Category Archives: Teacher Resources

Top Ten Games to Play with Bilingual Children’s Books

 

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).

1) Charades

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.

6) Pictionary

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?

 

A New Way of Ordering Bilingual Books!

 

Language Lizard is thrilled to announce a new way of ordering your bilingual books: we now offer Language Book Sets!

Tailored to meet the language needs of teachers and librarians, they make ordering easy and eliminate the work of trawling through our site to find the perfect books for your classroom or library.

We’ve hand-selected groups of books based on our site’s most popular choices to support learning in each domain.  With just one click, you can even choose between sets of five and ten to match your curriculum.  On offer are books in:

  • Gujarati
  • Spanish
  • Chinese (both traditional and simplified)
  • Arabic
  • Urdu
  • Vietnamese
  • Haitian Creole
  • Bengali
  • Portuguese
  • Russian
  • Somali

We hope this new system will save you time and money, and help you choose the most accessible, interesting, and culturally appropriate books for the children you want to reach.

Enjoy!

From Hiccups to Tuk-Tuks: Our Selection of Culturally Appropriate Bilingual Children’s Books

cover photo

photo credits: Farah Aria @ flickr. com, Anir Pandit @ flickr. com, Jensen Chua @ flickr. com

Picture this: you’ve recently moved to a new country where you are just learning the language, and you are feeling a bit overwhelmed and lost. One day, a colleague approaches you with something she thinks will remind you of home. It’s a book in English, and it’s all about “American culture”! Excited (and homesick), you open the book and read a sweet story all about a boy in a sparkly, perfect suburb who eats too many hamburgers, gets sick, and has to miss his friend’s pool party.

You sigh and smile at the well-meaning colleague. But you are from Detroit, and none of your friends had pools when you were growing up. Plus, you’re a vegetarian. It was a nice gesture, but this book doesn’t reflect America to you – it has nothing to do with your culture.

In the same way, as educators and parents, we want to ensure that the books we’re choosing for the children in our care are culturally appropriate, and don’t simply present stereotypes. These books, suggests an article from the National Center for Cultural and Linguistic Responsiveness, must “provide authentic representations of the culture” and should avoid illustrations and plots that “make certain groups seem foolish or disrespected.”

Whether we pick bilingual books because we teach Dual Language Learners or because we want our sons and daughters to grow up with an academic advantage, they must be “culturally accurate books…that respectfully represent…cultures, objects, and themes”, according to the NCCLR.

Which books to choose?

The NCCLR specifically recommends some of the books from our site, like Grandma’s Saturday Soup, by Sally Fraser, and Handa’s Surprise, by Eileen Browne. We at Language Lizard would like to introduce you to a whole range of our other books that also fit the culturally appropriate bill.

Holidays and Celebrations

diwali

Books about holidays provide a useful access point for children of every culture– we all celebrate something! Our selection includes several holiday-themed stories which will not only feel familiar to the children from whose cultures they come, but will be fun and interesting for everyone who reads them.

  • Deepak’s Diwali (by Divya Karwal) is one that has also been recommended by the NCCLR. We like it especially for its contemporary depiction of the holiday. This book stands out in the way it welcomes children who don’t yet know about Diwali with wonderful explanations and illustrations and even a section of fun recipes. Yet it still shows its characters in their everyday clothes and mundane situations, meticulously avoiding the characterisation of those who celebrate Diwali as “other”.
  • In the same vein, we’d recommend Samira’s Eid by Nasreen Aktar: its story, which unfolds from the dialogue between two children and their parents, is simple and educational, and therefore appropriate for young children who are only just coming into contact with our country’s growing Muslim population, yet it remains recognizable and enjoyable for those who already mark the festival of Eid.
  • Children of Chinese heritage will relate to Li’s Chinese New Year. Again, this portrayal of the holiday avoids stereotypes. Readers will follow a sweet storyline about a little boy deciding which animal of the zodiac he wants to be in the school play (a great access point for school age children!). Fang Wang’s tale makes a new holiday feel accessible and non-threatening for children just learning about new cultures and their practices.

Familiar Topics

tuk tuk


Another way to bring cultural sensitivity into the bilingual books you select is to find those which deal with ordinary, familiar activities and topics that virtually all children will recognize, but from the perspectives of different cultures.

