Celebrate Diversity and Ease Anxiety: Suggestions For Kids & Adults

many people from above

Right now, our lives are permeated with emotionally charged discourse about political and social upheaval. When you think about how much news media, social media and personal conversations we’re exposed to, it’s very likely our kids and students are aware and possibly experiencing anxiety about what they hear and see going on in the world around them. We all may feel disheartened with the current events that are dividing us as people, and as a nation.

If you’re worried that the children in your life are experiencing stress or anxiety, you first want to acknowledge and address these emotions, as we discussed in a previous post. Then, you can try to direct the conversation to the good that is happening in the world.  One way we suggest doing this is to celebrate diversity with our children. When we open our hearts and minds to people of other cultures, we also cultivate a spirit of love and hope, which can lead to strength and healing.

Below are a few ways we can mitigate anxiety for students, your kids and yourself.

Limit Media Exposure

As informed adults, we can’t ever “bury our heads in the sand” by turning our backs on current events. It’s, in fact, vitally important that we check in regularly with reputable news organizations because so much is happening in the political and social realm, in such a short amount of time. However, don’t allow yourself to become inundated by what can feel like a flood of information and reactions. Decide how much time a day you want to dedicate to staying informed, then try to stay within that limit.

If older kids are exposed to news or social media directly, work with them to establish boundaries and talk about what they’re hearing and seeing. With younger kids, we need to be wary that their little ears are picking up on our adult conversations. Decide what information you want to convey to them, and be ready to answer their questions in an age-appropriate manner.

Do Good, Feel Good

One of the best ways to feel better is by doing good for those around you. Find a way that you and your family or classroom can volunteer to make the world a better place. Working selflessly for others can do wonders for your own state of mind. This is also a great opportunity to connect with other people, and build an emotional and social support network.

If you are concerned about the treatment of vulnerable members of society, or discriminatory attitudes, consider supporting causes that reflect your values and help those who could benefit most from your assistance.  Working with children to raise funds to support a cause can be empowering, and allow for substantive discussions on important issues.

Practice Self-Care

When you’re feeling stressed out or sad, take a moment for yourself. Think about the good things in your life that you’re grateful for. Take a break and do something just for you – like reading a book, listening to your favorite song or going for a stroll – and just be present in the moment. Meditate or just lie down and rest for a bit! In order to be kind to others, you must first be kind to yourself.

Suggest these strategies to children as well; these are valuable life lessons that will help them navigate future challenges.  You can also make use of online resources to find support and recommendations.

#CelebrateDiversity

We would love to hear the beautiful, thoughtful, brave ways you are making the world a better place! Take a moment to #CelebrateDiversity with us on social media, and keep up the good work!

 

“World” by Kevin Dooley via Flickr is licensed under CC BY 2.0 https://flic.kr/p/9nZaR3

7 Favorite Bilingual Books for Babies and Toddlers

Baby reading book with parentIn a previous article, we offered tips to get you started in terms of choosing the right bilingual baby books, making dedicated reading time and reading with enthusiasm. In this post, we would like to offer some of our favorite bilingual books for babies and toddlers.

In a recent interview published in the Princeton Alumni Weekly, Casey Lew-Williams, co-director of the Princeton Baby Lab and Princeton assistant professor of psychology, discussed research regarding how young children learn and communicate, and how this supports their development.  Lew-Williams mentions that quality of speech comes first, and then quantity.  In other words, it’s not important to talk all the time; even when playing with a young child, you’re interacting with them and exposing them to language, often in creative and meaningful ways.

In terms of reading to babies and young children, he says: “Reading is another fantastic way to expose a child to language. Ideally you’re not just reading the pages in a book. You’re pausing to engage with the child: How does this relate to his or her life? Children’s books are more diverse in terms of vocabulary and grammar than speech. So there’s an extra value to reading, because it gets parents outside their own natural tendencies or conversational topics and into the language and ideas of an author.”

Our Favorite Bilingual Books for Babies and Toddlers

The Wheels on the Bus

Wheels on the Bus bilingual bookIn this bilingual board book by Annie Kubler, little fingers have fun finding the pre-cut holes on each page, while singing along as the driver and passengers of the bus ride through town!

Handa’s Hen

Handa's Hen dual language book
In this story by Eileen Brown, best friends Handa and Akeyo are looking for animals around the hen house.  This bilingual book offers a great way to learn a second language through practice with numbers, animals and environments. The children featured in this book are from the Luo tribe of south-west Kenya, and the beautiful paintings take children on a journey through the African countryside.

Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?

Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? in Arabic
The bilingual version of this book allows children to hear this classic story by Eric Carle in different languages. This book is loved for its gentle rhymes, colorful tissue paper-style artwork and introduction to colors and favorite animals.

Row, Row, Row Your Boat… If You’re Happy and You Know It… Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes

Row Row Row Your Boat bilingual book
These three bilingual board books by Annie Kubler help parents and children bond through singing these beloved nursery rhymes together.  Their sturdy construction allows parents to spark a love of reading and encourage language development without worrying about the pages!

Walking Through the Jungle

Bilingual dual language children's book - Walking Through the Jungle
Children love the rhymes, rhythm and repetition in this beautifully illustrated book by Debbie Harter.  With the dual-language book, children can go on a great adventure with a young explorer, discovering animals and terrains throughout the world, all while being exposed to a second language.
We hope you enjoy these bilingual books as much as we do!
To learn more about the Princeton Baby Lab, visit http://babylab.princeton.edu/.
“wren learning about iguanas” by Stacy via Flickr is licensed under CC BY 2.0 https://flic.kr/p/5EZS6G

How to Create a Classroom Listening Center

Headphones and bookIf your classroom or library makes use of learning centers, you may be thinking about setting one up as a listening center. Students of all ages and levels, especially English language learners, benefit from this type of interactive, multi-sensory learning. Below, we offer some tips to help get your listening center up and running.

Make a Listening Center Plan

What type of Listening Center best suits your classroom? Would you like your students to focus on literacy gains and improve comprehension and vocabulary? Or do you want to focus on increasing their motivation to read, and improving their self-esteem and interpersonal skills? What are their reading levels? Do you want to rotate themes throughout the year to supplement your lesson plans?

What kind of seating will you have? A large rug, bean bags and chairs are good options. How much space do you have available, and how many students will fit? Having a separate set of learning materials for each student is ideal; but if they must share, you generally want to limit groups to no more than 3.

What listening technology will you use? You can opt for books on CD, MP3 players, ipods, or an interactive audio learning set.

Interactive Audio Learning Set

How will you keep items organized? It’s best to clearly label books, buttons and learning materials. An interactive learning product like the PENpal Audio Recorder Pen allows teachers and students to record messages onto stickers with recordable labels, so your listening center can be fully customized.

Gather Your Listening Center Supplies

Now that you have a materials list for your center, it’s time to gather the supplies! Let parents know about your plan, and ask them to donate cash or supplies. Families may have unused MP3 players or ipods at home, as well as rugs, bean bag chairs and storage bins. You may want to implement a BYOHP (Bring Your Own Head Phones) policy for your students.

Check if any materials can be borrowed from your school and local libraries, or create a classroom project donation request on donorschoose.org and ask parents to promote it on social media.

It may be a good idea to team up with other teachers of the same grade level, to create a shared listening center. While this cooperative method comes with additional scheduling and maintenance concerns, it eases the initial burden of fundraising for any one classroom. And remember, it’s ok to start your Listening Center small, and build over time!

Do you have an outstanding Listening Center at your school? Comment below and share what makes it so great!

“Audio Book” by Jeff Golden via Flickr is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 https://flic.kr/p/88og6h

Language Lizard is co-sponsoring a Listening Center giveaway… Enter below by January 14, 2017 for a chance to win!

The Somali Language: Interesting Facts & Resources

Somali books and language

Today’s spotlight language is Somali! We offer some background information and interesting facts about the language, as well as help finding children’s books in Somali.  Interested in learning about other languages as well?  Check out our series of posts on world languages, including Spanish, Nepali, Hindi, Russian and Japanese!

Where is Somali spoken?

Somali is a part of the Afro-Asiatic language family. Somali is spoken by an estimated 16 million people around the world. It’s the official language of Somalia, with several regional dialects, and is also spoken in nearby countries, like Kenya and Ethiopia.

How Many People Speak Somali in the US?

According to the most recent 2010 US Census data, there are about 100,000 Somali immigrants in the US. There are large Somali speaking populations in Minnesota, Ohio, Washington, California, and Washington, DC.

Interesting Facts About Somali

There are multiple writing systems used to express the Somali language, including Arabic, Wadaad and Osmanya.

The Somali language has 20 distinct vowel sounds. It is spoken with three different tones (high, low and falling) that indicate things like gender and number.

