Creating Community in Your Classroom

Teamwork and team spirit - Hands piled on top of one another .It’s the start of a new school year, and your classroom fills with a brand new kaleidoscope of personalities. You may find yourself wondering how to help an eclectic group of kids connect with each other. How do you bring your class together as a community, and jump start the conversation and collaboration? You want to creating a safe, secure and nurturing learning environment for all children – an especially challenging task when they come from diverse backgrounds.

Celebrate Individuality

individuality purple flower in white flower field

Although it may sound a bit counter-intuitive, one of the best ways to create a sense of community is by celebrating individuality. Kids love to see themselves reflected in the classroom.  As discussed in our recent post about understanding and appreciating cultural differences in the classroom, when kids contrast and compare family holidays and traditions without judgment, respect and acceptance begins. Reading world folk tales and fables is a great way to explore new traditions from various cultures.

The Concept of Community

classroom community hands together teamwork multicultural bilingual language

You may want to begin by exploring the concept of a community with your class. Yes, it’s a group of people who share something in common, but there are so many less obvious aspects, particularly in a classroom setting. Language Lizard offers a free standards-based lesson plan that teaches students all about the concept of community: What is it, why is it important to have one, and what makes a community stronger?

Sarah Brown Wessling, 2010 National Teacher of the Year and the Teacher Laureate for Teaching Channel, talks about the importance of creating “classroom chemistry” in a blog article, which she describes as the moment when a “certain group of students auspiciously find each other in a classroom.” She discusses 14 ways to create it with your students, and the important role that good chemistry plays in keeping students engaged in the classroom. For another in-depth look at the importance of building a classroom community, check out The Center for the Collaborative Classroom’s Child Development Project, which offers more activity ideas and supporting research.

Predictable, Nurturing Classroom Environment

A classroom that is not just functional, but also comfortable and comforting, encourages learning. Things like lighting, temperature, desk spacing, and a comfy reading corner are physically comforting. A predictable daily routine is emotionally comforting, as are clearly defined rules for classroom behavior. This article from Edutopia discusses how the use of daily trust-building activities can create a support system in your classroom.

What are some ways you create an outstanding community in your classroom? Comment below and share your experiences!

“Teamwork and team spirit” by 드림포유 via Flickr is licensed under CC BY ND 2.0 https://flic.kr/p/o4ZHuD

“Individuality” by Joey Gannon via Flickr is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 https://flic.kr/p/HGRhB

“Team.” by Dawn (Willis) Manser via Flickr is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 https://flic.kr/p/6oaunE

Great Giveaways for Back-to-School

back to school giveaway from iTeachBilinguals

If you’re getting ready to head back to school, we have two great giveaways for you!

First, you should check out iTeachBilinguals and their Back-to-School Giveaway. You can enter now through August 8, 2015 by following this link. The grand prize winner will receive an iPad Air 2! A winner will be announced August 9, 2015.

Another great giveaway for language learners is Language Lizard’s Cookbook & Bilingual Book Giveaway. You can win a copy of Room to Read’s Recipes Worth Reading cookbook AND a surprise bilingual book in English and the language of your choice! It’s easy to enter, no purchase necessary. A winner will be chosen September 16, 2015.

Happy reading, and we hope you enjoy the rest of your summer!

Understanding & Appreciating Cultural Differences – Tips and Free Lesson Plan

multicultural classroomHard to believe, but the start of the school year is right around the corner. As the final days of summer break slide by, teachers and parents begin to wonder what this year’s classroom will be like. Every year is a different potpourri of personalities and abilities that will mix, mesh or sometimes clash. Teachers want to effectively engage every one of their students, and parents want to ensure their kids will be both accepting and accepted.

Preparing for Your Multicultural & Bilingual Classroom

How can we make our multicultural classrooms welcoming to all students, and instill an appreciation for diversity in our kids? In a previous post, we looked at different multicultural resources that can be woven right into existing lesson plans, and the many benefits they bring to all students. In other posts, we offered a checklist of essential items and tips to help teachers prepare their classrooms for bilingual students.