  • Brilliant books like The Wibbly Wobbly Tooth and Mei Ling’s Hiccups, both by David Mills, show in sensitive detail the way children from diverse backgrounds respond to everyday problems. What should Li do with the tooth he’s just lost? How should Mei Ling get rid of her hiccups? The children’s classmates, who all represent different cultures, offer up the traditional solutions their families would use in these situations, from throwing a tooth on the roof to holding your nose and counting to five.
  • In the same vein, Welcome to the World, Baby, by Na’ima bint Robert, gives young readers a sensory tour of the different traditions people from all over the world have for celebrating a birth. The students in the story touch, smell, and listen to objects that represent these cultural traditions, bringing the topic alive for the audience.
  • Our selection of titles from the “Our Lives, Our World” series shows children how people eat, travel, and play in different countries: Yum! Let’s Eat! (Thando Maclaren); Brrmm! Let’s Go! (Julie Kingdon); and Goal! Let’s Play (Joe Marriott). Kids reading these books will be able to make connections between their lunchtime sandwiches and the fajitas Gabriella’s Mexican family makes; between the bikes they ride and Niran’s uncle’s tuk-tuk in Thailand; and between the baseball they watch with their parents and the fun game of cricket Nitesh plays in India. While refusing to resort to stereotypes, all of these books will support young readers in recognizing the amazing and diverse traditions and beliefs all around them while also providing a sense of familiarity. As they grow and learn to categorize, children often begin to perceive a divide between themselves and those who do not look like them: these stories will help bridge that gap.

Common Experiences

Of course, if we want our children and students to grow up appreciating and enjoying the diverse society in which they live, we’re going to want to choose books for them which show people of all different races participating in the experiences which so many children go through, like visits to the doctor, dentist appointments, and the first day of school.

  • Dealing with a big step in every child’s life, Tom and Sofia Start School (Henriette Barkow) not only reassures little ones as they embark on this important journey, but depicts a classroom and school full of children from many different backgrounds playing together and making Tom and Sofia’s experience less scary.
  • Sahir Goes to the Dentist and Nita Goes to the Hospital, both illustrated with unique plasticine figures by Chris Petty, use non-white characters to depict stories about these common “firsts” to put children of all colors at ease. Books like these send the culturally sensitive message that even though we may look different, we all live in one society together and experience life in many of the same ways. Any differences we may have just make life that much more interesting and exciting!

The fact that all of our recommended books are available in English with a range of different languages serves to reinforce the cultural appropriateness displayed by each story’s characters and themes. And, as the NCCLR asserts, these bilingual books “can be very helpful”, especially if the stories are unfamiliar to you when you first read them with your children or students. Choosing the right bilingual books for your readers – books that are authentic, respectful, and well-translated – will make a huge difference to the children reading them. Culturally appropriate stories will make all children feel valued, and will give them the foundations to become interested, informed global citizens.

 

 

Think Back-to-School, Think Bilingual Books!

 

Exciting news!

Language Lizard’s got a Best Educational Website award from Howtolearn.com!

We’ve been hand picked for inclusion in the list of Top 101 Back-to-school Websites, and we couldn’t be more proud.

We know that bilingual books are such an integral part of quality education for children, and it’s great that Howtolearn.com are helping us to get the word out there so that DLLs/ELLs can start the year off right.

 

Check out www.howtolearn.com to see our listing and all of the other fantastic entries.  

 

Bilingual Books Open up a World of Communication and Confidence

Our last blog posting focused on how teachers can use bilingual books to create preschool links to the K-12 Common Core Standards, specifically in listening and reading (click on the link if you missed this piece).

In this article, we will focus on another key area in which bilingual books can help in the preschool to kindergarten transition: interpersonal skills.

Reading seems like such a solitary activity; how could it support children in relating to one other?

Home language books use familiar vocabulary and give Dual Language Learners (DLLs) more to talk about.  When the books are available in more than one language, a common ground begins to open up between the students in your class.  Their social skills improve, which will eventually ease their transition between schools.  Mei and Laura play Cinderella together once they have both seen and heard the story in words they can understand, and a friendship is forged over a fairy godmother’s wand.  Mei and Laura’s confidence flourish – and bippity boppity boo, kindergarten becomes a little less scary because they already feel comfortable playing with new friends, even if they don’t speak the same language.