Somali has been influenced linguistically by other languages, like English, Italian and Arabic.

Somali Books – Bilingual Children’s Books

If you interact with children who speak Somali, or are learning the language, you may want suggestions on some of the best bilingual Somali kids books and audio books.  Many engaging and popular stories with text in both English and the Somali language are available, including Handa’s Surprise, the Very Hungry Caterpillar, Hansel and Gretel and Pandora’s Box.  There are also Somali book sets that allow for interactive learning via a special Recorder Pen, audio books and an interactive Somali picture dictionary.

Do you speak Somali, or are you learning the language? Comment below and share your interesting language facts!

 

“Aerial views of Kismayo 07” by AMISOM Public Information via Flickr is licensed under CC0 1.0 Universal https://flic.kr/p/dieWvg 

One-Person-One-Language (OPOL): Raising Bilingual Children

family holding hands

One of the most popular ways to raise a child bilingually is by using the OPOL approach – One Person, One Language. It seems to be one of the easiest ways for children to distinguish between languages, because they become aware that they should speak a different language with different people.

Using our family as an example: I am a native English speaker and my husband is a native Italian speaker. We live in Italy and both speak each other’s language, however not to a native level. We have two children aged two and four years old. We have spoken with our children in our own native languages from the start to give them the best chance of becoming bilingual early on.

OPOL vs MLAH approach with language exposure

MLAH (Minority Language at Home) is another common approach to raising bilingual children. This is where one language is spoken within the home, and the other out in the community. With this approach, both languages seem to have the same amount of exposure.

With the OPOL approach, most of the time one language is lacking in exposure, the minority language. Therefore, it is extremely important that the parent who speaks the minority language sticks to it quite strictly to make it work. It is not always as easy as it sounds.

We live in Italy, the community language is Italian, therefore I am the only exposure to English my children have. It would be quite easy for me to switch to the community language, however I never speak with my children in Italian, only English. It can be quite difficult sometimes in public. There are some people who stare, or ask why I am speaking English with them when we live in an Italian community. I try my best to make my children feel comfortable enough to speak back with me in English, no matter where we are, and who we are with.

Consistency plays a key role in the language learning process

If parents are not consistent using only one language speaking to their child, there is a risk that your child will become confused. Although my husband and I mix languages between ourselves, we speak ONLY our native languages with our children. They learned from very early on, who they should speak with, in which language. They know they are expected to respond to us in the language we speak with them. They are so used to it now in fact, that if I “joke” and say something in Italian, they usually laugh at me and get embarrassed because it doesn’t seem right.

Yes, it can be difficult when having family conversations

Using the OPOL approach means conversations at home can become quite “interesting” at times. With each parent speaking a different language, the children are forced to mix between languages in one conversation.

When we are eating a meal together or playing together as a family at home, there is a mix between Italian and English spoken between us all. The one thing that stays consistent though, is that when addressing my children I only speak English, and my husband only Italian, even if we speak a mix of the languages with each other.

If we are with other Italian family members who do not speak English, I stay consistent speaking with my children in English, even if others cannot understand what I am saying. This is where consistency can become difficult, as some people can feel like they are left out of the conversation. When this is the case, I sometimes translate for them, what I have said to my child.

What about adding a third language?

The OPOL approach can also work when raising your children with three languages, it just means a “third person.” Our children are learning Spanish as a third language. We have a “playmate” named Ana who comes to spend time with them. Before she started, we explained our family situation and she has been following the same approach. She speaks only Spanish with our children, and they are expected to respond in Spanish just as they do with us in English and Italian. It was quite amazing watching them take to it so easily.

Is OPOL the only way to go?

Of course this approach isn’t for every family. Before deciding on an approach to follow with your children, it is best to assess your situation, what languages are spoken, by whom, and to which level. Then work out your family language goal choosing an approach to suit.

If OPOL works for you then that’s great. If not, you can always use it as a good foundation and adapt the approach to suit your family goals.

Good luck!

Chontelle Bonfiglio is an Australian mother of two bilingual children. She is a certified ESL Teacher, Blogger, and Creator of  Bilingual Kidspot, a website for parents raising bilingual or multilingual children.

Help your children build literacy in more than one language with bilingual books for kids available at Language Lizard!

Celebrate Diversity! #CelebrateDiversity

holding handsAfter this divisive and polarizing election season, one thing is clear: Now more than ever, we need to celebrate the diversity in our nation and our communities.