Culturally Responsive Instruction

In his blog post, author and educator Matthew Lynch discusses culturally responsive instruction in depth. Its aim is “to teach students that differences in viewpoint and culture are to be cherished and appreciated rather than judged and feared.” The primary goal is to demonstrate that all people, regardless how different they may appear on the surface, have so much in common and that every person and culture deserves respect. Lynch discusses the many ways teachers can promote an environment of respect for cultural diversity, in particular the importance of studying multicultural role models in the classroom.

Free Lesson Plan: Understanding & Appreciating Cultural Differences

classroom desk multicultural classroom

Teachers are always looking for new ways to bring more multicultural education to the classroom, while meeting Common Core Standards. As part of a project with student teachers in the Elementary Education Teacher Preparation program at West Chester University, the Language Lizard site offers free, creative units of instruction for use in grades K-5. The lesson plan entitled “Understanding and Appreciating Cultural Differences” helps students appreciate how people are different and similar, not just within the classroom, but around the world. They will learn about diverse languages, cultures and traditions in the US and in other countries. This unit of instruction is easily aligned with state and national standards in Social Studies and Language Arts. The main books used in these lessons include: That’s My Mum, Floppy, and Floppy’s Friends written in: Gujarati, Portuguese, Turkish and English. Each of these titles is available in many other languages that can be substituted for, or used in addition to, the dual languages presented here.

Parents and teachers alike are encouraged to download our free multicultural lesson plans to utilize at home and in the classroom. Each unit indicates which books are included, the target grade level(s), the primary languages, and the key topics covered. The units can be implemented as designed or adapted to meet the needs of a particular student body or grade level. Languages introduced in the lessons can be changed to better reflect their own diverse households and communities.

By preparing ahead of time, you will ensure this year will progress more smoothly and comfortably for you and your unique and diverse classroom.

What challenges have you faced in your multicultural classroom, and what solutions have worked for you? Comment below and share your experiences!

“The Sign Says” by Ryan via Flickr is licensed under CC BY 2.0 https://flic.kr/p/99jT3G

“2012-226 My New Teacher Desk” by Denise Krebs via Flickr is licensed under CC BY 2.0 https://flic.kr/p/cRiZjJ

Cookbook & Bilingual Book Giveaway

Cover of Room to Read cookbook "Recipes Worth Reading"Summer is a great time to enjoy fresh food, try new recipes, and connect with family by sharing both a good meal and a good book. Language Lizard is making that easier with our “COOK & READ” Giveaway where you can win a cookbook and a bilingual book.

Room to Read

Room to Read is an organization that “envision[s] a world in which all children can pursue a quality education, reach their full potential and contribute to their community and the world.” Our friends at the Central NJ Chapter of Room to Read have created a delightful cookbook, Recipes Worth Reading, with 150 recipes from around the world. Each chapter represents a country Room to Read operates in. There are sections with Appetizers, Soups & Salads, Eating Light, Allergen Free, One Pot Dishes, Desserts and more! Best of all, 100% of proceeds from the cookbook benefit Room to Read programs supporting literacy and gender equality in education in Africa and Asia. You can order the cookbook through the Barnes & Noble website. To learn more about Room to Read, visit www.roomtoread.org.

How to Enter:

COOK & READ Giveaway: You can win a copy of Room to Read’s Recipes Worth Reading cookbook AND a surprise bilingual book in English and the language of your choice. Entering the giveaway is simple:
1) No purchase necessary: Simply fill out our contact form and write “COOK & READ” in the comments section, along with your choice of language from one of Language Lizard’s 40+ languages.
2) If you are making a purchase, you can write “COOK & READ” and your language choice in the order notes section, and you will also be entered.
Bonus entry point: Tell us you posted about this giveaway on Facebook, Twitter or your Blog, and you will get one extra entry point!
Language Lizard will accept entries until September 15, 2015, and three winners will be selected using Random.org’s number generator.  One entry per person please.

The Last Book My Dad Read to Me

bilingual father reaching for book

by guest blogger Sue Kwon

For my husband, our two young girls and myself, reading a bedtime story together is a much-loved nightly ritual. On our busiest days, it’s our first opportunity to sit down with a single purpose and no distractions. My husband is the official story reader in our family. He has patience (that I lack) with even the longest, most repetitive children’s books. The girls sit still, listen with rapt attention, and gaze up at him with eyes full of love and admiration.

