little girl presenting multilingual bookISB Dual Language Program

ISB Dual Language Program Philosophy

ISB’s Dual Language Program reflects the mission, vision, and core values of ISB by providing students with the opportunity to become bilingual, bi-literate, and bicultural. Learning in two languages allows students to develop respect and appreciation towards language, culture, and global diversity.

Our Dual Language Program values:

  • delivering the same curriculum as the ISB Monolingual program
  • equity of English and Chinese language and culture
  • reading, writing, and communication in Chinese and English
  • connections between language, culture, and identity
  • partnership with parents, teachers, and all members of the school community.

We believe students learn best in a Dual Language Program when:

  • they explore, inquire, discuss, and make connections in English and Chinese
  • they feel safe and take risks in Chinese and English
  • they are aware of cultural similarities and differences
  • they have language role models in English and Chinese
  • both Chinese and English teachers are equal partners when planning, teaching, and caring for students
  • parents are clearly informed and involved.

Students in the program are taught in English and Chinese based on an immersion model that promotes 50% instruction in English and 50% instruction in Chinese. The program is currently offered from PreK 3 to grade 1 and will advance through the elementary school year by year.

The ISB Dual Language Program promotes high academic achievement by supporting second-language development and cross-cultural understanding. The program creates an additive dual language environment for students, whereby the first language is maintained and the second language is acquired.

The program supports our mission to provide an “academically rigorous, balanced, and engaging learning environment enriched by being in China” where each student’s unique potential is developed.

There is a wide body of research that supports the many benefits of dual language education, some of which include:

  • Educational: Students perform at or above their grade level in both languages.
  • Intellectual: Students who can process information in two languages develop more advanced thinking skills and greater cognitive abilities.
  • Personal: Students develop a deeper appreciation and respect for another language and culture.
  • Social: Students demonstrate a high level of language and cultural proficiency through effective communication in both languages.


Frequently Asked Questions

Children enrolled in the dual language program are instructed in English and Chinese using a 50:50 model. Children enrolled in the ISB monolingual program study all subjects in English, except for a daily Chinese language lesson.


What are the criteria for entering or leaving the program, either mid-year or between years?

For enrollment in PreK 3 to grade 1 there are no specific enrollment criteria for the dual language program. Applicants for grade 2 and beyond will need to demonstrate an intermediate level of proficiency in Chinese to be considered for enrollment in the program. Consistent, sustained enrollment in the program is recommended so that students receive maximum benefit from learning in both English and Chinese. Children are carefully placed in classes to support their academic learning and social-emotional well-being. Exiting the dual language program mid-year is not possible.

The Dual Language Program at ISB

Why is the ISB dual language program suitable for my child?


ISB offers a dual language program in the elementary school. Knowing that children learn in different ways and have different needs, we offer parents the choice of two programs: the ISB monolingual program and the dual language program. The dual language program is based on the ISB monolingual program, which uses integrated learning, project-based learning, and experiential learning approaches. In the dual language program, these experiences are created in both English and Chinese. Our teachers are native speakers of their language of instruction and educational resources are provided in both English and Chinese.


My child already speaks Chinese. Why would I want to enroll my child in a dual language program?

In our dual language program, children are immersed in two languages. They learn how to speak, listen, read, and write in both Chinese and English. Additionally, they learn core knowledge in math, science, and social studies through using Chinese and English. With these skills and knowledge, children are able to continue learning about their surrounding world and communicate in real-life, everyday situations.

When is the best time to learn an additional language and enroll in the dual language program?

Children have the capacity to learn multiple languages. In the dual language program, they hear and learn English and Chinese from their first day. Through interactions with the teacher and other students, most children first develop spoken language. From Kindergarten onward, literacy skills are introduced in Chinese and English. As children get older, they are introduced to strategies that assist their learning. If a child has a strong foundation in their native language, this supports their learning in other languages. Children in elementary school have a greater capacity to develop near-native language proficiency due to rapid development of their young brains.

