Language Policy
Language Policy – A Living Document

In its continuous endeavor to reach excellence, Beacon has developed a set of standards and policies which reflect the school´s beliefs and values as well as the school´s procedures related to several areas of the school educational program and operations.

This document, the Beacon Language Policy, is an integral part of a set of policies and is considered to be a “living document”, which, from our point of view, is a document in a constant process of revision and enhancement.

The Language Policy has been developed with the collaboration of Beacon´s educational team comprised of assistants, class teachers from both the Portuguese and English programs, coordinators and the principal of the school, and will be revised on a yearly basis.

Language Philosophy and Beliefs about Language

At Beacon, we define language as a complex web of connections, transcending the artificial separation of subject matters. The learning process concurrently involves "learning the language", as students listen and use language with others in their everyday lives, "learning about language", as students try to understand how the linguistic system is set up, and "learning through language", as students use language as a tool to reflect on a theme, concept or issue as well as to develop social skills, values and knowledge.

We believe that language is not only a means of communication but also of expressing one’s values, background, roots and culture. As language is the key for learning, at Beacon all teachers are thought of as language teachers and learning language refers to any and all activities which bring about learning.

The bilingual child has more resources for communication and comprehension of the world; therefore, she is able to establish a greater set of connections in her creative process.

Bilingualism at Beacon

With a genuinely bilingual approach, Beacon School recognizes both Portuguese and English languages as means of communication which, in addition to providing children with learning resources and the ability to fully experience the Brazilian culture, promote an open perception and awareness of the world, and extend their creative potential. Therefore, Beacon offers a Portuguese and English integrated curriculum, both in Early Childhood Education and in the Elementary School.

Always challenged beyond their immediate possibilities, children are encouraged to engage in activities in both languages, to ask questions and to interact with their social and intellectual environments.

From the earliest years, children at Beacon are exposed to both English and Portuguese languages as means of communicating with peers and adults and of constructing their knowledge in all the various curricular areas. Children acquire language by listening to others speak and by using it in their interactions; they learn about language by means of contextualized and explicit instruction; and they learn through language all the curricular contents in which English and Portuguese are used as the languages of instruction.

Effective use of language both requires and extends thinking. As students discuss a story, view a documentary, listen to others speak or write a text, they engage in thinking. They develop their ability to understand, remember, analyze, assess, and apply the ideas they formulate in both the Portuguese and theEnglish languages and in all the other curricular areas when they read increasingly complex texts and are expected to carry out challenging assignments that require them to speak or write in response to what they are learning.

The development of skills in the areas of oral communication, reading and writing are enhanced by a broad exposure to literature in both Portuguese and English in order to nourish and foster a life-long love of reading. A broad exposure to important authors in the literary scene in the Portuguese language, English language and international literature takes place from the very beginning. Literature, besides being an art form used for expression, also preserves cultural ideals, customs, and morals. The written word gives us a deeper context into the lives and livelihood of people distinct from ourselves – this can be true of historical literature but is equally true of modern literature, as well. We can learn as much from William Shakespeare's time through his plays as we can from authors from a different mindset or place. Different literary genres are studied in both languages, and students are made to research the objectives of each different genre, and the specificity of both the author's intention and the reader's perspective for reading.

The areas of Portuguese and English languages are:

  • Oral communication: listening and speaking
  • Written communication: reading and writing
  • Visual communication: viewing and presenting
Language in the Early Years Program

As we have a predominance of Brazilian students, during the first years at Beacon School the program offers a larger number of activities in English than in Portuguese so students can experience a faster growth in the acquisition of the English Language. As students enter the emergent literacy stage, by the age of five, the time allotted to Portuguese language activities increases, for skills in writing are addressed mainly in Portuguese for all children. The exposure to phonemic awareness begins in G4 with the Alpha Friends program and a Unit of Inquiry on "Nursery Rhymes".

