Tag Archives: bilingual classroom

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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Bilingual Baby Books – 5 Tips to Get You Started

baby reading bilingual baby book

There are so many reasons to read to your baby, especially when you’re raising a bilingual child. Not only is reading a great way to bond, it’s a chance to link spoken words with visual images on the page. And don’t forget to get older siblings involved in the bilingual reading fun! Here are 5 tips to getting your bilingual baby book collection started.

Choosing the Right Bilingual Baby Books

What is Peace? bilingual children's book

Your first bilingual books for your baby should be made of sturdy material that can withstand strong baby hands and teeth. Board books with thick pages are a great choice, as are cloth and vinyl books that can be washed off.

For babies newborn to 6 months, choose books with large pictures in bright colors. Older babies love books with images of their favorite things, like balls, bottles and other babies.

Make Dedicated Reading Time

Life with a baby means getting a million things done each day (and night). Feeding, changing, nap time… repeat. Find a special reading time that works best for your family: maybe at snack time, after a bath or at bedtime. Soon, reading time will be one of the best parts of your daily routine.

Read with Enthusiasm!

Row Row Row Your Boat bilingual children's book

Whether it’s animals noises, singing or character voices, your baby (and you) will have more fun when story time is full of excitement, emotion and enthusiasm. But remember to keep your expression pleasant, so baby doesn’t get frightened if there are scary parts.

Name Everything as You Read

Brown Bear Brown Bear What Do You See bilingual children's book

Don’t limit yourself to the text on the page. Feel free to point to pictures and objects and name them all in both languages!

Let Your Books Grow with Your Child

Handa's Surprise

As your baby grows, don’t forget to add more challenging stories to your collection. These will have longer sentences, with more complex vocabulary. But it’s ok to keep the old favorites in the rotation! Find multicultural children books that are culturally appropriate. International holidays and common experiences, like making friends or trying new foods, are great topics that your little one will enjoy.

What is your family’s favorite story to read? Comment below and let us know!

“Gordon” by 8/52 – Reader via Flickr is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 https://flic.kr/p/9XdiDp

Nepali Language & Nepali Books: Facts, Figures and Resources

nepali books spotlight languageToday’s spotlight language is Nepali. Below, we offer background and interesting facts about the language, as well as information to help you find Nepali books.

Where is it spoken?

Nepali is the official language of Nepal, a country in South Asia. It is also spoken in Bhutan, Burma (Republic of the Union of Myanmar), and India. There are about 17 million Nepali speakers around the world.

map of nepal nepali books bilingual childrens books

How Many People Speak Nepali in the US?

There are relatively large Nepalese communities in New York, California and Texas. According to the US Census Bureau’s most recent estimates in 2014, over 120,000 people in the US identify as Nepalese. Of these, about 25,000 are school-aged children.

Interesting Facts About Nepali

In the past, Nepali was called the Khas language and Gorkhali.

One of the most well known words in Nepali is “namaste,” which means hello. It is usually spoken with a slight bow and palms pressed together. It can be used as a greeting or a goodbye. A more casual greeting is “Tik chha,” which means “How are you?”

Nepali Books – Bilingual Children’s Books

Teachers frequently ask for suggestions on some of the best bilingual Nepali books for children.   Here are some popular and engaging stories with text in both English and the Nepali language as well as a Nepali English dictionary for children.

Do you speak Nepali, or know someone who does? Comment below and share your interesting language facts!


“Nepal – Evening lights at Bhaktapur” by Dhilung Kirat via Flickr is licensed under CC BY 2.0 https://flic.kr/p/6gHdSS

“Nepal-map-blank” By CIA World fact book (Image:Nepal-CIA_WFB_Map.png) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3ANepal-map-blank.png

Promoting Differentiated Instruction & Inclusiveness using Interactive Technology and Bilingual Audio Books

differentiated instruction and inclusiveness in the classroomIf a classroom were a puzzle, the students in it would be its pieces. Each piece would have its own shape, or learning style; its own size, or level of readiness. Teachers are trying to reach every student in an effective way with a finite amount of resources. More educators are looking to differentiated instruction and inclusiveness to help them achieve these goals. New technology, like the PENpal Audio Recorder Pen, along with interactive bilingual literacy sets, are helping teachers customize content specifically to their students’ needs.

What is Differentiated Instruction?

The concept of differentiated instruction has its roots in old-fashioned, one-room schoolhouses, where students of all ages were taught in a single classroom. Individualized, guided support and instructions are provided to children with different ability levels.  Differentiated instruction can help teachers:
  • meet rigorous standards
  • focus on essential skills in different content areas
  • incorporate assessment into instruction
  • provide students with multiple avenues to learning
  • respond to individual student needs

What is Inclusion?