In our household, we all speak and read in English. It’s a commonality that’s easy to take for granted. It means story time is an experience shared equally by everyone. The family I grew up in was different: my parents and older sisters were Korean immigrants, and I was born in the US. They all spoke and read in Korean, and I almost entirely in English. My father and I had a nightly story time routine too, and I remember very clearly the last book he ever read to me.

My father was born and raised in a small town in South Korea. He served a mandatory time in the military, married young, and eventually emigrated to the US with his wife and young daughters, knowing no English whatsoever. Once here, he picked up the language quickly while working at a doughnut shop, where he biked to and fro each day. One night at work, he was held up at gunpoint, and he decided to make a big change: He opened a business installing windows, a skill he had learned as a young man in Korea. We were lucky – the new business grew fast. But that meant he worked very long, stressful hours. By the time he got home at night, he was so exhausted he only paused briefly to eat dinner before going to bed.

I got into the habit of waiting by the front door as soon as my mother started making his dinner. That way, as soon as he walked in, I could pounce on him with a book in hand. Although my father had very impressive verbal English skills, his reading skills were very basic. Still, he would sit and read to me, and it was the few precious moments we spent together each day.

One evening, when I was 5, he came home from work and we sat down right in the entryway, just like always. He opened the book and read the first line: “We like worms!” he said, his English heavily accented. “Not worms, Daddy!” I interrupted. “It says ‘rhymes!’ Why would they like worms?” I doubled over with laughter. I found it hilarious that my dad, the most grown-up person I knew, someone I thought was invincible, didn’t know the word “rhymes.” What was even funnier to me was the fact that we had read that book a hundred times before, and I had thought all along it was a story about worms. I laughed so hard, I didn’t immediately realize that he wasn’t laughing with me. The emotion on his face was so clear, I knew without a doubt I had embarrassed him. It must have been humiliating to be corrected and laughed at by his preschooler. He handed me the book, shrugged, and said it looked like I didn’t need his help anymore.

We never attempted story time after that. Partly because of my father’s embarrassment, but also because I had lost respect for him. I naively thought that if I could read better than he could, I must be smarter than him. Who knows, maybe on some level he thought the same thing. It didn’t occur to me then that his ability to read in English was not a true measure of his intelligence. We never tried reading a book in Korean. I think if we had, I would’ve realized right away how silly my assumption was.

It wasn’t until I was grown with kids of my own, years after his passing, that I realized the enormity of my father’s life. The amount of bravery it must have taken for him to leave his home country. The level of intelligence it must have taken to pick up a new language, and then grow a successful business from scratch. My dad came from such humble beginnings, but managed to achieve so much in his life.

Thirty years after that last story, and 10 years after his passing, I often think about all the knowledge, experience and wisdom my dad must have carried with him. I wish I had given him a chance to hand it down to me. Because we didn’t share a written language, and had no means to bridge that gap, we missed out on a lifetime of knowing each other.

Tonight, as I sat with my husband while he read to the girls, I thought about how lucky we are. Lucky to be able to share bedtime stories, but also lucky to live in a time and place where foreign language is no longer seen as a detriment, but a great asset. Parents don’t have to give up their home language for fear of hindering their kids’ development. Languages can mix, intermingle and live in harmony in the same household. Parents and kids can meet somewhere in the middle, and share bedtime stories that lead to life stories that lead to a lifetime of family togetherness.

Do you have more than one language in your home? Tell us your thoughts and experiences by commenting below.

“No substitute” by Patrick Feller via Flickr licensed under CC BY 2.0 https://flic.kr/p/6jEJFb

Why Your Children Should Learn a Less Commonly Taught Language

children reading foreign language books

by guest blogger Susan Cazenavette Herrick Siu

More than 300 distinct languages other than English are now spoken in the United States. According to the U. S. Census Bureau, those with the most native speakers in this country are Spanish, Chinese, Tagalog, French, Vietnamese, German, and Korean (all with numbers of speakers in the millions), followed by Russian, Arabic, and Italian.

