This year, the Muslim holiday of Ramadan begins on June 17 and ends on July 17. It is the 9th and most sacred month in the Islamic calendar. Traditionally, it’s a time of fasting from sun up to sun down each day. Children aren’t required to fast until they’re teenagers, but may fast for part of the day to help them appreciate the significance of the holiday. Fasting is meant to help Muslims practice self-discipline, self-control, sacrifice, and empathy. Ramadan is a time of spiritual reflection, growth, and religious devotion.
Learning about Ramadan: Lesson Plan & Storybook
Language Lizard offers a free, standards-based lesson plan that introduces students to Muslim customs and cultures, new languages and texts, and promotes acceptance of diversity. The lesson plan pairs with the bilingual storybook Samira’s Eid. Samira and her family get a surprise visitor during Ramadan who brings a special gift for them. The story teaches kids about the holiday’s traditions, and the meaning behind them, through Samira’s eyes.
Receive a 10% discount on the book Samira’s Eid now through July 17, 2015! Simply enter Coupon Code Eid2015 during checkout. Samira’s Eid is currently available with English and your choice of the following languages: Albanian, Arabic, Bengali, Farsi, French, Kurdish, Panjabi and Somali.
Experience the Food of Ramadan
Each night at sunset, families gather for the fast-breaking meal known as iftar. Get in the spirit by trying some traditional dishes served at iftar with your classroom or family. One quick and easy dessert that the kids can help make, and will love to eat, is this traditional mango, pistachio and cream dessert.
Ramadan Arts & Crafts Projects
Ramadan can also be a time of beautiful decorations. Lanterns, in particular, have become symbolic of the holiday. Kids can make simple paper crafts, including lanterns, or try out more complex projects like this drum.
Online Ramadan Resources for Kids
Find kid-friendly Ramadan photos online to look through together, and discuss how Ramadan is experienced by the littlest Muslims. The PBS Kids website offers a free, interactive book about Ramadan and its traditions. Or check out this multilingual Ramadan poster that includes illustrations of the call to prayer, fasting, sharing an evening meal, and family time.
Will you be learning about Ramadan with your classroom or family? Share your ideas by commenting below!
We are very pleased to announce the launch of our newly designed website! Just in time for our 10th anniversary, the new site is designed with a fresh new look, user-friendly navigation, and a variety of features to help educators, parents and librarians support their language learners.
Finding the Right Bilingual Products Has Never Been Easier!
Language Lizard still offers the high quality, beautifully illustrated, professionally translated books and posters you know and love. Our new website design features faster, easier navigation, whether you’re searching for a particular product, or want to make use of our many free resources. You can search by language, reading level, product type, or title. While you’re there, be sure to check out our new video, featured on the homepage, to learn about all the ways we can support you!
New Website Giveaway
To celebrate our 10th anniversary and our newly designed website, we are holding a special giveaway! Just send us your thoughts, opinions and suggestions for our new site via the Contact Us form, and you will be entered to win a Language Lizard gift certificate. The lucky grand prize winner will receive a $50 gift certificate, and 3 runners-up will each win a $25 gift certificate! All entries must be received by May 15, 2015. No purchase necessary.
Many educators successfully use multicultural resources to teach their students about other cultures and to make their classrooms more welcoming for a diverse student body. However, some teachers may feel overwhelmed at the prospect of adding “multicultural education” to their expanding list of things to do. They often are already dealing with new testing requirements, changing core standards, and other demands. They struggle with ways to make their classrooms more multicultural while meeting all of their other teaching objectives.
Incorporating multicultural education into the curriculum should not be considered an “additional” task; rather, with the right tools and resources, educators can integrate a multicultural element into existing lesson plans.
Benefits of Multicultural Resources in the Classroom
Using multicultural and multilingual resources in the classroom can enhance and support core standards, and can have the following benefits:
- It makes the classroom more welcoming for students from different countries because they see their own culture and language reflected in the lessons.
- It builds self-esteem and instills in multi-ethnic students a sense of pride about their heritage.
- It provides all students a chance to learn about other cultures and languages, which can help them succeed globally and in our diverse communities.
- It offers an opportunity to involve parents from diverse cultures in the classroom.
- If students are allowed to bring multilingual materials home, it promotes literacy at home and enhances parental involvement, both of which improve school success.
