Languages used in the classroom

Children begin their educational journey studying in authentic bilingual environments in the following streams:

  • English / Azerbaijani Stream: Preschool
  • English / Russian Stream: Preschool

Rather than using a different language for different lessons, impractical in preschool settings for a number of reasons, MTK practices the “one-person-one-language principle” which is very similar to the approach of bilingual families in which each parent uses his or her own mother tongue consistently with their children.

This unique system nurtures authentic bilingualism and fosters an international mindset and optimum neurological development in our youngest learners.

Staffing of classes

We staff all preschool classes with a fluent speaker of Language 1 and Language 2 (i.e. two teachers in each).  Each teacher exclusively uses their target language only with students.

An example of staffing and organisation for one class is below; the example chosen comes from the English / Azerbaijani stream but this system works in an identical manner in the parallel English / Russian stream):

English / Azerbaijani Reception Class (4-5 Years)

  • 1 teacher communicates only in English
  • 1 teacher communicates only in Azerbaijani
  • Both teachers understand Azerbaijani (but one will always model the use of English, reply in English and encourage students to speak English)

Both languages will be used in all lessons during the day and children generally work in small groups, rotating around a carousel including a blend of fun, play-based, often open-ended and occasionally more structured activities where either English, Russian or both languages are in use.

Class sizes and adult to children ratios

  • Pre-Nursery (2-3 years) - max. 12 children, 3 full-time teachers / carers
  • Nursery (3-4 years) - max. 16 children, 3 full-time teachers / carers
  • Reception (4-5 years) - max. 16 children, 2 full-time teachers / carers and one additional assistant shared by the two classes
  • Transition (5-6 years) -  max. 16 children, 2 full-time teachers / carers and one additional assistant shared by the two classes

All children attending the preschool are assigned to an age-appropriate class, staffed as indicated above; one of the adults in the teaching team is designated as each child’s ‘key worker’ - the person who takes a lead role in supporting and monitoring their learning and personal development throughout the year.  While the relationship between key workers and their children is an important one, particularly during a child’s induction to school, children will work with and learn from all adults present, using the classroom’s two target languages on an equal basis.

The curriculum subjects and our approach to teaching and learning

MTK’s preschool uses an internationally recognised Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) Curriculum for 0 - 5 years which has been harmonised with key local preschool requirements. The EYFS curriculum had been specifically designed to be delivered in any target language. It places a strong emphasis on the prime areas of child development: supporting children’s basic communication skills, their physical development and their personal, social and emotional development.

As children progress in their transition towards primary school, attending the Nursery, Reception and Transition classes, greater emphasis is placed on other specific areas, including literacy skills, numeracy skills and knowledge and understanding of the world.

Learning in preschool primarily involves educational play intelligently designed to nurture the key curriculum objectives. For example, all preschool classes are equipped with a ‘role-play area’ such as the one pictured below, which is used for a range of purposes. In order to encourage make-believe play, communication and mathematical development, it can be modelled on a farm, police station, travel agency or any suitable location. ‘Shoppers’ and ‘shop keepers’ can practise their counting and communication when they exchange goods and money, ‘police officers’ can listen to people’s concerns and help them to find possessions that were lost or stolen and ‘travel agents’ and ‘customers’ can discuss holidays and book foreign travel and hotels!

A farm shop role-play area, as used in our preschool

There are some more formal and traditional activities, with the structure of a lesson such as teaching phonics for reading or mathematics, but these are generally conducted in small groups and for an age-appropriate period of time. According to educational research, children are capable of passively listening and concentrating for their chronological age + 2 minutes (i.e. a 4-year old child can do this for around 6 minutes with optimum effectiveness) so teacher input is around 5 minutes before the children are encouraged to apply their learning in fun and practical contexts.

3-4 year old children learning about colours and the corresponding letter sounds in a small group situation

There is some flexibility with this and some occasional longer listening activities will be planned, such as story time. However as a rule we endeavour to keep our teaching and learning approaches in line with children’s ages and their strengths.

The main strengths of younger learners are their natural curiosity, their energy and their desire to learn in a hands-on, kinaesthetic way; we support this whenever and wherever we can.

One final point to emphasise is the centrality of outdoor learning to preschool education at MTK International School.  We are fortunate enough to have playgrounds and outdoor learning areas built for this purpose. Weather permitting and during the warmer months, we aim for children to spend around 50% of their  learning time outside and enjoying being in the open air!