Other languages with large numbers of speakers (in no particular order) include Portuguese, French Creole, Yiddish, Greek, Polish, Hebrew, Hungarian, Navajo, Laotian, Thai, Hmong, Hindi, Urdu, and Serbo-Croatian.

The most commonly taught languages are Spanish, French, and German, which do happen to be among the top ten most commonly spoken languages in the U.S, but also all happen to be Indo-European languages closely related to English. All of the world’s other languages are classified as “less commonly taught.”

Many people decide to learn a language (or have their children learn a language) because of the number of people who speak that language (whether in the U.S. or abroad). Yet there are many good reasons why you or your child should consider learning a less commonly taught language.

To Get to Know Their Family History

Many North Americans, even if they no longer speak a language other than English, Spanish, French, or German at home, have ancestors who did. Did you perhaps have a Native American great-grandfather or a Ukrainian immigrant grandmother, or are you descended from African slaves who spoke Mende, Fula, or another West African language? Or perhaps your child’s connection to a less commonly taught language is even closer, as for my niece Sophia, who is learning Georgian in order to communicate with her grandmother and cousins in the Republic of Georgia and in the US.

To Read or Do Research in Another Language

Do your high school aged children want to read the Bible, the Torah, or the Buddhist scriptures in their original languages? Do they love modern Egyptian novels, Japanese comic books, or Chinese Taoist poetry? Do they want to attend school abroad? Do they plan to study history, art history, international studies, computers, languages, comparative literature, translation, or linguistics in college? If so, they might want to start studying a less commonly taught language now.

To Make New Friends in the Community

If you live in a community where less commonly taught languages are spoken, learning one of those languages may help your children make new friends and connections within the community. This may be true even if you don’t live in a big city. In Lewiston, Maine, where I live, for example, there is a large Somali community and knowing the Somali language would be helpful to anyone attending the public schools, as well as to anyone involved with community organizations, from the library to the farmer’s market to the hospitals. (See Newsweek‘s very interesting article, “The Refugees Who Saved Lewiston.”)

To Travel and Make New Friends Abroad

If your family is going on vacation to Ireland, your children would benefit from learning some Irish Gaelic. If your child plans to go on an exchange program to India, she might want to learn some Hindi, Gujarati, or one of India’s several hundred other mother tongues. If you or your spouse will be stationed in Kuwait or South Korea in the near future, your children could benefit greatly from learning to speak Arabic or Korean.

To Help Save a Dying Language from Extinction

More than half of the world’s approximately 6000 languages are now considered “endangered,” which means that there will be no native speakers left a hundred years from now. Many have only one, ten, or a few hundred speakers as I write; others have become extinct in the recent past. Some communities are making efforts to save their endangered languages from extinction by teaching them to both children and adults. Linguists are preserving others on paper or in audio and video formats so that these languages can be studied even when they are no longer spoken. For more information, please visit the Endangered Language Alliance website.

I wish you and your children the best of luck as you embark on your language learning adventures.

Susan C. H. Siu, a writer, linguist, and mother of three, is Editor-in-Chief of World’s Edge Books & Publishing, a small publishing company specializing in foreign-language titles. Susan speaks French and some Chinese, Korean, Spanish, and Italian. She co-authored a book, Georgian Language for Parents and Children, Book I, with Darby Lezhava and Marico Maskharashvili. She also maintains the LinguistKids blog (http://linguistkids.blogspot.com) with the aim of providing resources to parents, educators, and librarians who want to help children learn languages, understand cultures, and become citizens of the world.

What less commonly taught language do you speak with your family? Comment below and tell us why!

 

This article originally appeared in Language Lizard’s Culture Connection Newsletter.  To receive this newsletter, please sign up here.

Ramadan in the Classroom & At Home

Ramadan night photo multicultural bilingualThis year, the Muslim holiday of Ramadan begins on June 17 and ends on July 17. It is the 9th and most sacred month in the Islamic calendar. Traditionally, it’s a time of fasting from sun up to sun down each day. Children aren’t required to fast until they’re teenagers, but may fast for part of the day to help them appreciate the significance of the holiday. Fasting is meant to help Muslims practice self-discipline, self-control, sacrifice, and empathy. Ramadan is a time of spiritual reflection, growth, and religious devotion.

