The Process of Learning English at True Colors

At first glance, the process of learning may seem like a fairly simple system: you bring your children in, drop them off, and then pick them up when they they’ve finished. Several months pass and then they’re onto the next unit. And at the surface level,it may seem like there is a lot of simple repetition—the reality however, is quite a bit different and more involved.

During the course of an entire unit, there’s a complex, and very deliberate evolution of their education that occurs before the students proceed to the next unit.  In the classroom, the experience that the children have will change dramatically between the time they start, and when they finish–and will slowly evolve over time.

The process of learning includes a variety of stages, and each teacher at True Colors is trained on how to execute these stages in order for the students to be able to succeed within the GrapeSEED curriculum. These stages are derived from the most modern educational techniques, and are the foundation of the GrapeSEED educational system.

The process is broken down into three primary stages: Comprehension, Early Speech, and Speech Emergence. While these stages may proceed at different speeds depending on the age and experience of the children, we can break these parts roughly into the first, second, and third month.


During this first stage the teacher is the primary producer of the language for the children, the emphasis is on active listening. The teacher will be doing most of the talking, and the children are required to pay close attention to the teacher, to listen carefully, and and begin absorbing the new concepts and vocabulary.

 For the teacher, this is a critical stage; the teacher has to make absolutely sure that they move at a slow, deliberate pace, speaking and enunciating very clearly. Each new word or concept needs to be presented slowly and naturally, and the teacher may often show the exact  positioning of the tongue or mouth for challenging new words or phrases.

In this stage the teacher includes as many gestures and physical actions as possible to convey meaning to the children, and illustrations in the materials need to be pointed to very clearly.  For example, the word, ‘happy’ should be accompanied by a huge smile, so as to leave little confusion as to what these new concepts mean for the children.

For the children, they spend the first weeks absorbing as much information as possible, and so they can often can be very quiet. Part of the ‘natural approach’ method of language learning, is providing the children adequate time, along with comprehensible input before they speak. With those two things, the teacher doesn’t need to force language from them: it comes out automatically, it ‘emerges’–and they will automatically enter the next stage without realizing it.

In this stage, the teacher is like a movie director and the actor–while the children are the audience, trying to understand everything they’re seeing and experiencing.

Early Speech

As this stage begins, the roles of the teacher and the students begins to shift. The children, given enough time and information–begin to speak spontaneously. The students will suddenly start expressing themselves in simple terms, such as saying“Hello!!” to the teacher, saying colors, and putting together short sentences like, “I see a tiger!” or “I am happy!”

Key to the process of natural learning at True Colors, is that language is not forced from the children. Instead, the teachers create the framework, or the foundation, for speech emergence. And with that, the children naturally start expressing themselves in contexts that are important to them.

During this Early Speech stage, there is a reversal of responsibility. That is to say–the teacher now listens carefully (rather than talking so much), and the students are the ones who do most of the talking. In just a few weeks, the role of the teacher changes dramatically. While the children talk, read, and sing–and the teacher listens very carefully and provides guidance in pronunciation and natural expression. In this stage, the teacher is like a movie director, but the children are not the audience–they become the actors.

The role of the children changes as dramatically as the teachers role. The children, who have been shown a constant stream of information, will begin to apply it to their own life, their own likes and dislikes, their own families and day to day experiences. During this stage, the children begin to string together concepts and create larger sentences and convey more complex messages.

In the first stage, the Comprehension stage, the teacher will often engage the students, asking questions such as “What color do you like?” And then if the student feels ready, the student will respond. In contrast,  during the second stage, the teacher may simply say “I really like blue.” and the students will immediately start raising their hands, or expressing all the things that they like, without any question being asked at all. It’s the beginning of the Emergence of speech.

In this Early Speech stage, the children are bubbling over with desire to express themselves, because the teachers have created an environment using contexts that are relevant to lives of the children, provided understandable information so that they can reproduce it, and maintained a classroom that fosters confidence in every child.

And soon enough, with the children reproducing information and naturally expressing themselves,the children and the teacher, enter the third stage of learning. 

Speech Emergence

In this stage, the children take center stage. The children are not only the actors in the movie, but often the directors as well! Meanwhile, the teacher provides structure and guidance to the class to foster as much talking and communication as possible.

At this point, the emphasis is on the production and emergence of speech from the children in the classroom. In the case of stories, the children will not only be reading the story, but very likely becoming a character within the story and acting out the parts of each character–which includes the natural expression along with proper emotion and tone.

Songs and poems become a different experience for them as they will begin to change the words within the material, or even start creating their own poems and songs with the words they’re given and confident to use.

In this stage, the teacher can create group exercises where the kids begin speaking to and asking each other questions about their lives. The teacher will create broader and more complex contexts using the information they’ve learned and the activities that the teacher provides will increase in difficulty, while providing as many speaking opportunities as possible. For the teacher, this stage is about giving the children time to talk and express themselves to the class, to the teacher, and to each other. Ideally, the teacher steps back, and does as little talking as possible and encourages natural conversations to erupt from the students.

For the students–this stage is when they get the most opportunity to express themselves using the information that they’ve learned. In this stage, the classroom is an environment that welcomes any dialogue that the kids feel like having that uses the information they’ve learned, as it emerges from them naturally.

Moving On

At the point at which the students and class are confident with the materials, have reached the learning objectives of the unit, and are able to demonstrate their progress– the class is ready to move on to the next unit, and the cycle begins once again. Each student will have a meeting with the teacher to assess their readiness, and the class will be evaluated further by another teacher to ensure that they’re ready to move on.

And over the course of several months, all of this happens between the times you drop your children off, and pick them up. At True Colors, this process is understood and used by all the teachers, in every unit, for every class. And we want to let all of the parents know that, between the times you drop off and pick up your children–that there is a plan, and a process in place to ensure that your children are receiving the best possible education that they can get.

Happy Holidays!

Mr. Ethan