Below are just a few suggestions on how to incorporate a multicultural element into already-established lessons that may give you some new ideas or thoughts on the topic.
Cultural Holidays and Festivals
Teaching about holidays and festivals is an excellent way to introduce diverse cultures to your students. While studying different holidays, children can cover important concepts such as “comparing and contrasting,” and the learning can bridge over to art, math, and other subjects.
For example, when studying Thanksgiving, consider reading Samira’s Eid and comparing and contrasting our celebration of thanks with the Islamic celebrations of Eid and Ramadan. During the winter holidays, a book such as Marek and Alice’s Christmas shows how Christmas is celebrated in Poland. In learning about how other cultures celebrate familiar holidays, children begin to understand traditions from other parts of the world. Children can draw Venn diagrams to share what they have learned.
Other important holidays can be discussed as they occur throughout the year. You can use Deepak’s Diwali to teach about the major Hindu holiday Diwali (the Indian Festival of Lights). When teaching about Diwali, speak to the art teacher about having the children design their own Rangoli patterns. Students also could review the Rangoli patterns in math class when they are learning about symmetry.
Students can learn about Chinese New Year in the book Li’s Chinese New Year. In art class during this time, they can make masks with a sign of the zodiac (instructions about how to make the mask are included in the book). Older children can work in teams to do additional research on international holidays and festivals and then come together to present their work.
Dental Health and Hygiene
Many schools periodically have a dentist come to discuss dental hygiene. Including a reading of The Wibbly Wobbly Tooth is a great way to add a multicultural element to such a lesson. This story depicts a child of Asian heritage trying to figure out what to do with a tooth that just came out. In it, he talks to friends from all different cultures to find out what they do when a tooth falls out. This opens up an opportunity for you to ask your students from other countries to share their family’s traditions.
The dental health lesson could also include a bilingual version of Sahir Goes to the Dentist, ideally choosing a language edition spoken by kids in the class. Not only will students read about a child’s visit to the dentist, they will see a language/text that is represented in their class or community.
Community, Cooperation and Teamwork
In the bilingual book The Giant Turnip, school children work together to plant a garden and then have to figure out how to remove a giant turnip that grows there. In the end, they are successful only after they have brainstormed ideas and have all worked cooperatively.
This is, of course, a great book to use when doing units about planting and growing a garden. But it is also an excellent tool for discussing themes of community, cooperation and teamwork. For example, it can be used as an introduction to the concept of “community.” What is a community? Why is it important? Similarities and differences within a community, and how differences in a community can help it operate better.
Students can discuss the diverse makeup of their own communities and even how their classroom community can be more united. Older students can research different communities around the world, comparing and contrasting similarities and differences. The book can also be used to reinforce concepts of cooperation and teamwork: how people need to work together to achieve a common goal.
Folk Tales and Fables
When teaching a unit on folk tales, include bilingual folk tales from around the world in the lesson. You can introduce the concepts of “good versus evil,” the importance of cooperation, and the rewards of courage and ingenuity, while simultaneously introducing other cultures and languages. Some great stories to consider are: Yeh-Hsien (A Chinese Cinderella); the Bengali folk tale Buri and the Marrow; the beautiful Chinese story The Dragon’s Tears; and the Tibetan Fable “The Hare’s Revenge” (part of Lion Fables).
For younger children who are learning to count, consider reading a book such as Handa’s Hen, in which young Handa is looking for her chicken and encounters many other animals and insects along the way. Set in Africa, children will see settings and animals that may be new to them (e.g., five beautiful sunbirds, eight spoonbills). By pointing out different languages in the bilingual books, children also can see the different language scripts, thus expanding their view of the world. In addition, using multilingual number cards when learning numbers will allow children from non-English speaking homes to see their languages represented in class.
The Five Senses
Welcome to the World Baby is a wonderful multicultural book to share with children who are learning about the five senses. It is especially exciting to use in class when a student has a new baby sibling. In the story, Tariq has a new baby brother and the children in his multicultural classroom share how they welcome new babies in their families. Each example relates to one of the five senses (e.g., they can touch An-Mei’s red painted egg, which stands for birth, life and growth, and is the color of good luck; they can taste Elima’s bitter aloe leaf and sweet honey, which represents that life can be bitter and sweet). Again, this offers a chance for children from multicultural households to share their own traditions.