Of course, your pre-k students probably won’t be reading independently yet.  But seeing We’re Going on a Bear Hunt and The Wheels on the Bus in Farsi, and hearing his teacher read some of the Farsi words, builds Chermine’s self-confidence and feelings of self-worth.  He doesn’t feel like an outsider—he feels valued.  He may want to participate in class and be involved with the other children rather than hiding shyly at a table in the back of the room.  These experiences and emerging interpersonal skills will stand Chermine in good stead for the rest of his education: he’ll be able to get the most out of his lessons and his interactions with other children when he enters kindergarten.

Reading for any child this age isn’t a solo activity, but particularly for a DLL, it becomes a very valuable, inclusive process which teaches important literacy and social skills.  The transition from pre-k to kindergarten is never going to be an easy one, but bilingual books can play a huge role in supporting your bilingual students as they move on to exciting new challenges!

 photo credits: Carmella Fernando @ flickr.com, Escola Jerusalem @ flickr.com, and Bindaas Madhavi @ flickr.com

Using the Arts to Teach Bilingual Children

 

by Lizzie Davey

Because language learning is a creative process, it makes sense to incorporate the arts when teaching languages, especially to children, who are very visual. Using different art mediums, such as music, visual arts, and film connects the left brain (the creative side) to the right (the logical side). This can speed up learning because as new information is being collected, it is being “pattern matched” to what is already stored in the brain.

For example, a child may hear the word ‘naranja’ (orange in Spanish), and understand what it is. But when they hear the word and see a picture of the object named at the same time, they create a rounder, more complete notion of the word and its meaning. Taking this a step further, if a child can hear the word, see it, and witness it being used as it is meant to – someone eating an orange – the notion is further concretized because all three dimensions of the word are connected using the whole brain.

Music and Dance

Music is great for language-learning lessons. Children love music and find it difficult not to move about when an upbeat song is playing. Simply playing a song in a different language for children familiarizes them with the language’s unique sounds and intonations. But teachers also can incorporate Wendy Maxwell’s Accelerative Integrated Method (AIM), which helps teach vocabulary by matching words with correlating gestures to go along with the audio. So in addition to learning the words to a song and singing along with it, children can make up a dance routine that describes the words being sung. Acting out the word combined with hearing it creates a deeper understanding; the words are much easier to remember when both the body and the brain are being utilized in the learning process.

Visual Art

The visual and hands-on aspect of art makes it an invaluable part of language learning for bilingual children. Bette Setter, founder of Young Rembrandts, a mobile art education program, says that children “have a big responsibility in decoding everything. Art and art images help children develop in their natural quest for knowledge.” Again, the use of visual art when teaching language connects the creative brain to the linguistic one, forming parallels and pairing words with their visual counterparts. Integrating a country’s artwork into a language-learning curriculum also helps children connect to the history and culture surrounding the language they are learning.

Film

It’s no secret that children love films; there is something about the combination of moving images and words that transfixes them. Although there is no substitute to in-person interactions when learning a language, appropriate films and videos can be useful tools to supplement the language learning process. With most DVDs, there are language-altering options – either by applying subtitles in your desired language, or by getting the movie in the target language. Both these ways of enjoying the movie can add to the language-learning schedule. Subtitles familiarize the child with reading the language (even if they don’t know much of it) and gets them used to how the written language looks. Listening to the film in another language gets them used to hearing the language. If a child is very familiar with the movie, they probably know the context and so will be able to connect certain words with certain characters and scenes.

Cultural Events

All languages have a culture from which they originate; a culture that incorporates all kinds of art practices. Many of these can be found at cultural festivals and events, which offer a fully sensory experience of food, film, music, art, and dance. Attending these cultural events can open children’s eyes to the new culture, exposing them to the language and its customs in an entertaining and accessible way.  

Using the arts to teach children languages can make learning more enjoyable. Follow the child’s lead and you can find ways to integrate learning a language with their love of dance, music, painting, or their favorite film. After all, it’s common knowledge that children are more inclined to learn something when the learning is fun!

