehicle for this transformation. Thoughts undergo changes from language to language and from country to country and an international education not only allows students to perceive the world from multiple cultural vantage points, but it challenges them to define their ideas with greater precision. The ability to think in another language, beyond mere translation, provides a deeper understanding of the ideas that are expressed through language. By the time our students reach the Middle School, they are able to grasp complex and abstract ideas, synthesize information and form opinions in three languages.
The development of globally-connected thinkers lies at the heart of our mission. Our students will enter an increasingly internationalized environment, in their college careers and beyond, and they will be ready. They will approach thinking and problem solving collaboratively, they will seek out and apply an understanding of different perspectives to problem solving and decision making. Whether they ultimately pursue politics, diplomacy, science, work for an NGO, get a job in the arts, or enter the world of international business, they will have the ability to work and live thoughtfully and productively with people from many cultures.