These are just a few of many examples of how multicultural and multilingual stories can be used to bring a global perspective to existing lessons and make multi-ethnic children feel better represented in the classroom. For more details and additional lessons that incorporate multicultural stories, please see the free multicultural lesson plans on our website. Share your own multicultural teaching ideas by commenting below!
This article originally appeared in Language Lizard’s Culture Connection Newsletter. To receive this newsletter, please sign up here.
Photo “SAD_Hortons_Kids 114” by US Department of Education via Flickr, licensed under CC By 2.0.
This year, World Folk Tales and Fables Week is from March 16 through March 22. It’s a week dedicated to encouraging children and adults to explore the lessons and cultural background of folk tales, fables, myths and legends from around the world.
Reading folk tales is a great way for children to explore different cultures and enhance literacy skills. Learn more about why kids love folk tales and fables in a previous blog post that discusses why folk tales are such a great teaching tool for kids.
A folk tale is any story that has been passed down through generations by a group of people. A fable, one type of folk tale, is a short story that teaches a lesson, often features talking animals, and is directed particularly at children. The most well known creator of fables is Aesop, a Greek slave believed to have lived around 560 BC. Some of his most popular fables are “The Tortoise and the Hare,” “The Goose that Laid the Golden Egg,” and “The Lion and the Mouse.” There are also more modern-day fables, like Dr. Seuss‘s The Lorax.
Resources for Teachers & Parents
If you’d like to introduce your class or family to folk tales, but aren’t sure where to begin, Language Lizard offers a series of blog posts dedicated to international folk tale characters. There, you can get an overview of characters from around the world, like the Monkey King from China, and Finn McCool of Ireland.
One of our favorite stories, the Bengali folk tale Buri and the Marrow, is used in the lesson plan entitled “Language, Customs, Culture in India,” which can be downloaded at no cost from our website. Don’t hesitate to use any of our lesson plans to help you explore different cultures and folk tales with your students.
Or try another great folk tale, Yeh-Hsien: A Chinese Cinderella. This Chinese version of Cinderella is similar to, yet delightfully different from, the more recognized European or Disney interpretations of the story. Children will be inspired by Yeh-Hsien, a strong character who takes her destiny into her own hands.
We also offer the Myths and Legends collection (Pandora’s Box, Isis and Osiris, Beowulf, The Children of Lir), which can be a good starting point for older children to explore various cultures and classic stories.
We hope you have an exciting World Folk Tales and Fables Week, exploring new characters, adventures and cultures from far away lands!
Get 10% off two entertaining world folk tales – Buri and the Marrow and Yeh-Hsien: A Chinese Cinderella – by entering Coupon Code FOLKTALE2015 at checkout! This discount is valid now through March 31, 2015.
Comment below and share with us your favorite folk tales and fables!
Inspired by her experiences with foreign language learning, in professional settings and in her own family, Christine Jernigan, PhD, set out to write a unique guide for parents who want to raise their kids to speak more than one language. Specifically, Family Language Learning is designed for parents who are still in the process of learning a second “target” language themselves, or who are fluent but living in a country where another language is dominant. Jernigan, who instructs foreign language teachers at North Carolina State University and works as a language coach for parents, writes in a flowing, humorous and engaging style. The many personal anecdotes told by the author, as well as by other parents raising bilingual children, range from amusing to deeply moving. Readers will find themselves relating wholeheartedly to the language learning adventures (and misadventures) these parents have experienced.
This book is meant to be a how-to guide, or “springboard” as Jernigan calls it, for parents in the early stages of teaching their children a new language. It is also intended as a motivational tool, or “cheerleader” for when those parents inevitably run into roadblocks, or are feeling discouraged. Throughout, readers are encouraged to remain flexible, and to make adjustments when a situation demands it: “Keep your language plan in play dough, not stone,” as Jernigan very nicely puts it.
Family Language Learning stands out particularly because of Jernigan’s unique approach to the subject of language learning. While most experts focus on the academic, social and economic benefits of learning a second language (as does Jernigan, from the very first chapter), this author also explores in depth the greater emotional bond that learning a new language can create.