Children Ages 2 to 4 – Groups G2 to G4

We believe that language should not be an obstacle for learning, and that language is an invaluable resource for teacher-child bond and interaction to be established. We also believe that discipline issues may sometimes arise due to lack of language understanding. Therefore, we should accommodate the needs of children for them to be able to communicate with the teacher even before they are able to understand the English Language. Therefore, there are several language procedures that we implement that aim to address the child in his/her needs to create a rich and caring environment for learning, so children feel comfortable in school. These procedures are listed below:

  • During the adaptation process, children should be welcomed by teachers in Portuguese. Welcome will be in English in cases when this is the mother tongue or with international students.
  • Since school begins, commands addressing the children can start to be given in English. Gradually, Portuguese fades out as the teacher knows the child is feeling comfortable and is understanding better.
  • Class teachers should always start activities in English. When needed, they can use other resources such as mimic, gestures and visual aids to facilitate comprehension by the students and Portuguese is used as a last resource.
  • English language should be present in the classroom from the very first day of school. In the first days of school, English is brought to the children mainly with songs.
  • Faculty should encourage children to interact with new students in the target language.
  • Mother tongue of children can be used when needed, mainly in situations of behavior issues and when emotional support is needed. During these situations it is vital to use Portuguese and/or English to assure that all children understand.
Children Ages 5and 6 – Groups G5 and G6 of ECE
  • The Portuguese language literacy skills are predominantly based on the Global Method approach - through this method children are led to establish their writing hypothesis;
  • In the English language we have the "Jolly Phonics" program, and children are exposed to the phonetic approach to reading. The writing skills, once they are consolidated in Portuguese by the entire process of writing hypothesis, may begin in English as well, usually by the end of G6;
  • Starting in Group G5, children who arrive at Beacon with no English are enrolled in our English Support Program, described in the following pages.
  • Children who are familiar with English are,at this stage, encouraged to address their teachers in English, and should no longer speak Portuguese in the classroom.
  • Children will continue to develop language. Teachers will focus on the following as strategies for language development:
    • Smaller groups/ Individual acquisition of language;
    • Teachers use of visual resources to develop language;
    • Teachers will tap on channels of the student's interest and work through them whenever possible;
    • Teachers use APPs (Growing in Language Knowledge)
    • Interactive methodology is employed as much as possible.
  • Children are nowencouraged to use the target language (English or Portuguese) to communicate, even if they are not able to use it correctly
  • In the development of languages there are some important objectives to focus on:
    • A background of vocabulary that will allow for the construction of knowledge on the theme being discussed;
    • Expect/ encourage/ lead them to use the target language;
    • Learn the content through language and learn the language itself.
Language in the Elementary School

The bilingual approach continues when students start the Elementary program. For Years 1 to 3 of the Elementary program, the PYP curriculum is offered in both Portuguese and English. Students spend approximately 55% of their time in English and 45% in Portuguese. At this stage, each classroom will have two head teachers and two assistants, paired by language: one who will conduct and support teaching practices in English and the other, in Portuguese. Students at Beacon are exposed to both Portuguese and English language as means of communicating with peers and adults and of constructing their knowledge in all the various curricular areas. Starting at Grade 4, students will be exposed to a third language, which will be Spanish, as described in the Third Language Acquisition section of this document.

Within an integrated and cooperative planning approach, both teachers conduct in sync the Units of Inquiry, focusing onall areas of knowledge, as described in the planner.

Language practice in the areas of Portuguese and English aim to enable elementary school students to develop reading, comprehension and writing skills. As this is attained, they are able to cope with different communication demands expressing themselves orally and through writing with aptitude. It is essential that our students acquire reading skills in order to competently obtain information, interpret facts and ideas, recreate, observe, compare, infer, analyze and criticize as well as enjoy written texts, in both English and Portuguese.

To master such objectives, language is addressed in four main areas: (a) reading, comprehension and interpretation of texts; (b) written production; (c) storytelling and oral communication skills; (d) analysis of grammatical content.

Third Language Acquisition

Beacon School strives to make every student proficient in three languages. All students will have the knowledge of and the ability to use at least three languages. Starting at the fourth Grade (Year 4), children begin to learn Spanishas a 3rd Language. Spanish will be taught within the context of the Units of Inquiry, so students may expand their research and inquiry alternatives as well as broaden their communication skills with the knowledge of a third language.

English Support Program

Students who come to Beacon from Brazilian schools and from other countries have a dual challenge: to learn the English language and use it not only socially but also academically, as it is a medium for instruction for academic subjects.

Children who need extra support to follow the English program are assigned to classes of ESP.

Beacon provides support for these students and this allows them to mainstream into a regular classroom at their own pace.

