The Bilingualism Project was developed in a rural language school in Tuscany, after parents concerned with the lack of services and educational opportunities for their children asked for a programme that would help the pupils develop language skills, critical thinking, and global worldviews. The project was developed on the basis of this request: a 6h per week programme in which the students engage in child-centred pedagogy in English (L2 for most of the students). The project functions on a project-based curriculum which involves the study of global history, geography, literature and science. Moreover, since children’s wellbeing is one of the core values of the school, yoga classes and outdoors activities are integrated in the programme.
A creative curriculum is one that encourages children to participate in classroom or school-projects with specific aims (answering a wider question, solving a problem, addressing a challenge). The aim of project-based learning is to make students engage with complex questions, work collaboratively and base their learning on an ultimate product (ie. producing a video, putting up a play, writing a poem, designing a book). At the basis of this approach lies a belief that project-based learning is central to build collaborative skills, critical thinking and communication skills in students.
The project is based on an oracy-based approach to the development of children’s thinking and language skills. The development of language and thinking skills happen simultaneously and one does not have to be prioritised over the other. Indeed, language is seen as the tool that enables children to think together, learn, and make sense of the world around them. Process of collaborative thinking and learning is achieved through a dialogic approach to teaching, with methods of exploratory talk, group work and student-centred pedagogies.
As part of the school’s focus on children’s wellbeing and child-centred pedagogies, we have developed a programme of peer-to-peer learning. Pupils participanting in this programme go through an initial training meeting in which they are taught how to tutor younger children in the learning of the L2. By doing so, they improve their own language abilities as well as developing confidence in their own abilities and a strong sense of their role within the school community. This is essential for the students’ socio-emotional development, as they learn how to be understanding and sympathethic towards others, improving their own confidence through helping others.