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Sequoia Elementary School Language Policy

The Sequoia Elementary School community is dedicated to developing caring, critical thinkers who celebrate our diversity and that of the world around us as we learn and grow together. Through our rigorous, inquiry-based program we develop the full potential of all students.

Language is taught across the curriculum and Sequoia offers a Mandarin program.

Sequoia Community: Sequoia Elementary is an international school of 591 students whose families speak over 26 different languages from around the world. These home languages are strongly encouraged and culturally embraced. Among the languages that families speak: Arabic, Bengali, Cantonese, English, Farsi, Filipino, French, German, Hindi, Korean, Mandarin, Nepali, Pahto, Polish, Punjabi, Rumanian, Russian, Serbo-Croatian, Spanish, Tamil, Telugu, Tigrinya, Ukrainian, Urdu, and Vietnamese.

Language Beliefs: Sequoia Elementary Schools recognize that all teachers are language teachers. Language is central to communication. Language development helps students grow. In the form of verbal, nonverbal, and written communication, language development is instrumental in supporting students’ abilities to interact with and respond to the world around them. Students need engagement opportunities to apply language skills in real-world scenarios to build the skills necessary to be active and effective communicators. For example, teachers use sentence stems exercises, read alouds, reading passages, fiction and nonfiction stories to develop linguistic communication skills that promote critical thinking and analytical inquiry skills of students. Sequoia Elementary School recognizes that in a transdisciplinary program of inquiry, language is essential to inquiry-based learning and the construction of knowledge; it is a vital component to the success of all student learning. Essential components of effective language learning include:

                                                              ● relevance

                                                              ● authentic and meaningful contexts

                                                              ● intermingles social interaction

                                                              ● provides connection to learner’s prior knowledge

The development of language incorporates the two key concepts of language learning, learning through language and learning about language. Sequoia Elementary School focuses its language learning to stimulate communication and conversation, enabling students to interact with teachers and peers. Learning through language emphasizes strategies to encourage students to develop new meanings and construct knowledge of the world. Learning about language empowers students to cultivate an understanding of the relationship between language and meaning and how language works. Language and learning in the IB programmes (2011).

Language is communication. Language allows people to communicate by sharing common ideas. It allows understanding of other individuals and their thoughts and beliefs, making the spread of ideas and culture possible. It allows cooperation and expression of opinion and feelings. Language is an essential component to learning through diction, jargon, linguistics, symbols, speech, words, and cultural traditions. Through language development, phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, and vocabulary building students grow in confidence and in expressing their ideas, choice, and voice. Students use language as their communication tool. Through speaking, reading, writing, performing, acting, dancing, singing, and drawing, language connects all. Curriculum: Through the Wonders curriculum (McGraw-Hill Publishers) students will build mastery of reading, writing, speaking, listening, and thinking across the curriculum. Students will engage, explore, and connect through authentic literature, ask questions reading argumentative text, realistic fiction, nonfiction, biographies, and drama, and develop vocabulary building with scaffolded language acquisition exercises and high frequency words embedded in their daily practices.Through an interactive reading and writing program, students master the close reading routine, respond to shared reading, apply skills and strategies, turn and talk, cite textual evidence, and use scaffolded writing strategies to anchor new conceptual ideas, practice grammar skills, organize their thoughts, distinguish between fact and opinion, make connections, research and inquire, practice sequence, drafting, and revising skills, exercise their creativity, and learn to reflect, edit, and publish their successes. During math lessons and science projects students will build their lexicons with subject matter vocabulary and will expand their academic use of subject terms in conversation and dialogue. During lessons focused on the arts, such as music, students will learn an array of different reading skills based on pictowords. All decoding skills will contribute to language fluency and better comprehension and communication skills. 