Author bio:  Lizzie Davey writes for Languages Abroad and Teenagers Abroad, which offer language schools all over the world, from China to Italy to Mexico. Last year, she spent time in Madrid learning Spanish and realized that in order to successfully master a language, language learning has to become a part of everyday life. She now writes about creative ways to learn a language and, most importantly, ways to keep it fun, effective, and accessible. 

Children dancing – Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/49503155381@N01/2700242045

Festival – Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/46392003@N07/6123346612

Painting1 – Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/46104149@N07/4249568462

Multicultural Gift Ideas

The holidays are right around the corner. For many of us, the most difficult part of this busy time of year is figuring out the perfect gift for friends and loved ones. For those of you looking for bilingual and multicultural products, we have put together a list of some customer favorites that make perfect holiday gifts for young language learners, multicultural children, or a special teacher.

Board Books

These heavy-duty bilingual books are perfect for babies and toddlers, giving parents the chance to encourage bilingualism at an early age. Here is a list of some board books that babies and parents are sure to enjoy:

Continue reading Multicultural Gift Ideas

Teaching Thankfulness in Bilingual Classrooms

teaching thankfulness bilingual classroom

What a perfect time of year to focus on gratitude, appreciation and thankfulness! Having family and friends to share our lives with, food on the table, clean water to drink and a roof over our heads is something that adults and children alike can take time to reflect on during this holiday season.

In bilingual classrooms, the topic of thankfulness can involve language learning as well as cultural sharing. Not only do we say “thank you” with different words, the way we show our appreciation differs from culture to culture as well. What a wonderful opportunity for students to learn more about cultures around the world this week!

Here 5 activities to help your students focus on thankfulness during this holiday season: Continue reading Teaching Thankfulness in Bilingual Classrooms

The Bilingual Child Month Is Here Again!

The Bilingual Child Day 2012

It is that time of year to celebrate: The bilingual child month is here!

We are delighted to have the opportunity to celebrate this wonderful month with you! Being bilingual is fun and fabulous – what a perfect reason to celebrate it! The best part of this celebration is that it doesn’t take much effort to focus on bilingualism: share a bilingual book with your students, visit an international district in a nearby city, or hang out together talking about the different languages spoken in your classroom or community. These are such wonderful ways to bring language and culture into our students’ lives.

Parents can be encouraged this month to pay special attention to the home language. Send home bilingual books and tell parents about the many benefits of speaking their home language(s) as much as possible!

Last year in our post Celebrate the Bilingual Children Month, we shared some of our favorite ways teachers can share bilingualism and biculturalism with their students. We suggest that you read it to find out if any of the tips might come in handy in your classroom this year!

To help teachers and families have easy access to information on supporting bilingualism in their classrooms and homes, we have put together a list of useful and informative articles. We hope you will find just what you need to stay inspired, motivated and engaged during this wonderful month of bilingualism!  Continue reading The Bilingual Child Month Is Here Again!

Grants and Funding for Bilingual Classrooms

Grants and Funding for Bilingual Classrooms

As we all know, many teachers have a hard time finding funding for all the books, materials and resources they need for their classrooms. For teachers of English Language Learner (ELL) students, access to quality resources, materials, and training is especially important, as ELL students need bilingual books and materials to improve their literacy and language skills. Yet obtaining these resources can be a difficult task for teachers and schools when local funding is not available.

As reported in Ed. Department Awards Grants to Improve ELL Teaching, the U.S. Department of Education is aware that bilingual programs rely on funding simply to exist, let alone thrive. Resources are available through both federal and state government grants as well as private funding. The key for teachers and school administrators is to find out how to tap into these available resources.

To help teachers find ways to purchase the bilingual resources they need, we have compiled a comprehensive (although by no means exhaustive) list of available grant and funding opportunities. This article comprises:

  • tips on how to search and apply for funding as well as sources for where to start looking for grants.
  • a list of federal and state government grants. (Many of these government grants will help pay for materials and resources, so make sure you include those in your proposals.)
  • a catalog of private companies and organizations that provide funding. Private sources can be less restrictive than public ones, and may include financial support for items such as bilingual books and resources.

(Please note: the links in this article were current as of the initial writing of this article.  Links and grant opportunities change over time, but we believe this article will provide a good starting point for your research.) Continue reading Grants and Funding for Bilingual Classrooms