This book is accessible to every stage of language learner, even those at the very start of their journey. Concepts and terminology are explained in a clear and concise manner that assumes you have arrived with no prior language training. Each chapter delves into a different aspect of language learning, from why it’s important for your children to learn a new language to why you should encourage your kids to read foreign language material on their own, and how to motivate them to practice writing in the target language.
While Family Language Learning can easily be read cover-to-cover, thanks to Jernigan’s conversational style of writing, the chapters are broken into sub-sections that also make it easy to flip to the particular topic you’re seeking answers to. So, even when you’re well into your language journey, you can find just the right words of guidance and encouragement you need when you reach a bump in the road.
You May Also Want to Read…
Additional, valuable information on bilingualism and language learning can be found in A Parents’ and Teachers’ Guide to Bilingualism by Colin Baker, a classic book in the field now in its fourth edition. This book is an extremely thorough guide for teachers of bilingual students, as well as parents who are raising bilingual children, whether they are fluent in the second language or not.
A Parents’ and Teachers’ Guide to Bilingualism can serve almost as an encyclopedia of language learning because it offers a wealth of information on a very wide range of topics. Each chapter is dedicated to distinct subjects, like “Family Questions,” “Language Development Questions” and “Reading and Writing Problems,” and within each chapter are Frequently Asked Questions that Baker has encountered over decades of working with parents and colleagues in bilingual education, as well as in his personal experience successfully raising three bilingual children.
A Parents’ and Teachers’ Guide to Bilingualism (4th ed) is available in hardcover and paperback at Amazon.com.
Plan early – the month of February brings two great events to enjoy with the kids: Chinese New Year and Dental Health Month. Read on for discounts and free resources that will add a bilingual twist to your celebrations! (Read about other New Year celebrations around the world here.)
Chinese New Year
Chinese New Year is on February 19, 2015. Also known as Spring Festival, Chinese New Year is the country’s most important social and economic holiday. Traditionally, it is a time to renew and honor family bonds through elaborate rituals and feasts.
Celebrate this special holiday, at home and in the classroom, with the bilingual children’s book entitled Li’s Chinese New Year. Available in English and your choice of 10 different languages, the story follows Li, who is trying to decide what animal costume to wear to the school’s big New Year assembly. Will he be a fierce tiger or a strong ox? And what year will his new cousin be born in? Readers can find all twelve of the zodiac animals throughout the story, and discover facts and activities relating to the holiday at the back of the book.
Now through February 28, 2015 get 10% off Li’s Chinese New Year by entering discount code CNY2015 at checkout!
If you’re planning to teach your students about Chinese New Year, be sure to check out our FREE standards-based lesson plan that includes this holiday’s history, traditions and the many languages spoken in China. This great resource was created by our friends at West Chester University of PA.
Dental Health Month
In February, the American Dental Association (ADA) sponsors Dental Health Month. This year’s slogan is “Defeat Monster Mouth!” The goal of Dental Health Month is to promote oral health by establishing good habits early and getting regular dental check ups. The ADA offers free resources for parents and teachers, including a Planning Guide and activity sheets.
To help kids prepare for a trip to the dentist, Language Lizard offers the bilingual children’s book Sahir Goes to the Dentist. It tells the story of Sahir, who has lost a tooth, and Yasmin, who has a cavity. Both children visit the dentist and learn valuable lessons about how to properly care for their teeth. The book is available in English and your choice of 23 different languages.
Now through February 28, 2015 get 10% off Sahir Goes to the Dentist by entering discount code DENTIST at checkout!
Also, check out our post for 5 ways to turn kids’ post-winter break excitement into fun language opportunities!
Leave a comment below and tell us how you will be celebrating Chinese New Year and Dental Health Month with your students and family!
Dragon photo by Kenny Louie via Flickr, some rights reserved.
Toothbrush photo by ND Strupler via Flickr, some rights reserved.
Bring cultural diversity and international flavor to your Thanksgiving 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. (You can also check out our previous posts for ways to celebrate a bilingual Thanksgiving, at home or in the classroom.)
Thanksgiving: Here and Around the World
The first Thanksgiving was an occasion for people to gather together and celebrate a good harvest. Most cultures around the world have harvest celebrations, though not always in November. (Abraham Lincoln was actually the first US president to propose an official Thanksgiving holiday in our country. You can read more about Thanksgiving history here.) Harvest celebrations coincide with a country’s seasons and the kind of crop they are harvesting.
