Episode 25: A look at an American international school overseas with Bonnie McAuley

A look at an American international school overseas

On this episode of Bilingual Avenue, I interview Bonnie McAuley, an elementary school teacher at Colegio Internacional Puerto La Cruz, an American international school in Venezuela. Bonnie shares her language journey with her bilingual son as well as her school’s approach and philosophy to language learning.

Episode #25 Quick Guide

On this episode, Bonnie discusses with us:

  • Her inspiration for learning languages and the role that traveling played on her language journey;
  • How languages are managed at home with her 2.5 year old bilingual son;
  • The challenges she is expecting to see once she moves back to the United States and the community language changes from Spanish to English;
  • How she supports English at home by reading authentic text, playing and singing;
  • Her son’s favorite English books including Susan Boynton’s The Christmas Parade and Eric Carle’s Brown Bear, Brown Bear and The Very Hungry Caterpillar;
  • His preference for repetitive books that he can join in while mom is reading;
  • How she introduces books every 6-8 weeks for their reading routine;
  • Her initial concerns regarding a child’s ability to learn two languages at once and how that has changed after seeing how well her son is managing both languages;
  • The approach of her current school, an International American school, which conducts most of the instruction in English with approximately 40 minutes in the community language;
  • The makeup of her school’s student body including 70% Venezuelan Spanish speakers and 30% students from all over the world;
  • The differences in instruction for the younger grades which use more of a dual language approach;
  • Her school’s philosophy for accepting students in the later grades;
  • The strategies used by her and her peers to support the needs of all language learners including;
    • Morning meetings
    • Oral production
    • Greeting and reading messages together
    • Using songs and dances
    • Following a very familiar structure
    • Leveraging visuals
    • Cooperative learning by pairing stronger language learners with some that are still learning
  • How the majority of her school’s parents are not bilingual and that may affect parents in feeling connected to the school;
  • Some of the ways that her school supports monolingual parents including
    • Bilingual Back-To-School nights
    • Providing notices and information in both languages
    • Dual language workshops
  • How students fare once they graduate from the school including the expectation that they will be accepted to an American or European university;
  • Her advice for parents who are not bilingual but have children who attend a language school: Support your child in your mother tongue! By strengthening literacy skills in your mother tongue you will impact their success in any language!

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