Category Archives: Schools

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

 

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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

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Teaching Tolerance in Turbulent Times

many hands together
It may feel like every time you turn on the TV or check your Facebook or Twitter feed, you are inundated with news of yet another violent tragedy in some part of the world. Terrorist attacks and political upheaval seem to be the norm now, not the exception. We are all asking ourselves what can be done to stop the endless stream of violence. A crucial step is one that is closest to us: one of the most important, immediate ways to create a better, safer future is to raise children with tolerance in their hearts.

Changes in Immigration

Recent terrorist attacks have brought ISIS, radical Islam and immigration to the forefront of discussion, at home and in the political arena. Countries around the world are trying to figure out the best way to strike at the heart of the matter to prevent future terrorist attacks. The recent passage of Brexit in the UK is evidence that many people fear immigration, without fully understanding the complexity of the issue. One example in particular is the disturbing trend of people not distinguishing between “Muslims” and “Islamic terrorists.” This leads to a host of fears, animosity, and disparaging talk that are counterproductive in a country and educational system as diverse as ours.

Honest & Age-Appropriate Conversations

As parents and teachers, it’s tempting to think of these issues as grown-up problems. We’d like to think our kids are oblivious to such serious, frightening and overwhelming problems. But in reality, those little ears pick up much more than we realize, from conversations between parents or from other kids on the playground. Children do not always understand the impact of what they are saying on those around them, and can benefit from discussions with adults to help them dig below the surface of what they hear.
With such intense media coverage and the inevitable conversations, debates or even arguments that result from it, we can’t leave our kids to draw their own conclusions, or pick up whatever is being passed around by their peers. Children, and ultimately all of society, benefit from honest, age-appropriate communication with the trusted adults in their lives.

Important Learning Opportunities

Look at these conversations as a chance to get a clear understanding of what kids are hearing, and how that makes them feel.
  • Discuss tolerance and the beauty of diversity in our society.
  • Teach lessons of empathy and caring. Talk about why refugees and other immigrants come to this country. Imagine the challenges of starting life in a new country. Discuss how children might feel who are part of the religious groups that are being vilified.
  • For older kids, have fact-based discussions in the classroom about gun control and immigration reform. Just be sure to set ground rules first that eliminate hateful speech from discussions, so students in a diverse classroom won’t feel threatened.

Online Resources about Tolerance & Diversity

Here are just a few of the many online resources available to help you in these discussions:

Some Quotes to Inspire Tolerance

The highest result of education is tolerance. – Helen Keller
Laws alone can not secure freedom of expression; in order that every man present his views without penalty there must be spirit of tolerance in the entire population. – Albert Einstein

Could a greater miracle take place than for us to look through each other’s eyes for an instant? – Henry David Thoreau

School diversity many hands held together” by Wonder woman0731 via Flickr is licensed under CC BY 2.0 https://flic.kr/p/J5Ys9N

 

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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

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PENpal Audio Recorder Pen: Tap & Listen to Bilingual Books & Recordable Labels

PENpal Audio Voice Recorder Pen Bilingual Childrens Books and LabelsLanguage Lizard is proud to announce the PENpal Audio Recorder Pen The pen that’s bringing sound to paper!

What is PENpal?

An award-winning digital audio “pen” that promotes reading, speaking and listening for a diverse student population.  PENpal supports dIfferentiated instruction and inclusiveness.

  • Listen to content in many languages by simply touching the pen to interactive books, charts, labels and other learning resources.  
  • Record your own narrative, music or sound effects with Recordable Labels.

What can you do with PENpal and Recordable Labels?

  • Download hundreds of pre-recorded sound files (for free) to turn many of our bilingual picture books into “talking books.”  
  • Animate any object with sound.
  • Allow students to record, save, and playback their own recordings.
  • Customize resources for children with special needs.
  • Record instructions for students, role play, story tell.
  • Send home with parents to support home literacy partnerships.
  • The possibilities are endless!

Who is it for?

The PENpal Audio Recorder Pen, along with our multilingual resources, supports reading, writing, speaking and listening for:

  • English Language Learners
  • New arrivals from foreign countries
  • Foreign language learners
  • Learners with special needs
  • Any student in need of an inclusive resource that develops literacy skills

PENpal is interactive, enjoyable and effective!

Record your own voice with Recordable Labels

  • Animate any object with sound
  • Record language, music, messages or sound effects
  • Change recordings any time
  • Record instructions for students, role play, story tell
  • Allow students to record, save, and playback their own recordings

PENpal Interactive Literacy Sets

Exclusive PENpal Interactive Literacy Sets in many languages are an amazing way to support Dual Language Learners! Language Lizard offers an extensive selection of literacy sets that include the PENpal Audio Recorder Pen along with our award-winning bilingual “talking books”.
PENpal Interactive Literacy Sets are available in Arabic, Bengali, Chinese, French, Haitian-Creole, Hindi, Lithuanian, Panjabi, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Somali, Spanish, Turkish, Urdu, Vietnamese and more! Books with sound files are available in about 40 languages.