Inclusion means that all learners have access to learning, so there are no barriers due to inequality, inferiority or discrimination. It promotes a sense of belonging on the part of each student in the classroom. Inclusion means that everyone is accepted, despite their differences.

Using Technology to Promote Differentiated Instruction and Inclusiveness

Teachers must cover a wide range of subjects in a short amount of time, so they can’t afford to teach content at a slower pace. The use of appropriate technology can simultaneously provide support to students who need scaffolding, and enrichment to students in need of extra challenges. The result: students who are more engaged in the classroom.
Bilingual literacy sets, available in many languages, along with the PENpal Audio Recorder Pen, can help teachers develop and assess oral language development, build fluency and improve phonemic awareness, and support parental involvement. Teachers can customize content specifically to their students’ needs with both English and home-language resources. For example, a classroom with Spanish and Russian speaking students could include English-Spanish Audio Books and English-Russian Audio Books that students can use with the PENpal, either in class or at home.

PENpal resources can help teachers achieve differentiated instruction and inclusiveness in their classrooms in many ways:

  • Provide step-­by-­step instructions for Learning Centers.
  • Students record the telling of a story, add sound effects, narrate a character’s thoughts or imagined conversation between characters.
  • Provide narration in different languages and record support for homework.
  • Record messages or questions for parents, who can record their responses in English or their home language.
  • Use the PENpal as a multi­-sensory spelling tool by having students record the word they are spelling, and the phonemes or graphemes that make up the word.
  • Use as an assessment tool by keeping all recordings as evidence of a student’s progress.
  • Narrate storyboards in preparation for storytelling/story writing/drama exercises.  Record dialogue between characters and document additional information, such as length of scene, props, or characters.
  • Create interactive wall displays.
  • Audio­-enhance flashcards.

Don’t forget to check out our comprehensive and informative collection of videos for even more ideas on how the PENpal can foster English language learner (ELL) language development in the classroom and at home.


 “Niños de Tilcara saliendo del cole” by (M) via Flickr is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 https://flic.kr/p/2SqBe3

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

Holidays & Food: Celebrate with a Discount on Bilingual Children’s Books

bilingual childrens books food themed discount holidays

Think of any holiday celebrated in any part of the world, and there is sure to be at least one traditional dish associated with it. Thanksgiving turkey, curry on Boxing Day, or rice cakes for Chinese New Year… Food is the cornerstone of any celebration.

In an article that explores the relationship between food and culture, writer Amy S. Choi says, “Food feeds the soul. To the extent that we all eat food, and we all have souls, food is the single great unifier across cultures.” She says that to understand a culture’s food is to know the story of their identity, survival, status, pleasure and community.

Another article on parents.com delves into the oftentimes surprising history behind many traditional holiday dishes, like Christmas fruit cake and Hanukkah latkes. Did you know sweets are eaten during Diwali to symbolize the defeat of evil and the triumph of goodness and light?

To get your classroom and family talking about their favorite holiday dishes, Language Lizard is offering a 10% discount on these fun, food-themed bilingual children’s books:

Yum Let's Eat! Bilingual children's bookYum! Let’s Eat! – Meet children from around the world and explore their foods and eating traditions. This story explores the rich diversity of children’s lives and develops a worldwide perspective.

Grandma's Saturday Soup - bilingual children's bookGrandma’s Saturday Soup – Every day something reminds Mimi of Grandma’s special Saturday Soup and the tales her grandma tells. Delightful descriptions of Jamaica, accompanied by vivid illustrations, will make us all wish that we had a grandma like this!

Buri and the Morrow - bilingual children's bookBuri and the Marrow – In this famous Bengali story, an old woman travels through the forest to meet her daughter. On her way she meets a fox, a tiger and a lion, and she must come up with a plan to outwit them.

Alice and Marek's Christmas - bilingual children's bookAlice & Marek’s Christmas – It’s Christmas Eve and everyone is getting ready. This story explores the different ways people celebrate  around the world. There are recipes and activities in this beautifully illustrated book that takes us to the heart of Christmas in Poland.

Deepak's Diwali - bilingual children's bookDeepak’s Diwali –  This warm contemporary story is interwoven with beautifully illustrated images from Hindu mythology. The book is packed with recipes and activities for the whole family to enjoy.

