Frequently Asked Questions

We often get questions about language learning, our approach, about whether or not a child is ready to learn, or how to get started. There’s a lot to consider when thinking about enrichment classes for your little one, and we want to help you make the right decision for you. Use this FAQ as a starting point, and feel free to reach out to us at info@spongeschool.com with any additional questions!

Website

Where can I find your contact and location information?

It’s located on our contact us page. Please give us a call or send us an email anytime. We’re here to help!

Where do you post urgent information such as class cancellations?

We post alerts at the top of our News page. If your class has to be cancelled, we’ll email you as soon as we know, and call if we don’t hear back from you.

Where can I find your class schedule?

We have lots and lots of classes to offer. You can find the schedule for our center classes, as well as all elementary and some preschool classes by clicking the appropriate registration link on our sign-up page.

Programs

What programs do you offer?

We currently offer language classes in our own centers and at preschools, daycares and elementary schools in the Greater Seattle Area. Our various classes are for babies up through 5th grade. Learn more about our programs.

Do you offer private tutoring?

Yes! We offer private classes and 1:1 tutoring to meet your needs. Let us know you’re interested at info@spongeschool.com,.

Do you offer any advanced instruction?

Beginning in Spring Session 2016, we will be offering Advanced Chinese (Mandarin) at our centers. It is geared towards students with a strong foundation in speaking and listening, and will introduce them to writing. Learn more! In some elementary schools, we offer a 3rd-5th grade intermediate class that is geared towards students who have studied the language for several years.

How do I decide which class is right for my child?

As our classes are primarily split up by age, you can start by exploring the options that way! At our centers, there is a little bit of overlap, because each child develops at his or her own rate. 3 and 4 year-olds can be registered for both Child & Caregiver classes, as well as Just Kids classes. Learn more about the class types, or feel free to reach out to us!

Can you offer classes at my child’s school?

We are always looking for new opportunities to share language learning! Check out how to bring Sponge to your school. We’d love to hear from you.

Do you offer free trial classes?

Yes, we offer free trials for classes offered in our centers. We’d love to have you join us! Find out how. Unfortunately, we cannot offer trial classes at elementary schools. We run a parent orientation session for elementary classes, complete with teacher demonstrations and curriculum discussion, in the fall.

Do you have a babe-in-arms policy?

Yes. Your baby may attend class for free with an older sibling up until they are 16 weeks old. After that point, they really are learning a lot, and need to be registered. We encourage you to check out Dr. Pat Kuhl’s fantastic TED talk about The Linguistic Genius of Babies – there’s a lot going on in your baby’s brain from a very early age! We offer a sibling and multi-class discount of 10%.

Registration

How do I register for a class?

You can sign up online. Head over to our Sign Up page, and select the link for where you’ll attend classes with us – in our centers or at your child’s school.

How much does a session cost?

All of our class prices are listed in the online registration system. Navigate to our Sign Up page and select the link for the class type and session you are interested. Additional details about pricing for classes at our centers can be found here.

None of the class times work for me. Can I still learn?

Yes. We offer private tutoring solutions! Reach out to us at info@spongeschool.com to learn more.

Do you offer any discounts?

For classes offered at Sponge centers, we have a sibling and multi-class discount for 10% the second student’s tuition. We also have a discount available for work-study. Parents that do work-study with us receive 50% off for approximately 1 hour or work per week. We do not offer discounts for classes at elementary schools and preschools.

Do you offer any scholarships?

In our classes at elementary schools, we offer need-based scholarships to students that qualify for free and reduced lunch, once our minimum enrollment has been met for the class. If you qualify and would like to learn more, please contact us at info@spongeschool.com.

What is your refund policy?

Should your needs change, we are happy to help you find another class that suits your needs. Please note that refunds will be charged a $75 processing fee. For classes offered at our centers, refunds will be available through the second week of classes with a prorated class fee. For classes at elementary schools, we offer prorated refunds through the third week of class. No refunds are available after this period. We keep our class sizes small to ensure individual attention. This requires us to ask families to make a commitment to the full session.

What’s your cancellation policy for purchases done via CourseHorse website?

If you purchase your Sponge class via CourseHorse, our cancellation policy applies to your purchase. If you need further help regarding this or have any questions, please visit the CourseHorse site in Seattle and contact their customer service team.

I can’t access my account. Can you help?

If you have lost or forgotten your password, you can reset it here. If that doesn’t work, please give us a call at (206) 227-7138 or email info@spongeschool.com. We’re happy to help!

Classes

How are Sponge classes structured?

Each class incorporates a variety of activities for each type of learner. We introduce language using a variety of techniques, including drama, song and TPR, or Total Physical Response. After introducing new language, we play games and do activities that are tailored to the specific language taught in class.

How do you keep the kids engaged?

Kids learn best when they are having fun! We do lots of interactive games, drama, activities and song in each class. We incorporate lots of variation and movement into the curriculum plan for each class, so that students get the repetition they need while staying engaged and having fun. You can see for yourself with a free trial class at one of our centers!

How small are your classes?

Classes art our centers have a maximum of 8 students. In elementary schools, the maximum is 12 students. Small classes help us give the individual instruction that each student deserves!

What is your make-up policy?

For classes offered in Sponge centers, we will try our best to accommodate your requests for up to 3 makeup classes per session. Because we limit class sizes, we must grant make-ups on space availability and cannot always guarantee make-up times. We ask you to let us know before attending your make-up class. Please email makeup@spongeschool.com to let us know about absences and to schedule your make-up classes.  We also ask that you check the web (www.spongeschool.com/schedule) before heading to class in the event of a cancellation. We do not offer make-ups for classes at elementary schools.