Program Structure

During the day how much time is devoted to each language?

Our dual language program is based on a 50:50 model. Half of the instructional time is in English and the other half is in Chinese. All students study language, math, science, and social studies together throughout the day. Learning together allows students to serve as language role models for one another and learn language skills more quickly.

What language will specialists and support teachers in Kindergarten to Grade 5 speak to my child?


PE and performing arts classes will be taught in English and Chinese. The language of instruction will reflect the language the students are working in during that day in their homeroom. Visual arts classes will be taught in English.


How will my child be encouraged to communicate with others in the partner language?

Students have multiple opportunities throughout the day to interact with their peers. Risk-taking is encouraged through the learning experiences that are planned and provided by the teachers. The teachers model the target language and provide support for children to develop oral language and literacy skills in a safe learning environment. Similar to any classroom in the elementary school, proficiency with English and Chinese varies among students. Great attention is paid to building student confidence to share thoughts and ideas with their classmates. From absolute beginners to fluent speakers, we support all children’s language development.

What does the program look like throughout the elementary school?


The dual language program is optional for all students from PreK 3 to Grade 1. Children learn 50 percent of the time in English and 50 percent of the time in Chinese, which is a 50:50 model of dual language immersion. In PreK 3 and PreK 4, emphasis is placed on oral language development. In Kindergarten, reading and writing skills are introduced. Language arts, math, science, and social studies are taught in both languages until Grade 5 using the 50:50 model. In the 2018-2019 school year, the dual language program is in PreK 3 to Grade 1. It will incorporate one grade level per year until it expands to Grade 5 in 2022.



Who are my child’s teachers?

Homeroom teachers are native speakers of either Chinese or English. In addition to homeroom teachers, each class from PreK 3 to Grade 1 has a bilingual teaching assistant. From Kindergarten to Grade 5, visual arts, performing arts, and PE are taught by specialist teachers. Professional development is provided for all teachers in support of the ISB vision and mission. As with all homeroom teachers and grade level teaching teams, time is allocated to the dual language program teachers for co-planning, preparation, and assessment.


What does my child’s day look like in a dual language program?


Each student’s day is centered around the homeroom and the class community. The school day begins and ends for each child with the homeroom teacher. In PreK 3 and PreK 4, the dual language program follows an integrated, project-based, and inquiry approach to learning. Given the age of students, all lessons occur in the homeroom with either the Chinese or English teacher.

From Kindergarten to Grade 5, students in the dual language program will have two homeroom teachers. With one homeroom teacher, learning will take place in English and with the other, learning will take place in Chinese. Students will spend the morning with one homeroom teacher (Chinese or English) and the afternoon with the other homeroom teacher.

From Kindergarten to Grade 5, students study English Language arts and Chinese Language arts with the homeroom teachers. Learning math, science, and social studies alternates between the English and Chinese teachers. Learning in one language will build upon skills learned in previously in the other language.

PE classes are taught in Chinese or English and are three times per six-day cycle. Performing arts classes are taught in Chinese and English and are two times per six-day cycle, and visual arts classes, taught in English, meet two times per six-day cycle. During recess and lunch, students play with their peers who are enrolled in the ISB monolingual program.


How much reading and writing practice happens in Chinese and English?

In the dual language program, students are immersed in both languages throughout the day. They use language to learn about concepts and ideas in math, science, and social studies. In PreK 3 and PreK 4, students are exposed to print in various ways so they learn that letters, characters, and symbols have meaning. Teachers read to students and model writing for them. From Kindergarten onward, focused instruction in reading and writing occurs during language arts instruction. As children study math, science, and social studies, they are expected to use their Chinese and English language skills to read and write about their learning.


From Kindergarten to Grade 5, students in the dual language program will have a daily literary/language enrichment lesson. During this time, adults will work with the students in the dual language classes to provide differentiated instruction that targets identified literary skills.


