Shulhan, Taula, Table: “Language Spaces” and Bi Lingual Learning in Ein Bustan
One of the most important fruits of the fifth academic year in the bi-lingual kindergarten "Ein Bustan” was our in-depth exploration of pedagogical questions and methods. We were able to do this since we are no longer apprehensive - or perhaps it might be more correct to say that we are less apprehensive - of dealing with the unfamiliar combination of two languages, of two different peoples, of Waldorf education and bi-lingualism. We still have quite a way to go, but we are definitely progressing.
Throughout the 2009-2010 school year we worked together with Dr. Aura Mor, an expert in bi-lingual education. Regular training sessions were successful in making us aware of central issues relating to bi-lingualism. We became aware of how challenging it is to implement the guidelines that we set for ourselves, however this awareness is in itself very important, in my opinion. For example, we discussed different methods for improving the “second language” (Hebrew for the Arabic speakers, and Arabic for the Hebrew speakers).
In keeping with the principles of Waldorf pedagogy, we do not approach the children directly and demand that they learn. This we can postpone until they go into school. Learning is experiential and organic. We must confirm that we are not damaging our core educational approach as a result of a wish to teach or learn the second language - as well intentioned as these wishes may be.
Photographer: Rephael Ben Moshe
Aura suggested that we implement a method that entails focusing on a specific area in the kindergarten, over a period of a few weeks, and creating a vocabulary that is used in that area. According to this method, we need to be fully aware of the use that we make of this word group. The teachers were careful to use specific words, and also paid listened carefully to the children, in order to observe if the children were learning and using these words as well. (We do not say: “Say toula: toula is a table” or vice versa, but rather incorporate the word in a full sentence, such as “Please put the cheese on the table”).
Thus we discovered that the conscious use of a certain vocabulary group enables learning: initially the child reacts to the word that he heard in the second language, and later, he or she tries to use it himself/herself. For example, we chose 20-25 words that are used around the table during meals. These included nouns, verbs and adverbs. We found that this method actually does work, however we discovered that it was difficult to persist with it over time. We practice seeing the sunny side of things, however, and therefore are quite optimistic - since we have room for improvement.
In the near future, I hope to also write a complete and comprehensive report about bi-lingual storytelling in the kindergarten, the language of the kindergarten teacher, and our reporting notebook. All of these are elements that we use in our method that combines Waldorf education and bi-lingualism.