STARTER SETS in your choice of language

  • PENpal Audio Recorder Pen
  • 4 bilingual books in your choice of language
  • A sample set of Recordable Stickers
  • A beautifully illustrated picture dictionary (optional)
  • USB charger, 4GB SD card and rechargeable batteries

ENHANCED SETS with 10 bilingual books and everything included in the starter sets!

SUPER SETS with 20 bilingual books! (available in limited languages)

Other Great PENpal Products

  • Special Literacy & Phonics Sets
  • Dictionary & PENpal Sets
  • Multilingual Key Phrases Chart
  • Various Charts & Posters to Support Language Acquisition
  • Phonetic Magnets
  • Student & Teacher Recordable Labels
  • Oral Progress Reading Charts for Student Assessment

See our full range of PENpal products and exclusive sets

Get comprehensive PENpal FAQs, videos and support

10 Ways Mainstream Teachers Can Accommodate English Language Learners (ELLs) in the Classroom

Bilingual ELL students in mainstream classroomTeachers and parents of bilingual children face many challenges. Whether it’s creating a sense of community in a diverse classroom, or finding creative ways to use multicultural resources, helping a student learn a new language requires a multi-faceted approach.

Because of a nationwide shortage of bilingual teachers, many ELL students are placed in mainstream classrooms with limited bilingual assistance. Those students can be successful when given the necessary support. The 10 tips and strategies below can help mainstream teachers meet the needs of their diverse classrooms.

Classroom Instruction

ELL students have more difficulty processing spoken language, so present information in a variety of ways: through pictures, videos or manipulatives. 

Simplify the language, not the content. Avoid using idioms, slang, and sarcasm. Speak slowly, clearly, and use gestures.

Pair ELL students with a buddy, and build in more group work to increase student engagement and promote peer interaction.

Give ELL students preferential seating close to the front of the classroom, with other students who are inviting and like to participate.

Classroom & Homework Assignments

Use ESL materials, or allow ESL students to have a bilingual dictionary. Multilingual resources can enhance and support core standards.

Allow students to bring multilingual and multicultural books home. It promotes literacy at home and enhances parental involvement, both of which improve school success.

Stress the importance of finding the key words in assignments by highlighting or bolding them.

Testing

Minimize the number of answer choices on tests and quizzes. Don’t give any true/false questions or trick questions.

Allow students to answer questions orally, in writing, or with a picture where appropriate.

When possible, grade responses based on content, not spelling or grammar.

With a little patience, kindness and determination, you can help your ELL students successfully integrate into your classroom and support their language development.

 

 “Back to School” by Phil Roeder via Flickr is licensed under CC BY 2.0 https://flic.kr/p/agLDmm


5 Ways to a Bilingual/ Multicultural Holiday Season

diwali multicultural bilingual holiday

If you feel like the school year is speeding by, you’re right: the holiday season is already upon us. There’s still plenty of time to work on that Christmas list. You may already be planning your big meal for Thanksgiving Day. Or, you may find yourself wondering how to get through another stressful holiday season with your sanity intact.

If you find this year’s holiday spirit is more ho-hum than ho-ho-ho, try adding a multicultural and bilingual twist to your classroom and family festivities. It will liven things up and refresh that holiday spirit.

Highlight the Spirit of Giving Thanks

hands holding words give thanks

The holidays are all about spending time with family and friends, which makes this is the perfect time of year to focus on gratitude, appreciation and thankfulness, both at home and in the classroom. In bilingual classrooms, the topic of thankfulness can involve language learning (learning to say “thanks” in many languages) and also cultural sharing (how different cultures show their appreciation).

Learn About a New Holiday

Ramadan decorations multicultural bilingual

When you learn about holidays from other cultures, you’re learning about new religions, customs and languages.  Kids also gain an appreciation for diversity when they see how other holidays are different and similar to the ones they celebrate.

Language Lizard offers a free, standards-based lesson plan that explores traditions from many different religions and cultures, including Christianity, Hindu, Islam, Judaism, and Sikhism. Kids will also love stories about children celebrating Diwali, also known as the “Festival of Lights,” and Chinese New Year.

Arts & Crafts from Around the World

mid-autumn festival lantern cultural diversity

Bring cultural diversity and international flavor to your holidays with these five easy kid crafts. 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.

Celebrate with Holiday Foods from Other Cultures

International diversity foods pizza heart shape

Your little ones are home for winter break, perhaps stuck inside because of bad weather. Or you have out-of-town guests visiting, and many meals to plan. Don’t let holiday stress get you down! Take a culinary journey by trying out these winter holiday dishes from all around the world. Use it as a creative potluck theme, and everyone can join in the fun!

Engaging Bilingual Students

kid reading bilingual book

It’s easier to get kids to engage in conversation when they are inspired and excited about the topic. This is particularly true for bilingual students, especially if they are still mastering the English language. What better time to get your bilingual students talking with you and one another? Students’ minds are full of happy memories from holidays past, and they will want to share how their families celebrate at home. Check out our tips to help your students direct their holiday excitement into fun language opportunities.

 

“Diwali” by siddhu2020 via Flickr is licensed under CC BY 2.0 https://flic.kr/p/5LYfYm