Back-to-school sales line the aisles of supermarkets and drug stores; children roam department stores picking out new fall clothes; and parents rush around with check-lists of items their children will need in the coming weeks and months.
Yes, the school year is about to begin.
For bilingual children, this time of year may feel a little daunting, especially for those who will be starting school for the very first time. In addition to all of the feelings that many students face on their first day of school (nervousness about what the teacher may be like, excitement about meeting new friends, concerns about what will be expected), bilingual children may have additional worries: Will they fit it? Will their English language skills be up to par. Will they understand everything that the teacher says? Will other students make fun of them because of their accent?
For teachers who are not used to working with bilingual children, there may be an assumption that to help these bilingual children feel comfortable in the classroom they will need extra attention. This may very well be the case, but if it is not done with care it can backfire. A bilingual child who already feels out of place may feel even more so if a teacher ends up giving him too much special attention. What a bilingual child may want the most is to have the chance to fit in and to be just like everyone else, not singled out due to special circumstances.
Continue reading 5 Tips to Help Bilingual Children Shine in the Classroom
It’s free, it’s fun and it’s in your language: bilingual story time!
Across the United States libraries offer story times in a myriad of languages based on the demands of the community: Spanish, Russian, Gujarati, French, Japanese… just to name a few! Children sit wide-eyed in awe as an adult reads to them in their own language: Amazing! Someone other than my parents can speak and read my language – how exciting!
The only problem with story time for many children is that it is often targeted toward preschoolers and takes place in the middle of the day. What about school-age children? Wouldn’t they benefit from a bilingual story time as well?
Bilingual children in particular would benefit greatly from a bilingual story time in their school. Not only would such a story time offer children who speak the same language the chance to gather, it would help with literacy, cultural appreciation and a sense of community. As we discussed in Dual Language Books Benefit Bilingual Children, contrary to popular belief, reading out loud to children in their native languages does not negatively impact their English language literacy. In fact, it can help strengthen it in many ways.
Continue reading Bilingual Story Time at Your School Library
Bilinguals around the world will tell you that they do not have the same degree of fluency in all of their languages. A language that is used primarily in academic situations may come across as stiff and stilted when used in less formal situations. Family issues are often more easily discussed in a home language. Depending on where we live when our first child is born, we may only know the vocabulary for baby items in one language and find the same discussions difficult when visiting family in our country of origin. The concept of a “balanced bilingual” is rarely a reality in the world of multilingualism.
Despite this, we very easily fall into the trap of believing that bilingual children are the exception to the rule. We have come to expect that they should have equal mastery of both of their languages. However, just as with adults, a child’s level of linguistic ability will differ depending on situation and language. For example, it may be difficult for a bilingual child to recount events in a home language that took place in the school language. Words, phrases and meanings used in a school setting are not necessarily used in the home language. Continue reading Dual Language Books Benefit Bilingual Children
By guest author: Heather Leaman
Schools and families have acknowledged the importance of extending children’s learning beyond an understanding of our country to include an understanding of the world. While social studies is an ideal school subject to help children understand the world around them, many schools have significantly reduced their social studies instruction due in part to the influence of No Child Left Behind.
However, reducing class time for social studies instruction does not mean that teachers must eliminate instruction about our world for elementary school children. There are outstanding tools available for teaching social studies in tandem with instruction in reading, writing and math. In addition, there are many activities parents and families can engage in at home to supplement their children’s social studies education. Dual language books are an ideal example of a tool that can be used to introduce children to their world and to initiate deeper learning. Continue reading A Child’s Place in the World – PART II: Using dual language books to initiate social studies learning at home and at school
According to the US Census Bureau, over 20% of the US population is of “foreign stock” – that is, they are either foreign-born or have at least one parent who was born in another country. In 2000, 47 million people in the United States spoke a non-English language at home, an increase of over 45% in just one decade. The number of native-born Americans with close ties to another country is expected to grow even more over the next few decades.
While these demographic changes present many challenges for educators, they also offer terrific opportunities to teach children about our world. Rather than trying to “Americanize” the ethnic community, we should make efforts to better involve English-as-a-second-language (ESL) students and bilingual families in the classroom by encouraging them to share their language and culture. Continue reading Expand a Child’s World: Involving bilingual families and English language learners in the classroom and at home.