Category Archives: classroom

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

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!

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!

 

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

3 Steps to Build a Lending Library in Your Classroom

classroom bilingual lending libraryHave you ever considered creating a lending library in your classroom? They can be an especially great resource for bilingual students and their families. When students see books in their home languages, it can be comforting and a source of pride, and can encourage acceptance of diversity in all of your students. A classroom lending library can inspire a love of reading in students, and increase parental involvement.

In the past, we’ve written posts about the increasing need for multicultural libraries in diverse communities, and the importance of building a comprehensive personal library at home.  Below, we offer some helpful tips when building your classroom lending library.

It’s OK to Start Small

set of 10 bilingual children's books

A complete classroom lending library may consist of a few hundred books, but don’t feel intimidated by that number! It’s OK to start small and slowly build your collection over time. You may also want to ask parents to donate books to the classroom library.

Mix it Up! Offer a Variety

selection of bilingual children's books

An effective lending library is one that appeals to students with varied interests and reading levels. A general guideline to follow is to make sure that about 25% of the books are one or two reading levels below the current grade, and another 25% are one or two reading levels above. Offer a balanced selection of fiction and nonfiction, in topics your students are enthusiastic about: food, animals, sports, or TV and movie characters.

Spread the Word – Get Families Involved!

Once students know about the lending library, you want to inform parents as well. An email or letter sent home can introduce the library’s purpose, explain the rules for its use, invite book donations, and encourage family members to borrow books. Bilingual families will also appreciate knowing that you have books in diverse languages, so be sure to include that in your letter.

Have you seen an outstanding classroom library? Comment below and share your ideas!

“Reading Helps Your Mind Bloom” by Enokson via Flickr is licensed under CC BY 2.0 https://flic.kr/p/7YDJem

 

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

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Newcomer Toolkit: Supporting New Immigrant Students

newcomer toolkit

In the past, we’ve written about online resources that can help educators trying to accommodate an increasingly diverse student population, as well as tips to make the critical first days of school go more smoothly for bilingual students in your classroom.

Today, we take a look at the US Department of Education’s recently updated, detailed Newcomer Toolkit, designed to help educators (teachers, principals and school staff) working with foreign-born students who have recently arrived in the US. In addition to providing general background information like correct terminology, census data and the many contributions of immigrants to our society,  the toolkit offers a wealth of additional resources and extensive chapters on a wide array of topics.

Welcoming Newcomers

We know it’s crucial to create a safe and inclusive environment for new immigrant students arriving at your school. The Toolkit’s second chapter provides guidance on the most effective ways to communicate with parents of newcomers, so they understand their children’s rights, as well as the way your school operates. There is a close look at developing a safe and supportive framework at your school that includes engagement through strong relationships, safety from bullying and other dangers, and creating an environment with appropriate facilities and disciplinary policies.

Provide High Quality Instruction

This chapter in the Toolkit is focused on ways to identify and build on a student’s strengths, and how to help each student reach his/her full potential. Some highlights are addressing common misconceptions about newcomers, and helping the entire school community appreciate the unique global view that newcomers can contribute.

Social Emotional Needs

In the fourth chapter, the importance of addressing a newcomer’s social and emotional needs is examined. Strategies that are specific to teachers, other students, an entire classroom, and the whole school are discussed. There is also a look at the most common social emotional stressors newcomers face.

Partnering with Families

The final chapter of the Toolkit looks at the importance of collaborating with the families of newcomers. You can learn about the 4 stages of parent involvement (survivor, learner, connector and leader), and how each type requires a different approach.

Another section is dedicated to the role of the Parent Center, where families can connect with each other, and parents can feel safe seeking answers from a volunteer or staff member.

The Toolkit is not only a detailed guide for educators working with newcomers and their families, it also offers a wealth of further online resources within, and at the end of, each chapter.  We strongly recommend this Toolkit as an important resource for all educators working with newcomers.

What outstanding resources does your school offer families that have newly arrived in the US? Share them below!

“Classroom” by Allison Meier via Flickr is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 https://flic.kr/p/5KRnrx

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

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Supporting Oral Language Development in the Classroom & At Home

supporting oral language development

The process of language development in children is an amazing one, and full of so much complexity. Here, we offer 5 fun activity ideas that can help the oral language development of the kids in your home or classroom.

Oral Language and Literacy

So much of language is learned in the early years of life, simply by listening to and interacting with those around us. As time goes by, our oral language skills improve through practice and formal instruction. Oral language is made up of three parts: phonological (how sounds are combined), semantic (the smallest components of words), and syntactic (how sentences are put together).

Literacy begins with good oral language skills. In a classroom setting, it may feel counter-intuitive for a teacher to allow students more time to talk in groups, but there are a number of advantages to doing so. They gain valuable practice with new vocabulary, enhance conversational proficiency, and improve their ability to express their ideas. Also, kids often feel more relaxed when speaking to their peers because they aren’t so worried about giving the “wrong” answer.  As such, they are more open to absorbing and learning from what’s being discussed, in turn improving their overall language skills.