“I can imagine nothing more terrifying than an Eternity filled with men who were all the same. The only thing which has made life bearable…has been the diversity of creatures on the surface of the globe.”  – T.H. White

It is clear that some of the rhetoric during this campaign encouraged an ignorance about various ethnic groups and religions.  It also empowered white-supremacists and gave a voice to those who exploit minorities, as is evidenced by the increase in hate crimes and racist incidents since the election. This must be rejected and battled at every turn.

Nelson Mandela said, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”  We need to use our knowledge to educate people about different cultures and beliefs. We need to show them the beauty of a diverse society; the strength we derive when we all work together to solve problems. We need to support those who are struggling and fearful, and show them that they are valued, appreciated and heard.

Join us as we launch our non-partisan campaign to Celebrate Diversity!

What can you do?

  • Share your thoughts and ideas on our blog, or via Facebook and Twitter with the hashtag #CelebrateDiversity.
  • Post your beautiful images of diversity on Instagram. Share your videos about diversity on YouTube.
  • When you need encouragement, look at the images and ideas that others have shared.

Celebrate Diversity – Resources

For ideas on celebrating diversity, and teaching children about other ethnicities, religions and cultures, take a look at some of our ideas on the subject, and share your own with us!

How are you educating others about diverse religions and cultures? How are you supporting children (and adults) who are anxious and fearful about their future?

“#68 A Pair of Hands – Holding Hands” by RichardBH via Flickr is licensed under CC BY 2.0 https://flic.kr/p/fAn6w8

Branching Out: Idioms & Language Learners

idioms in many languagesLearning a new language is hard work – definitely no walk in the park! As a teacher, parent or student, you may find yourself so busy with the basics of vocabulary, pronunciation and grammar that you’re hesitant to add any more work. But idioms – sayings with a shared meaning in a community, which aren’t decipherable from their words alone – are an important part of language learning, too. Read on for some helpful tips to “pave the way” to learning idioms in a new language.

Why are Idioms Important to Language Learners?

The English language has thousands (maybe even tens of thousands) of idioms, so there’s a significant amount of day-to-day communication that can be conducted through idioms. Without lessons in local idioms, communicating effectively can be that much more difficult for a language learner.

For older students, especially, learning idioms can be one of the most fun parts of learning a new language. It also helps them get a better sense of the spirit of the community, and understand what that culture values most.

Tips to Teach Idioms

You’ll want to start by choosing a handful of idioms to explore with your language learners. Make your choices based on the most likely social scenarios they will find themselves in, according to their age and development level.

Make lessons fun by using idioms in sample sentences, and asking students to guess their meanings from their context. You may want to include pictures that illustrate when and how the idioms would be used.

Remember to have students practice how to use each idiom properly, since this type of communication can very nuanced. It’s best to teach idioms verbally, and have students practice by role playing.

What are you favorite idioms, in English or another language? Comment and share below!

 

Spanish Language & Spanish Children’s Books: Facts, Figures & Resources

Spanish countryside

Today’s spotlight language is Spanish! We offer some background information and interesting facts about the language, as well as help finding children’s books in Spanish.  Interested in learning about other languages as well?  Check out our series of posts on world languages, including French, Hindi, Russian and Japanese!

Where is it spoken?

Spanish is spoken by an estimated 560 million people around the world. It’s the official language of Spain and Mexico, as well as 20 other countries. It is the second most commonly used language in the world.

How Many People Speak Spanish in the US?

According to the most recent Instituto Cervantes data, there are about 41 million native Spanish speakers in the US, and another 11 million who are bilingual. There are large Spanish speaking populations in New Mexico, California, Texas and Arizona. There are currently more Spanish speakers in the US than in Spain. In fact, only Mexico surpasses the US in terms of number of Spanish speakers!

Interesting Facts About Spanish

In some parts of the world, Spanish is referred to as “español” or “castellano.”

The rolled “r” sound is one of the most challenging aspects of learning to speak Spanish.

In many Spanish speaking countries, when greeting informally, it’s common to kiss on each cheek.

Spanish Books – Bilingual Children’s Books

If the kids in your life speak Spanish, or are learning the language, you may want suggestions on some of the best bilingual Spanish kids books and audio books.  Many engaging and popular stories with text in both English and the Spanish language are available, including Lima’s Red Hot Chilli , Goldilocks and the Three Bears, The Three Billy Goats Gruff and The Giant Turnip.  There are also book sets that allow for interactive learning via a special Talking Pen, audio books and an interactive Spanish picture dictionary.