Learning about Ramadan: Lesson Plan & Storybook

children's bilingual book Samira's Eid multiculturalLanguage Lizard offers a free, standards-based lesson plan that introduces students to Muslim customs and cultures, new languages and texts, and promotes acceptance of diversity. The lesson plan pairs with the bilingual storybook Samira’s Eid. Samira and her family get a surprise visitor during Ramadan who brings a special gift for them. The story teaches kids about the holiday’s traditions, and the meaning behind them, through Samira’s eyes.

Receive a 10% discount on the book Samira’s Eid now through July 17, 2015!  Simply enter Coupon Code Eid2015 during checkout.  Samira’s Eid is currently available with English and your choice of the following languages: Albanian, Arabic, Bengali, Farsi, French, Kurdish, Panjabi and Somali.

Experience the Food of Ramadan

ramadan meal multicultural bilingualEach night at sunset, families gather for the fast-breaking meal known as iftar. Get in the spirit by trying some traditional dishes served at iftar with your classroom or family. One quick and easy dessert that the kids can help make, and will love to eat, is this traditional mango, pistachio and cream dessert.

Ramadan Arts & Crafts Projects

Ramadan decorations multicultural bilingualRamadan can also be a time of beautiful decorations. Lanterns, in particular, have become symbolic of the holiday. Kids can make simple paper crafts, including lanterns, or try out more complex projects like this drum.

Online Ramadan Resources for Kids

child reading a book ramadan multicultural bilingualFind kid-friendly Ramadan photos online to look through together, and discuss how Ramadan is experienced by the littlest Muslims. The PBS Kids website offers a free, interactive book about Ramadan and its traditions. Or check out this multilingual Ramadan poster that includes illustrations of the call to prayer, fasting, sharing an evening meal, and family time.

Will you be learning about Ramadan with your classroom or family? Share your ideas by commenting below!

 

New Bilingual Book Sets – Now in 30 Languages!

 

bilingual children's book set available in 30 languagesLanguage Lizard is excited to announce that our bilingual book sets are now available in 30 different languages! (All books include English and one other language of your choice.)

Bilingual Book Sets Save You Time and Money

We have hand-selected groups of our most popular books to support language learning and promote literacy initiatives. With just one click, you can even choose between sets of five and ten. Tailored to meet the language needs of teachers and librarians, they make ordering easy and eliminate the work of searching through our site to find the perfect books for your classroom or library. These book sets will save you time and money, and help you choose the most accessible, interesting, and culturally appropriate books for the children you want to reach.

Now Available in 30 Languages!

Bilingual Book Sets are available with English and your choice of the following languages:

Albanian, Arabic, Bengali, Bulgarian, Chinese, Czech, Farsi, French, German, Gujarati, Haitian Creole, Hindi, Italian, Japanese, Kurdish, Lithuanian, Panjabi, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Russian, Somali, Spanish, Tagalog, Tamil, Turkish, Urdu, Vietnamese, and Yoruba.

10-10-10 Book Set Promotion

To celebrate our 10th anniversary, we are offering $10 gift certificates for every 10-book set that you order before May 31, 2015. If you order multiple 10-book sets during this promotion, you can receive multiple gift certificates!

To receive your gift certificate(s), simply order a 10-book bilingual book set by May 31, 2015, AND in the “Order Notes” section of your online order, write “10-10-10” and your email address. If you are mailing or faxing an order, simply write “10-10-10” and your email address on the cover or front page of your order.

All gift certificates will be sent out in the month of June and can be used toward any Language Lizard order within the next year. (Note: certificates will be sent to the email address that you supply.)

The Multicultural Library: Responding to the Needs of Ethnically Diverse Communities

multicultural library with ethnically diverse booksAccording to 2013 Census data, nearly 13% of the US population is now foreign born and about 1 in 5 residents age 5 and older speak a language other than English at home. These figures are expected to increase, and are considerably higher in many areas of the country. Many new immigrants are struggling to learn English while maintaining their connection with their heritage language and country.