Thanksgiving Crafts Inspired By Multicultural Traditions
1. India: Pongal – Kolam Chalk Drawings
Photo by Benedict via Wikimedia Commons
Photo by Vishnu.116 via Wikimedia Commons
Pongal, the harvest festival of Southern India, is celebrated in January or February. It celebrates the successful harvest of rice, sugar cane and tumeric. Kolam drawings are traditionally symmetrical and placed in front of doors. These drawings are believed to bring happiness and prosperity. For this activity, you just need some colored chalk and clear weather outside.
The festival of Sukkot, celebrated in September or October, is a time to remember the culture’s agricultural roots. The holiday centers around a special kind of dwelling called a “sukkah,” which has a roof of organic material, like palm leaves. The inside of the sukkah is strung with bright, shiny decorations. Make this craft with old, scratched CDs, and anything shiny and colorful you have on hand.
The Mid-Autumn Festival on August 15th celebrates a successful harvest and also honors children. Kids get special lanterns and take part in a parade. Our lanterns are made from paper and tape, and can inspire your own kids’ parade at home!
The Madeira Flower Festival takes place in the Spring, when flowers are abloom. The festival features a parade with floats and flowers everywhere, especially worn on clothing. Kids can make flowers out of any material you have: gift wrap, kleenex, colored paper, paper towels, or scraps of fabric. The flowers can be secured with pipe cleaner, tape, yarn, or rubber bands onto headbands, hats, belts or any article of clothing. If the weather is nice, the kids can have a parade, in true Flower Festival spirit.
The UK’s Harvest Festival happens in September or October, and includes singing and decorating churches with baskets of food. One traditional harvest time craft is making corn husk dolls. Since I didn’t have corn husks on hand, I used scraps of fabric. Once completed, kids can make hair from yarn and clothes from felt.
Give these crafts a try this Thanksgiving, and add some multicultural traditions to your celebration. That’s one more wonderful thing to be thankful for!
Just when you’re looking for new ways to bring more multicultural education to the classroom while meeting the Common Core Standards, we are thrilled to announce that we have another wonderful lesson plan to share, created by our friends at West Chester University.
This newest unit uses two popular and beautifully-illustrated books, Handa’s Hen and Handa’s Surprise, to teach students about Kenya and, at the same time, to help them identify and use descriptive writing. Using this lesson plan, students will learn to distinguish similarities and differences in cultures and communities. They will also be able to hear some African languages spoken!
For those of you who don’t yet know, Language Lizard has many complimentary lesson plans available for teachers to download. There are lessons that are specific to certain holidays (Chinese New Year, Diwali, Ramadan, Thanksgiving) as well as those that focus on certain countries (India, Korea, Japan, Romania). Others teach about understanding and appreciating differences, or bullying and problem solving. To obtain access to all the lesson plans, simply go to www.languagelizard.com/lessonplans.htm.
For those interested in reading more about the adventures of Handa, we are offering a 10% discount on both Handa’s Hen and Handa’s Surprise. You can receive the discount by entering coupon code CCS-HANDA upon checkout (offer good through Nov 30, 2014).
Using flash cards and rote learning to teach an additional language is like looking at pictures of a turkey dinner instead of sitting down to eat the wonderful meal. There are so many more interesting ways to experience learning and using a new language! And bilingual books are a great place to start.
In April of this year, ScienceDaily.com ran an article supporting what we already know: “playing simple games using words and pictures can help people to learn a new language with greater ease”. This type of informal learning is “effortless” and supports the retention of the new language “even days afterwards”, according to the quoted study from the University of Nottingham. It makes practical sense too — we all know that we learn better when we’re having fun and not putting too much pressure on ourselves to retain information.
Looking for some inspiration to get involved in informal learning using bilingual books you already have in your library or some you’ve got your eye on for Christmas? Look no further! We’ve even grouped our Top Ten Activities according to levels of proficiency in the additional language needed to complete them (the level needed is higher as the numbers go up).
This classic game works really well to help cement children’s understanding of the bilingual books they’ve recently read. Little ones can choose a favorite character from the story to act out with gestures and no words. However, to really improve their vocabulary, choosing objects from the book for their peers to identify in the additional language will certainly push them one step further without them realizing they’re doing any language-learning work at all!