Students will:

  • Be in small groups where an individualized approach is used;
  • Be placed in a relaxed and friendly atmosphere with plenty of encouragement;
  • Have lessons that are playful and full of physical movement. Children enjoy this format more, are more motivated and remember the language better;
  • Concentrate on listening and building vocabulary and the acquisition of short phrases for immediate communication needs;
  • Concentrate on speaking practice, starting with single words and short phrases and gradually moving onto longer sentences and questions;
  • Be engaged in games, activities and stories. Children will absorb the structure of language subconsciously as well as hear familiar words they know.

We integrate the language skills and strengthen the tapestry of language teaching and learning. When the tapestry is woven well, learners can use English effectively for communication.

As we "weave" together all the above factors we will prepare students to become successful, independent learners.

Portuguese Support Program

The school will provide Portuguese Support Program for foreign students, and may also recommend a private tutor when the school year begins.

If the child comes to Beacon with an inexistent or very small background either in English or Portuguese, parents are adivised to look for language support before the child starts school.

English Speaking Environment at Beacon

Beacon strives to create an English speaking environment within the school premises. English Language is expected to be used by faculty members in all areas of the school. Even the Portuguese teachers are expected to know English enough to be able to conduct a conversation with her/his peers and to participate in staff meetings, that are primarily held in English.

Finally, in the ECE Program, nannies (who normally do not speak English) are trained to speak short phrases in English which the children can understand. They are also encouraged to speak Portuguese in a low voice in the homerooms.

Mother Tongue Support

Mother tongue needs to be developed and nurtured.

As we believe that language is not only a means of communication but also of expression of ones values, backgrounds, roots and culture, supporting mother tongue within our international group of students is essential to help them to develop communication skills as well as to enable all Beacon Community to recognize and value the diversity of cultures that co-exist in the school.

Considering this, in both the ECE and the Elementary Programs, we have planned to promote the support for mother tongue development and maintenance on a continuous basis, providing students with access to resources related to their mother tongue such as the “My Country Corner” in the Library, apps researched by our Ed-tech professional (education-technology) and music repertoire. This is in an initial planning phase, and we hope to have it implemented by 2014. We also endeavor to establish partnerships with international families to promote and nurture their mother tongue in the school environment, through international days in the school related to cooking, music, among others.

The “My Country Corner” will be located in the school library and will offer literature books in many languages representingour foreign community, according to the age level of the students.

The international apps are offered on a frequent basis involving whenever possible literacy in the foreign language as well as educational devices related to the Units of Inquiry.

The Teacher’s Planning will allow for time so students are able to access all these resources.

In addition, we work collaboratively with families to help them find in an international city as Sao Paulo specific language programs related to their mother tongue. We construct, on a continuous basis, a booklet entitled Mother Tongue Support – Providers.

Language and the School Reports

From Group G2 of ECE to Year 2 of the Elementary Program, semester reports are written in both English and Portuguese. Therefore, when we assess achievement made during the Portuguese speaking moments, the report is written in Portuguese, and the same occurs with the areas of knowledge studied in the English language.

Whenever there is a case of a specific family who is unable to speak English or Portuguese the reports can be written entirely in one of the two languages the family is most comfortable with.

From Year 3 onwards, assessment reports are provided on a trimester basis and are written in both English and Portuguese.

Language within the Admission Policy

The diversity in our student body is an essential element in the developmental process of our students. Familiarity with a heterogeneous group offers our Brazilian students a unique opportunity for discovery and awareness of other cultures, whilst our international students also benefit from a truly Brazilian experience. Currently we have families that representmore than thirteen different nationalities in our school, with more than 8 languages, and children are able to enjoy this harmonious relationship in the school routine under the guidance of teachers. Thus, in our admission process, we value the acceptance of students with an international background.

For the admission of candidates for group G6 of Early Childhood Education and for the Elementary School, Beacon School makes its admissions decisions also by assessing each applicant in regard to English language proficiency (oral and written) and previous school achievement data (transcripts, report cards and standardized test data)

From Year 1 onwards, student should present a minimum level of proficiency in the English language. The student assessment is made by Beacon School. Students can be accepted without the expected level of knowledge under the condition of engaging in our English Support Program during normal school hours and with no additional cost to families.

Third language speakers with no English are accepted through grade 5 of the elementary program, upon assessment of their previous academic achievements.