Activities for Oral Language Development

No matter the type of activity, keep these guidelines in mind when planning:

  • Keep the activity free from anxiety by creating a positive environment to limit the fear of embarrassment.
  • Provide clear instructions, possibly in different formats, so that all learning types can understand what’s expected.
  • Keep activities engaging by introducing fun or dramatic elements.
  • Lastly, remember that kids will need lots of repetition to practice their oral language skills.

Here are 5 activity ideas, from our post about language development in the classroom:

  • Mini Circle Chats:  Have your students sit in circles of 4 or 5. Give them a list of fun questions that encourage more than single-word answers. Let students know that they can engage in discussions together so they can talk about similarities and differences.  If you have a very diverse classroom, ensure that each circle includes a mix of cultures.
  • Word Play: Ask students to write 5-10 words (in any language). Have each student share one of their words with the class, and ask the student to explain why he or she chose to write down that word. Does it represent a feeling or an event that took place?
  • Memory Drawings: Have students draw their favorite memories, then share with the rest of the class, explaining the different elements of their picture. Or, spread out a long piece of paper and have students draw their memories at the same time on a wall mural. When the time is up, hang the mural up on the wall and let everyone spend a good amount of time looking at it up close and talking about it. Eventually you can have the students sit down on the floor in front of the mural and talk as a group about what they see and what thoughts come to their minds.
  • Multicultural Traditions:  Have students sit together in a circle to share one of their cultural or family traditions. Then ask others in the circle if they also participate in the tradition with their family and if so, whether or not they celebrate it in the same way. Help students notice that not everyone has the same traditions, and that even the same traditions can be celebrated in different ways.

Differentiated Instruction

For those times when group or peer interaction isn’t realistic, an individualized learning tool like the PENpal Audio Recorder Pen can be invaluable in providing the differentiated instruction needed to help teachers reach every student, of all skill levels, in an effective way. Free video and print resources on the Language Lizard website help educators and parents use the Talking Pen to effectively develop and assess oral language skills, as well as build fluency and improve phonemic awareness with their students.

 

“Girl Talk” by Dean Wissing via Flickr is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 https://flic.kr/p/6r3SmY

 

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Nepali Language & Nepali Books: Facts, Figures and Resources

nepali books spotlight languageToday’s spotlight language is Nepali. Below, we offer background and interesting facts about the language, as well as information to help you find Nepali books.

Where is it spoken?

Nepali is the official language of Nepal, a country in South Asia. It is also spoken in Bhutan, Burma (Republic of the Union of Myanmar), and India. There are about 17 million Nepali speakers around the world.

map of nepal nepali books bilingual childrens books

How Many People Speak Nepali in the US?

There are relatively large Nepalese communities in New York, California and Texas. According to the US Census Bureau’s most recent estimates in 2014, over 120,000 people in the US identify as Nepalese. Of these, about 25,000 are school-aged children.

Interesting Facts About Nepali

In the past, Nepali was called the Khas language and Gorkhali.

One of the most well known words in Nepali is “namaste,” which means hello. It is usually spoken with a slight bow and palms pressed together. It can be used as a greeting or a goodbye. A more casual greeting is “Tik chha,” which means “How are you?”

Nepali Books – Bilingual Children’s Books

Teachers frequently ask for suggestions on some of the best bilingual Nepali books for children.   Here are some popular and engaging stories with text in both English and the Nepali language as well as a Nepali English dictionary for children.

Do you speak Nepali, or know someone who does? Comment below and share your interesting language facts!

 

“Nepal – Evening lights at Bhaktapur” by Dhilung Kirat via Flickr is licensed under CC BY 2.0 https://flic.kr/p/6gHdSS

“Nepal-map-blank” By CIA World fact book (Image:Nepal-CIA_WFB_Map.png) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3ANepal-map-blank.png

Promoting Differentiated Instruction & Inclusiveness using Interactive Technology and Bilingual Audio Books

differentiated instruction and inclusiveness in the classroomIf a classroom were a puzzle, the students in it would be its pieces. Each piece would have its own shape, or learning style; its own size, or level of readiness. Teachers are trying to reach every student in an effective way with a finite amount of resources. More educators are looking to differentiated instruction and inclusiveness to help them achieve these goals. New technology, like the PENpal Audio Recorder Pen, along with interactive bilingual literacy sets, are helping teachers customize content specifically to their students’ needs.

What is Differentiated Instruction?

The concept of differentiated instruction has its roots in old-fashioned, one-room schoolhouses, where students of all ages were taught in a single classroom. Individualized, guided support and instructions are provided to children with different ability levels.  Differentiated instruction can help teachers:
  • meet rigorous standards
  • focus on essential skills in different content areas
  • incorporate assessment into instruction
  • provide students with multiple avenues to learning
  • respond to individual student needs

What is Inclusion?