Academic Discourse: Discourse is the act of putting several words and sentences together to clearly communicate complex ideas. Academic discourse is a specific style of communication used in academics. It shows how speakers can alter their form of conversation to engage in academic discussion--students code switch their vocabulary to express how they made academic discoveries and connections to their learning. Academic discourse allows students to use proper communication skills to enable progress in their classwork, whole class discussions, peer-to-peer communication, and projects. Academic discourse may include listening to debating, presentations to meta-cognition, and writing to critiquing. Using academic language to communicate, interact, and ask questions is the heart of academic discourse. The key to complex problem solving in areas such as math through academic discourse is not always getting to a correct or right answer, but rather using the thought process to reach a more informed conclusion. Students would present problems, and then explain how they reached an answer. They would use proper vocabulary and word practice ensuring distinction between terms such as equation and expression, and would use writing in math classes to enrich their communication and encourage deeper critical thinking skills by having students not only write their answers, but the process of reaching that answer that which enables students to process the new material and apply relevant vocabulary as they learn. Academic language discourse is more than a tool or strategy, it is a problem solving adventure that allows students to communicate, interact, and analyze with confidence. 

World Language Scope and Sequence: Mandarin Chinese is a critical growing form of global communication. It is the most widely spoken language in the world. By learning Mandarin new cultural friends will be made, more opportunity for business relations will increase and brain capacity will grow. Studies show that Mandarin uses both sides of the brain. Artistic skills will be fostered as Mandarin uses iconographic symbols and characters—students will paint strokes instead of writing letters. Students will be phonetically aware of language development and of linguistic sounds since Mandarin uses four tones—level, rising, falling, and high-rising—to distinguish words or syllables. Developing these language skills enables students to develop higher order cognitive thinking skills and encourages a celebration of cultural diversity and cross-cultural awareness. It promotes understanding and appreciation. It empowers students to express themselves through cultural linguistic means. 

Sequoia Elementary School teaches simplified Chinese with simplified characters which are much more prevalent throughout Mandarin speaking communities. Learning and mastering simplified characters first enables students to be able to effectively communicate with more individuals and groups, successfully navigate increasingly complex cultural environments, and improve their overall Mandarin language literacy. Students in grades 1-5 will receive Mandarin instructions 30 minutes per week. The Mandarin speaking teacher will support the development of key concepts that students are learning in their classrooms. Additionally, the IB Learner Profile will be the focus of learning across the school year. 

EL Program: Students who qualify as English Language (EL) learners will be given English language instruction at their level every day. Teachers differentiate their instruction and use the Wonders curriculum (McGraw-Hill Publishers) to provide equity of access for English Language learners. Wonders offers instruction experiences to increase student engagement, build language skills, and inspire confidence. These explicit English language program lessons focus on speaking, listening, reading, and writing skills to improve both academic and social emotional learning. The Wonders curriculum includes oral language skill building through collaborative conversations to build common, formal, and academic discourse through academic vocabulary, scaffolding, sentence frames, Thinking Maps, and precision partnering so that students will connect to their school and home community. Assessment of EL students occurs through formative, informative, and summative assessments, such as English Language Proficiency Assessment of California (ELPAC) testing, as outlined in the Assessment Policy. Students who are non-native speakers of English, and who have been identified as being in need of additional English language support, are immersed in regular classroom activities for the maximum amount of time possible. In addition, any student identified as an English language learner will receive additional English language support. These EL students will have access to Imagine Learning, online support for extended practice in English language arts. 

Home Language Support: Students whose primary language is not English will be supported and encouraged to continue to speak, study, and develop their home language. Students will be encouraged during projects, reading, and writing exercises to make and find connections to their home culture to increase reading fluency and language comprehension. This will build their cultural awareness, engage them in their studies, and bring pride. The Sequoia Elementary community is committed to celebrating cultural diversity. 

Sequoia Elementary School staff encourage parents and students to maintain their students’ home language(s) and to share cultural and language information with the school community to integrate cultural exchanges into their program of inquiry grade level units. Encouraging multilingual learners to make connections between new English terms, words, vocabulary, and concepts will help support language acquisition skills. Parents and students from all cultures are welcomed to share their customs and languages. It’s through their contributions and active participation that our multilingual students contribute culturally to the vibrancy of our school. Sequoia Elementary School uses the Parent Square communication platform, with its translation features, to communicate, ensure and provide equal access to school information to all our families.