Innovative Ways for Libraries to Attract Ethnic Populations

As the United States has become increasingly diverse, more and more librarians are implementing creative strategies to attract and meet the needs of their ethnic patrons. Many libraries have transformed themselves into centers of information and learning for the diverse community. Following is a list of innovative ways librarians are welcoming and attracting their ethnic populations:

  1. Presenting story times in various languages.
  2. Offering newspapers in multiple languages.
  3. Developing a collection of bilingual children’s books for language learners and families trying to teach a heritage language to their children. Patron feedback has been especially positive when librarians set aside a “bilingual book display area” instead of simply including the books in their stacks.
  4. Sponsoring/hosting English as a Second Language (ESL) classes or creating “literacy centers” to help adults learn English.
  5. Offering special programs, such as citizenship classes or cultural programs that highlight important ethnic holidays (e.g., Chinese New Year, El Día de los Niños).
  6. Displaying colorful multilingual posters, and putting up signs in multiple languages.
  7. Carrying books that promote an acceptance of diversity, have multicultural themes and include illustrations of ethnically diverse characters.
  8. Accepting alternative forms of identification (such as a Matricula Consular from Mexico) and address verifications (such as utility bills and rent receipts) in order to increase access to the library. REFORMA, a national network of library organizations dedicated to promoting library services to the Spanish-speaking communities, suggests that this will help ensure that libraries serve the community regardless of a patron’s legal status.
  9. Hiring staff that speaks the language(s) of the immigrant communities (another recommendation by REFORMA).

Starting Your Multicultural Library

For librarians just beginning to develop their programs and collections for ethnic patrons and language learners, here are a few recommendations to get started:

  • Look up census data to determine which languages your library should support. The Modern Language Association offers a Language Map where users can find the number of speakers of each foreign language by zip code, city, county or state. The information also is available directly from The US Census Bureau.
  • Conduct an informal (or formal) survey of patrons to find out which newspapers they would read and which language books are most in demand.
  • Start with a small collection of children’s books and display them in a bilingual or foreign language book area. This will stimulate interest, and drive more patrons to share their own needs. It also will provide an opportunity to assess which books are checked out most.
  • Post multilingual posters and/or signs to welcome all patrons.
  • Ask around to see if there is a volunteer parent, board member or teacher who would be willing to conduct a bilingual or non-English story time.

Ethnic patrons truly appreciate when libraries increase their language holdings and offer services and programs to meet the needs of non-native-English speakers. Small, gradual steps to move forward in this area are met with great response, and establish libraries as true centers of learning for the entire community.

Tell us about an outstanding multicultural library in your neighborhood by commenting below!

This article originally appeared in Language Lizard’s Culture Connection Newsletter.  To receive this newsletter, please sign up here.

Photo “New Public Library In Dun Laoghaire, Officially Called DLR Lexicon Opened To The Public Today And It Is Worth Visiting Ref-100534” by William Murphy via Flickr, licensed under CC By 2.0.

Giveaway & New Site to Celebrate Our 10th Anniversary!

language lizard new website

We are very pleased to announce the launch of our newly designed website! Just in time for our 10th anniversary, the new site is designed with a fresh new look, user-friendly navigation, and a variety of features to help educators, parents and librarians support their language learners.

Finding the Right Bilingual Products Has Never Been Easier!

Language Lizard still offers the high quality, beautifully illustrated, professionally translated books and posters you know and love. Our new website design features faster, easier navigation, whether you’re searching for a particular product, or want to make use of our many free resources. You can search by language, reading level, product type, or title. While you’re there, be sure to check out our new video, featured on the homepage, to learn about all the ways we can support you!

New Website Giveaway

To celebrate our 10th anniversary and our newly designed website, we are holding a special giveaway! Just send us your thoughts, opinions and suggestions for our new site via the Contact Us form, and you will be entered to win a Language Lizard gift certificate. The lucky grand prize winner will receive a $50 gift certificate, and 3 runners-up will each win a $25 gift certificate! All entries must be received by May 15, 2015. No purchase necessary.