Inclusion means that all learners have access to learning, so there are no barriers due to inequality, inferiority or discrimination. It promotes a sense of belonging on the part of each student in the classroom. Inclusion means that everyone is accepted, despite their differences.

Using Technology to Promote Differentiated Instruction and Inclusiveness

Teachers must cover a wide range of subjects in a short amount of time, so they can’t afford to teach content at a slower pace. The use of appropriate technology can simultaneously provide support to students who need scaffolding, and enrichment to students in need of extra challenges. The result: students who are more engaged in the classroom.
Bilingual literacy sets, available in many languages, along with the PENpal Audio Recorder Pen, can help teachers develop and assess oral language development, build fluency and improve phonemic awareness, and support parental involvement. Teachers can customize content specifically to their students’ needs with both English and home-language resources. For example, a classroom with Spanish and Russian speaking students could include English-Spanish Audio Books and English-Russian Audio Books that students can use with the PENpal, either in class or at home.

PENpal resources can help teachers achieve differentiated instruction and inclusiveness in their classrooms in many ways:

  • Provide step-­by-­step instructions for Learning Centers.
  • Students record the telling of a story, add sound effects, narrate a character’s thoughts or imagined conversation between characters.
  • Provide narration in different languages and record support for homework.
  • Record messages or questions for parents, who can record their responses in English or their home language.
  • Use the PENpal as a multi­-sensory spelling tool by having students record the word they are spelling, and the phonemes or graphemes that make up the word.
  • Use as an assessment tool by keeping all recordings as evidence of a student’s progress.
  • Narrate storyboards in preparation for storytelling/story writing/drama exercises.  Record dialogue between characters and document additional information, such as length of scene, props, or characters.
  • Create interactive wall displays.
  • Audio­-enhance flashcards.

Don’t forget to check out our comprehensive and informative collection of videos for even more ideas on how the PENpal can foster English language learner (ELL) language development in the classroom and at home.

 

 “Niños de Tilcara saliendo del cole” by (M) via Flickr is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 https://flic.kr/p/2SqBe3

Educational Resources for Student Immigrants, Refugees

bilingual resources for student immigrants, refugeesThe number of immigrant and refugee children has increased over the past decade, and is now the fastest-growing segment in the US youth population. These students face many challenges when adapting to a new life in the US: culture shock, making friends, and learning a new language, just to name a few.  All too often, schools lack the resources to research the best ways to help these students, and miss out on methods developed by other districts that have faced similar issues. Below are some online resources that can help educators trying to accommodate an increasingly diverse student population.

Refugee or Immigrant?

An immigrant is “someone who chooses to resettle to another country.” For example, a foreign national who is issued a visa to live and work permanently in the US via a legal process to attain citizenship.

A refugee is “someone who has been forced to flee his or her home country.” Refugees apply for asylum in the US, and must prove that they will be injured if they return to their home country due to their race, religion, nationality, social group or political opinion.

How to Prepare Your Classroom

New York’s Bureau of Refugee and Immigrant Assistance offers a straightforward guide with tips to prepare your classroom for new immigrant and refugee students. The tips include discussing the advantages of having students from around the world in the classroom, showing on a map where the students are from, and how far they have traveled, and the importance of watching out for signals that newcomers are being bullied, since many refugee students won’t voluntary speak up about these issues.

The US Department of Education has a website dedicated to “Educational Resources for Immigrants, Refugees, Asylees and other New Americans.” There, you can find the latest news and guides that focus on the importance of integrating newcomers into the classroom community. You can also find resources like a toolkit for school districts serving English language learners, and services for unaccompanied children.

Welcome & Orient Newcomers

To help smooth the transition for newcomers arriving at a new school, create a welcome process for teachers, administrators and students. Include a school ambassador program, where newcomers are paired with a “buddy” who is a trained peer, and try to integrate information about the new student’s culture and country into your classroom routines. Or, find appropriate activities to keep the new student engaged in learning while their English skills are still developing.

Reach out to Parents

The Center for Health and Health Care in Schools offers a detailed guide that focuses on the importance of successfully engaging the parents of immigrant and refugee students. It gives many ways to partner with those families, and reminds us that “refugee parents resettled here for their children. They are fully invested in their children’s future.” Some tips include having regular meetings with families that include bilingual support, food and childcare.

All children go through a transition period when first entering school. Immigrant and refugee children, in particular, need clear and dedicated support from their schools. By doing this right from the beginning, the year is sure to progress more smoothly and comfortably for everyone in the classroom.

 

“I <3 2 read” by Kate Ter Haar via Flickr licensed under CC BY 2.0 https://flic.kr/p/dRpekF

This blog post is linked with the monthly iTeachBilinguals linkup. Be sure to check out other bloggers’ tips, teaching strategies, and resources!