How Giving Context and Purpose Builds Stronger Language Learners

Carolina Martino

Carolina Martino

“Learn language, learn about language, learn through language”
– Michael Halliday

Essentially everything we do has a purpose or,  a "what-for." For younger children the "what-for" of learning a second language isn’t always easy to understand. However, connecting purpose to language classes at Whitby becomes second nature.

Ron Ritchhart, senior research associate at the Harvard Graduate School of Education’s Project Zero, researches Cultures of Thinking. The focus of his work looks at the role that the cultural forces of language, time, environment, opportunities, routines, modeling, interactions, and expectations take in shaping a group's cultural dynamic.

In our language classes, many valuable examples of all eight cultural forces are reflected through student action. For example, in the immersion classroom we honor the language and time children are exposed to Spanish throughout the day, every day.

The understanding of acceptance, respect, and open-mindedness about language and culture allows us to take action by not only communicating in other languages, but by also learning to develop skills and attitudes to live in harmony with the world around us — hence, fostering education for peace.


The environment is considered to be “el tercer educador,” or "the third teacher." It calls students to own their learning and to be active participants in their learning journey. The prepared environment and lessons help children explore and interact in the target language. We call this “experiencing the language."

Experience builds knowledge, and through these repeated explorations and interactions, words and skills become their own. The child learns that communication is reciprocal, and that speaking and listening can develop the ability to listen and understand, just as they do in their mother tongue. We recognize this as “action."

We have an ongoing commitment to work on behalf of growing language learners, growing independence, and the child’s deep joy in learning every day. Our purpose is to give every one of our students the opportunity to experience international mindedness within our classroom walls and to help build a better and more peaceful world.

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Carolina Martino

Carolina Martino

Carolina Martino is a teacher who believes in education for peace, kindness and good character, but most importantly that everyone has a voice and the potential to become their best selves. Her passions are family, cooking, traveling, writing, and art…and of course teaching Spanish!