Do you speak Spanish, or are you learning the language? Comment below and share your interesting language facts!

“SPAIN” by Willy Verhulst via Flickr is licensed under CC BY 2.0 https://flic.kr/p/AmJNgj

Big Giveaway! Win Multicultural Children’s Resources for Celebrating the Bilingual Child Month

celebrate-bilingual-child-month

ENTER GIVEAWAY NOW! (click here)

In honor of Celebrating the Bilingual Child Month, Language Lizard is giving away hundreds of dollars worth of language learning materials!

Celebrating the Bilingual Child Month was established in 2006 to recognize the many children that speak two or more languages and understand multiple cultures. We want to encourage literacy and parental involvement, while celebrating the children who work so hard to learn a second language.

Teachers can check out our blog post for 10 ideas for how to celebrate bilingual children in the classroom.

The multicultural children’s books and audio resources offered in this giveaway will engage and inspire teachers and students in their continued language learning!

PENpal Audio Recorder Pen Bilingual Book Set

A grand prize winner will receive an interactive literacy set that includes bilingual books, an illustrated dictionary and the award-winning PENpal Audio Recorder Pen, valued at over $200. Sets are available in English with a choice of Arabic, Bengali, Chinese, French, Haitian-Creole, Hindi, Panjabi, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Somali, Spanish, Turkish, Urdu, Vietnamese and more.  Runners up will win a surprise “basket of books” in their choice of languages.

Find more info and enter the giveaway today! Last day for entry is November 12, 2016.

“Happy Time” by David Amsler via Flickr is licensed under CC BY 2.0 https://flic.kr/p/btpFXa

We’re linking up with other educational bloggers to bring you fun ideas and a great giveaway too!

November 2016 Rafflecopter

a Rafflecopter giveaway

5 Fun & Easy Ways to Celebrate Diversity

celebrate-diversity

It’s always a great time to celebrate diversity in your classroom and home, but October is special because it’s also Celebrating the Bilingual Child Month! Language Lizard will soon announce a huge giveaway in honor of the occasion… In the meantime, we offer 5 fun and easy ways to celebrate diversity today!

Foods from Around the World

pizza-heartTrying out a new dish from a different part of the world is delicious, fun and educational – a sure win! You might love trying a bit of Gulab Jamun from India, or some Udon from Japan. Give these international foods a try, and get a taste of life in another land.

International Crafts

mid-autumn festival lantern diversity craft

Bring cultural diversity and international flavor to your classroom with these five easy kid crafts inspired by multicultural traditions. The best part? They can all be made with materials you probably already have. Plus, they involve minimal mess and are simple enough for most kids to complete on their own.

Language Learning with Music

bilingual music activities

Children love music and singing. There is something magical about words being set to a melody that make children perk up and join in. Since most children’s songs consist of catchy beats and poetry-infused lyrics, it is a perfect combination of rhythm, rhyme and fun.

An added benefit to children’s songs is that they are often easy to learn. The short, repetitive sentences lend themselves to easy memorization and retention. What better way to learn words in context than to sing them out loud? Children don’t even realize how much their language skills are improving while joining in the singing fun.

Games and Bilingual Storybooks

variety of booksExploring a new language or culture through fun games and activities makes so much sense! We learn better when we’re having fun and not putting too much pressure on ourselves to retain information. Take a look at ten great game ideas that make use of the bilingual storybooks you already have in your library – or are hoping to add – and get ready to have lots of fun while you’re learning!

Multicultural Holidays & Vacations

child-holding-wrapped-gift1We all know first-hand that getting students to engage in conversations works best when they are inspired and excited about the topic.  This is particularly true of bilingual students, especially those who may still be mastering the community language. What better way to get your bilingual students talking with you and one another? Their minds are so full of wonderful memories of holidays and vacations past, they will most likely want to share as much as possible. We have tips to help your students direct their holiday and vacation excitement into fun language opportunities.

What are you favorite ways to celebrate diversity in your classroom and family? Comment below and share!

 

“Kids Talk” by victoria harjadi via Flickr is licensed under CC BY 2.0 https://flic.kr/p/a29EsL

“PizzaHeart” by Anderson Mancini via flickr is licensed under CC BY 2.0 https://flic.kr/p/5E43fe

“Preschool Song” by PROcaseywest via flickr is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 https://flic.kr/p/81QRSX

Supporting Dual Language Learners and Bringing Multiculturism to the Classroom!