Category Archives: Teacher Resources

Holi Festival + World Folktales & Fables Week: New Lesson Plans & Discount

We’re excited to share new, free multicultural lesson plans you can use to celebrate two fun upcoming holidays:

Holi “Festival of Colors” (March 13, 2017)

women preparing for holi celebration

Holi [pronounced houli], also known as the Festival of Colors,  is a popular springtime festival celebrated in many parts of South Asia and around the world.  This festival celebrates the coming of spring and the end of winter. It is also a day to give thanks for a good harvest. It’s a time to forgive and forget, be with your friends and your family, and have a whole lot of fun.

The Holi Festival lasts two days. The first night, there’s a big bonfire that everyone gathers around. The next day is when all the fun begins! Ranwali Holi—as day 2 is called—is the day of colors. People, old and young, friends and strangers, carry spritzers and balloons filled with colored water, and they spray each other until everyone is multi‐colored and beautiful.

World Folktales and Fables Week (March 19-25, 2017)

World Folktales and Fables Week

World Folktales and Fables Week is dedicated to encouraging children and adults to explore the lessons and cultural background of folktales, fables, myths and legends from around the world.

Reading world folktales and fables is not only a wonderful way to entertain and bond with children, it is also an effective way to educate them. The stories in classic folklore offer both social lessons as well as an opportunity to teach about cultures and languages. Be sure to enjoy a good folktale in your classroom or home!

Celebrate with Free Lesson Plans & Discount

It’s easy to download these lessons, along with other multicultural lesson plans that you can use throughout the year!

As a special bonus for World Folktales & Fables Week 2017, Language Lizard is offering a 10% discount on the following bilingual folktales and fables available in English with multiple other languages: Buri and the Marrow, The Crow King, The Dragon’s Tears, Goose Fables, Lion Fables and Yeh Hsien: A Chinese Cinderella.

Simply enter coupon code FABLES2017 to receive the discount (valid through March 31, 2017).

More Resources

To celebrate World Folktales and Fables Week, check out these blog posts for great ideas you can use in the classroom and at home:

World Folktales and Fables: Effective Teaching Tools to Educate and Entertain Children

Celebrate World Folktales and Fables Week in the Classroom and at Home

 

“Holi Celebrations” by wonker via Flickr is licensed under CC BY 2.0 https://flic.kr/p/4CL6qE

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!

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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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!

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


Title III Grants: Funding for English Language Learners / LEP Students

bilingual education Title III grantIn a previous blog post, we provided a thorough guide to many different types of grants and funding for bilingual classrooms. In this post, we’ll take a look at one type of grant in particular: Title III.

What is Title III Funding?

Title III is a two-part, $700 million federal program with a goal of improving education. Part A is dedicated to students who are immigrants or Limited English Proficient (LEP). Its primary purpose is to make sure these students become proficient in English and, at the same time, meet the academic achievement standards that other students are expected to meet. Title III funds must be used for language instruction educational programs.

How does the U.S. Department of Education award Title III Funding?

States receive Title III grants according to census data. The state, in turn, divides the funding into subgrants that are made available to Local Education Agencies within each state: school districts, county offices of education, and direct-funded charter schools. Private schools are not eligible for Title III funding, although there is a way for LEP students who attend private schools to participate in Title III-funded programs. Funds not used in one year can be carried over to the next. Any funds not used by the end of the second school year will be returned to the US Department of Education.

Use of Title III Funds

Generally speaking, funds must be used to provide high-quality instruction in language programs that increase English proficiency and academic achievement in core subjects. Programs must include professional development for teachers, administrators and principals, as well as parent outreach programs. Funds can be used for curricular materials, classroom supplies and software to support LEP / immigrant students.

There are many rules about what programs and activities can be funded with a Title III subgrant.  A full list of authorized and required use of funds can be found here. You can read about requirements for subjects like “supplement” vs. “supplant” activities, alternative education programs, special education programs, and parental notification. This New Jersey Department of Education document is also helpful as it clearly lays out out allowable uses for Title III LEP funds and Title III Immigrant funds.

The recipients of each subgrant are held accountable each year, and students must meet annual English language development objectives. Annual achievement objectives must be met in the form of test scores that demonstrate students are making progress toward English proficiency. There are some Local Education Agencies that decline the use of Title III subgrants because they don’t want to take part in the rigor of its required testing. Subgrant recipients must reapply for Title III funds each year through a process involving submission of various reports, plans and evaluation requirements.

For additional support and information, visit Language Lizard’s Funding & Grants page

“Pictures of Money” by Money via Flickr is licensed under CC BY 2.0 https://flic.kr/p/s68a4i

Creating Community in Your Classroom

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

Celebrate Individuality

individuality purple flower in white flower field

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

The Concept of Community

classroom community hands together teamwork multicultural bilingual language

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

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

Predictable, Nurturing Classroom Environment

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

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

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

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

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

Understanding & Appreciating Cultural Differences – Tips and Free Lesson Plan

multicultural classroomEvery classroom is a different potpourri of personalities and abilities that will mix, mesh or sometimes clash. Teachers want to effectively engage every one of their students, and parents want to ensure their kids will be both accepting and accepted.

Preparing for Your Multicultural & Bilingual Classroom

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

Culturally Responsive Instruction

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

Free Lesson Plan: Understanding & Appreciating Cultural Differences

classroom desk multicultural classroom

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

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

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

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

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

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