What will the curriculum look like in each language?

The curriculum in the dual language program is the same as the ISB monolingual program; the only difference is that students learn in both English and Chinese. For language arts and math, the school uses the Common Core standards; Next Generation Science standards guide science instruction; and the College, Career and Civic Life (C3) Framework provides the standards for the social studies program.

Instruction & Assessment

My child does not speak either language. How will my child learn and communicate?

Children are immersed in Chinese and English throughout the day. Using gestures, pictures and other forms of support, the teachers involve a non-English/non-Chinese speaker in all classroom activities. In the initial stages of learning, focus is placed on developing spoken language so that your child can participate in class and everyday communication. Learning any language can be challenging, requiring risk-taking and significant time. Careful attention is paid to making sure that your child feels safe, secure, and a part of the classroom community. For some children, learning a language at the beginning can naturally be difficult. Developing a partnership with your child’s teacher, coupled with constant support and encouragement, is needed from both the home and the school to ensure your child’s smooth transition and positive learning experience for your child.

How quickly will my child learn Chinese and/or English?

Learning a language takes time. During the initial stages of learning a new language, most students go through a “silent period". This is the first stage of language learning, providing students with the necessary time to get used to the sounds, grammar, and structure of their new language. For some students, the “silent period” can last anywhere from six months to one year. Within a two-year period, students usually develop confidence and fluency with social and personal language first. Developing the language of school and specific subject areas, or cognitive academic language proficiency, takes five to seven years on average. The length of time it takes to learn a language varies among students. Patience, ongoing support and encouragement, and a strong home-school partnership are key ingredients for developing learners capable of communicating confidently and effectively in Chinese and English.

How will I know if my child is making progress in each language?

Teachers monitor and assess student progress toward subject area standards on a regular basis. Daily interactions, observations of behavior, responses to learning activities, student self-reflection, and end-of-unit projects all contribute to determining if your child is making progress. For students in PreK 3 and PreK 4, parents receive their child’s learning portfolio four times a year. From Kindergarten to Grade 5, information about student progress and achievement is communicated through the “Student as a Learner Progress Report” at the end of first quarter, the Semester 1 Report Card, the Student-Led Conference at the end of third quarter, and the Semester 2 Report Card. Additionally, parents are welcome to meet with their child’s teacher anytime throughout the school year.

Supporting Learning at Home and School

How do I support my child at home with language learning?


A strong foundation in the primary language helps a child learn an additional language. One of the most important ways to support language learning is to read aloud with your child, regardless of age, in your family’s primary language. Exposing and engaging your child in varied language activities, such as playing games and listening to music, are also beneficial. If your child is learning a language that you do not know, show interest and ask questions about what they are learning; it is okay if you do not understand the additional language. Active involvement and awareness of what is happening in your child’s classroom is another essential way to support your child’s language development in English and Chinese. From the start of the year, build a partnership with your child’s teacher and make sure to read the Seesaw posts and the ISB Weekly to learn about upcoming school events.


How will my child be supported if they have difficulties in the classroom?

Each teacher takes great care and responsibility to ensure that all students are happy, actively engaged, and motivated while at school. When a teacher notices that a child is having difficulty with a particular skill or understanding a topic, the teacher uses different strategies to support the learning. If a child is upset due to a friendship problem, the teacher addresses the problem with the children involved and helps to resolve the issue. If additional support is needed, depending on the circumstances, the teacher may involve a guidance counselor or teaching assistant to help with communication. With language learning, the teacher models risk-taking and demonstrates that effort and making mistakes are part of the learning process.

Communication & Education

How will teachers communicate with parents?


Information about classroom activities and school events is communicated through Seesaw. Email is used for more personal messages between the teacher and parents. All children in the dual language program are taught by a Chinese teacher and an English teacher, supported by bilingual teaching assistants. This teaching team will support parents to ensure that communication is clear and understood.


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