2) You Be the Star
For the next activity, let the children choose a favorite scene from the bilingual book they’re reading and act it out for each other. They should use as many words in the new language as they can to get across the main idea, even if they’re not using dialogue and narrative lifted straight from the page.
3) Key Word Shuffle
This one is a real vocabulary-builder! Using spare index cards you have lying around your classroom or home, or even squares of construction paper, list a number of key words in the new language from the bilingual book you’ve chosen. For example, the story of Cinderella might produce key words like “prince”, “pumpkin”, “glass slipper”, and “sweep”. Shuffle the cards and let the children choose them at random, then find the page in the book that contains that word.
4) Scavenger Hunt
Have a little bit more time on your hands and a few more resources at your disposal? Build on the Key Word Shuffle by allowing little ones to search for bilingual treasure! They can use index cards with words in the language they’re learning as clues to find objects from a story in the home or classroom. Maybe you’re reading a bilingual version of Goldilocks and the Three Bears — tots can hunt for chairs, bowls, or even a box of instant porridge!
5) Memory Game
Kids love puzzles at any age, and this quick game will challenge their memories and the language they’ve learned so far. It’s simple: copy the pages of the bilingual story you’re reading, shuffle them, and ask the children to put them back in order without looking at the book. For children who need a little more support, you could always copy only a few of the most important pages from the plot, and if your little ones are a bit more advanced, let them try the whole thing.
It’s fun; it’s fast-paced; it focuses children’s minds on new-language vocabulary they’re learning! Just like in the game show you remember from the ’90s, in our version you use key words and phrases from bilingual stories your children are familiar with. The twist is that they must guess in their additional language! The competitive element will add a frisson and keep kids involved in their own learning long after they’ve shut their books for the day.
7) Puppet Show
Looking for a way to combine arts and crafts and bilingual learning? Our puppet show activity really ticks both boxes. Children can spend time making creative puppets (like the ones found on this website, perhaps) to represent characters from the book they’re reading before using them to act out a scene with lines of memorized dialogue in their additional language. If they’re working on this project in school, it would be a great one to take home and show their loved ones what they’ve learned too!
8) The Post-it Note Game
If you’ve got some sticky notes, a pen, and a bilingual children’s book, then you’ve got the ingredients for this game. Our version requires a little bit more knowledge of the new language but it’s great fun once your little ones have advanced to this level! All you need to do is write the names of characters (or objects- to make it even more challenging!) from the story onto post-its and stick them to the foreheads of your players so they can only read the stickies of the people at whom they’re looking and not their own. They then ask yes-or-no questions to try to figure out “who” they are, such as, “Am I a girl or a boy? Do I have dark hair? Do I climb a beanstalk? Am I bigger than everyone else in the story?” Of course, the higher their level of proficiency, the better questions they can ask, adding to the fun of the game.
9) Hot Seating
A complex role-playing game, this will really test your little learners’ vocabulary. To play, children take turns performing as a character from the bilingual book they’ve most recently read, while the others ask them questions about how they felt at different points in the story. As in the Post-It Note Game, the better their skills in their new language, the better the questions they can ask, and the deeper they can go exploring the emotions and characters in the text. For instance, if students are reading Marek and Alice’s Christmas, they can use the additional language to ask questions like “How did you feel about visiting Poland for Christmas?” “What were you expecting Christmas to be like?” “Why do you like spending time with your babcia?” “What was your favorite part of Christmas?” Let the kids be creative with this one — a little poetic license is a good thing — but the closer they can stay to the text the more they’ll be reinforcing what they’ve already learned.
10) What Happens Next?
The end of a really good story is always a bit disappointing — you wish the author had carried on! In our final game, your children can help her do just that by adding an epilogue or sequel to the bilingual book you’ve read. Learners will obviously need to be able to use their new language to a high level to get involved in this activity, but even a very simple continuation of the story can be fun, satisfying, and an effortless way to reinforce bilingual skills.
Of course this is just a small selection of the great games many teachers and parents use every day to support their kids’ bilingualism, even when they don’t realize they’re doing it! Maybe you’ve got some ideas up your sleeve. Why not post them in our comments section and share the joy of informal language learning?