Who teaches Sponge classes?

All of our classes are taught by native speakers of the respective languages. They come from lots of diverse countries, backgrounds, and disciplines. Learn more about our team. Regardless of background, we provide extensive and ongoing training for our teachers, to ensure that they are successful and up-to-date with the latest teaching practices. We have regular teacher meetings, where we collaborate and share tips, tricks and ideas to use in class.

Languages

What language should we take?

The short answer is to go with what you’re most excited about! There are lots of benefits regardless of which language you pick. You can learn more about the benefits of language learning on our resources page. If you’re still not sure which language to choose, try thinking about where you’re interested in traveling, if you know anybody that speaks a different language, or even what international cuisines you like to eat! Language learning takes time, and the important part is to stick with it.

Do you teach standard dialects?

Our teachers are well-educated native speakers. And, they use standard language in class. Because of regional differences, an accent may be new to you – our Chilean teachers do sound slightly different than our Guatemalan teachers. Be reassured, however, that when the children model their teacher, they sound like native speakers. The same goes for each of our languages!

Curriculum

Is an immersion method really the best way to teach?

One of the most significant factors a student has in learning is the amount of exposure he or she gets to the language. To maximize the amount of exposure, we teach all in language. We are careful to use comprehensible input. That is, the teacher ensures through language choice, gestures, pictures, and objects that the students understand the language. ACTFL also has declared teaching in the language to be a best practice for language teaching.

Is my child learning the same language as last session/year?

From year to year, we cover different thematic units, both in classes at our centers and in schools. So the vocabulary, and context for the learning are new. The classroom language and some communication standards (etiquette, greetings, numbers, etc.) will be used again in class—just as they are in the real world. If your child is recognizing language that he or she has heard before, it’s a great thing! You might encourage them to think about not only the words they are hearing, but also how the teacher is using them. As they gain confidence in recognizing the vocabulary it becomes easier to put together longer sentences and more complex thoughts!

Do you teach reading and writing?

It depends. The majority of our classes are heavily focused on listening and speaking, as that’s what kids learn best at a young age! We will be teaching some reading and writing in our Advanced Chinese class. We also introduce it in our elementary classes. With all others, we read stories together but don’t teach writing.

How do you communicate what my child is learning in class?

For classes offered in our centers, we offer handouts at the end of class. These cover the language taught in class, and offer some activity ideas and cultural learning tips! For classes at elementary schools, we put together an email newsletter twice per unit. It includes general updates, the language we’re teaching, and resources you can access online to practice at home – subscribe here. As always, if you have questions, let us know!

Readiness & Learning expectations

Is my child too young?

No. Babies begin learning language right away, and the first year of life is a big time for learning to distinguish which sounds are important. The earlier you begin, the more likely your child is to attain a native-like accent in the language.

Is my child too old?

No (and neither are you!). Language learning is an enriching adventure, no matter when you start. However, research shows that students who begin in elementary school or earlier are 11 times more likely to continue language study later on when compared to their peers, and are 70% more likely to gain fluency. So while it’s never too late, the earlier the better.

My child is worried about class. What can I do?

Please let us know if your child is worried or anxious. Our teachers are eager to make each student a confident learner, and if we know more about their learning style we can help them get there more quickly. We’ve found that we can help a child gain confidence by encouraging them to look for cues. Helping them understand that they do not need to be able to translate word for word is key. They often have very good guesses about what the teacher is saying. Letting them know that this is a piece of language learning is key. Breaking down this barrier to language learning can be more challenging as they get older. By building language-learning skills early, they have them to use no matter where they travel or what language they study.

Will my child become fluent?

Fluency in a language is acquired with significant amounts of exposure over time. It helps to start early. A recent study from the University of Oregon showed that students are 70% more likely to reach competency by the end of high school if they have started their language studies in elementary school or earlier. On the ELLOPA (Early Language Learning Proficiency Assessment) scale, we expect that students will be able to achieve Novice-High to Intermediate-Low by the end of our program. This sets them up to succeed in mastering intermediate levels of language in middle and high school. For more information on the ELLOPA scale, please email us at info@spongeschool.com. It’s important to remember that every student is different!

My child can’t translate. Why not?

We teach class in language and we encourage the students to listen and respond naturally—and they do! Translation is a separate skill from comprehension or production within a contextual (and in our case fully immersive) environment. So while your child may not be able to tell you that yellow is ‘huang se’ in Mandarin he might be able to point at something yellow when asked “Where’s the yellow ball?” or choose between a yellow sheet of paper or a green sheet, or even spontaneously say “huang se!” when he wants a particular yellow object in class. One of the wonderful things about an immersion environment is the solidity of the language that is acquired. So while a child can memorize “In Mandarin you say ‘huang se’ for yellow,’ it’s also easily forgotten. Building a comprehension base around hearing language in multiple contexts is like nurturing a solid root system in a newly planted tree. It takes time but it is well worth it!

Supplementing at home

Do you assign homework?

No. There are so many ways to engage with and practice language at home, and we’re happy to help you develop a strategy to keep up the learning at home, but we do not assign homework. We also send home learning resources in our newsletters.

How can we supplement the language learning at home?

Showing interest in your child’s language learning is the best way you can support them. Being motivated is one of the keys to language learning. Even if you don’t speak the language, you can read books together or watch movies together that are set in the target culture. You can also visit restaurants—or even plan future travel. For classes offered in our centers, you can also look over the handouts that your child brings home and do the optional activities together. If you speak the language, it’s fantastic to practice together. The more exposure and practice a student has with the language, the more progress they will make.   

Didn’t find an answer to your question? Contact us at info@spongeschool.com or call (206) 227-7138.