Options for a Bilingual Montessori Classroom

By Ieda Torres Holyoak

MNW welcomes Ieda Torres Holyoak as a guest blogger and lecturer! We were delighted that she could present this year's “Thank you Workshop” for guides and administrators that offered to host our 2016-17 Teachers in Training for Observation and Practice Teaching! (view list)

Last Wednesday, I had the pleasure to join Ginni Sackett, MNW Teachers in Training, and Montessorians from the region for a group discussion about options for a Bilingual Montessori Classroom.

As we are noticing more and more, there are many parents and schools interested in children learning multiple languages. Thanks to the gift of the absorbent mind and the sensitive period for language, the child is able to absorb multiple languages without any effort. Taking advantage of these wonderful powers the child is able to absorb different languages with its entire syntax, accent, and pronunciation during the first plane of development.

In order for the child be able to absorb a different language it is important that there is communication with a native speaker and the child in everyday living. Children absorb a different language very quickly through songs, poems, daily conversation and commands. All of the activities in the Casa can be modified and organized in more than one language.

What happens when there is not a native speaker in the prepared environment and you would like to enrich children’s vocabulary with a different language? Below are some suggestions we discussed last week on how to introduce a different language in the Casa.

Note: the same suggestions apply if there is a native speaker of a different language in the environment!

  • First, prepare yourself and practice before presenting a song, poem, colors, etc. Just as you would prepare yourself before presenting a material in any of the areas.
  • Once you are ready, gather a small group of children and present a classification or a poem or some colors, etc.
  • Practice with the children for a week what you have chosen to show.
  • For some materials you would use a three period lesson and casual conversation.
  • Eventually start building up a variety of experiences.
  • It is helpful to have record keeping for these second language experiences.
  • You will be the main motivation for the children when showing a second language.
  • Show the children what you know or what you have learned.
  • If you are not a native speaking person for a different language – learn along with the children. Make it fun and dynamic.

Some goals in bringing a different language in a Montessori environment are to:

  • Bringing cultural enrichment
  • Exploration of a different language
  • Cognitive development
  • Connection and affective development
  • Develop bilingual skills

Bringing a second language to the Casa is a remarkable experience for the children. They are eager to learn, explore, and communicate in a different language. If you are not a native speaker, take one step at a time, this is casual and there should not be a rush to give everything at once. The most important thing is that you and the children have a great time exploring another language!

Click here to learn about MNW's bilingual Montessori program at Alder.


Ieda Torres Holyoak is a highly trained and experienced Montessori guide who came to Portland to work at Montessori Northwest as part of the AMI Primary Training of Trainers Programme. A native of San Juan, Puerto Rico, Ieda graduated from the University of Puerto Rico in 2005, received her AMI Primary Diploma in Phoenix, Arizona in 2009, and completed her AMI Elementary Training at The Montessori Training Center of Minnesota. She spent ten years working in well established Montessori schools in Puerto Rico and Arizona. With both primary and elementary Montessori training, Ieda brings a unique perspective to her work as well as a wealth of experience working with young children. Her passions include travel, dining, and sharing her native culture and language with children.

Posted on February 16, 2017 and filed under From MNW Staff, Primary, Resources, Workshops.