Samira's Eid - bilingual children's bookSamira’s Eid – The first sighting of the new moon starts a day of celebration for Samira and her family. The Ramadan fast is over and now it is time for prayers and presents. A surprise visitor brings a mysterious present and has an unusual story to tell. Great for teaching children about Islamic holidays and culture.

Li's Chinese New Year - bilingual children's bookLi’s Chinese New Year – It’s nearly the New Year and Li can’t figure out what animal he’s going to be in the special school assembly. Will he be a fierce tiger or a strong ox? Find each of the 12 zodiac animals on your way through the story, and discover facts and activities relating to the festival at the back of the book.

The Giant Turnip - bilingual children's bookThe Giant Turnip – This traditional story is set in an inner-city school where the children have grown an enormous turnip! How can they pull it out? They all try together but the turnip will not budge. Who will save the day?

limasredhotchilliLima’s Red Hot Chilli – Take one hungry little girl, six different tempting foods and one shiny, delicious red hot chilli. One big bite results in a spectacular display of fireworks. Mom, Dad, Aunt and Grandad all come to help, but Lima’s mouth is still too hot. Who can rescue her?

Just enter code FOOD15 during checkout to receive 10% off these fun, holiday food-themed titles, now through December 31, 2015.

Language Lizard’s Biggest Giveaway Ever! $300 in Bilingual Children’s Books

bilingual children's books and language lizardOctober is full of bilingual reading fun! In honor of two exciting events – Celebrating the Bilingual Child Month AND Language Lizard’s 10th Anniversary – we are proud to announce our biggest giveaway ever!

Enter to Win $300 in Bilingual Books from Language Lizard!

Language Lizard will send one lucky winner a $300 Language Lizard gift certificate that can be used to purchase any of the bilingual / multilingual products available on the Language Lizard website.

Books are available in English with Albanian, Arabic, Bengali, Bulgarian, Burmese, Chinese, Dari, Croatian, Czech, Dutch, English-only, Farsi, French, German, Greek, Gujarati, Haitian-Creole, Hebrew, Hindi, Hmong, Hungarian, Irish, Italian, Japanese, Karen (Sgaw), Korean, Kurdish, Latvian, Lithuanian, Malay, Malayalam, Nepali, Norwegian, Panjabi, Pashto, Patois, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Russian, Scottish Gaelic, Shona, Slovakian, Somali, Spanish, Swahili, Swedish, Tagalog, Tamil, Thai, Tigrinya, Turkish, Twi, Urdu, Vietnamese, Welsh, and Yoruba.

How to Enter – Bilingual Book Giveaway

To enter the contest, simply fill out and submit the Language Lizard Giveaway Entry Form before October 31, 2015.  Every entry form submission counts as one entry “point.”  Individuals can receive additional entry points by taking the following actions (one point per action taken):

The maximum number of entry points one can receive is 5 (one for the form submission and one each for the actions above). 

Enter the giveaway, and find the full terms and conditions, here.
Browse all the language learning materials the winner can choose from by visiting www.LanguageLizard.com.

October is Celebrating the Bilingual Child Month

children reading bilingual bookCelebrating the Bilingual Child Month was established in 2006 to recognize the many children that speak two or more languages and understand multiple cultures. This is a time to recognize their achievements, encourage continued language learning, and explore the differences and similarities of diverse languages and cultures with all students. These efforts will help connect our communities and improve global relations.

For more information about Celebrating the Bilingual Child Month and tips on how you can celebrate this special month in your classroom, check out our blog post.

Good luck and happy reading!

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

Congratulations to Winner of $100 Bilingual Book Grant

Thanks to all those who entered Language Lizard’s $100 Bilingual Book Giveaway!

Congratulations to our winner Robin Vander Groef from NORWESCAP Head Start in Newton, NJ!  Robin is planning to use the funds to buy books for use in the Head Start classrooms.  She is interested in bilingual children’s books in Spanish, Chinese and Urdu, and authentic books that represent the culture.

Based on the great response and the clear need for dual language books, we are planning on holding additional giveaways in the future.  To make sure you don’t miss any future giveaways, please sign up for our newsletter at http://www.languagelizard.com/newslettersignup.htm.  Giveaways are also announced on our Facebook page and via Twitter.

Bilingual Students: Using Holiday Celebrations to Promote Language Development in Multicultural Classrooms

Bilingual Students: Using Holiday Celebrations to Promote Language Development in Multicultural Classrooms

Now that the New Year has arrived and school is back in full swing, students are sure to be filled brimming with enthusiastic stories of what they did during their winter holiday. Ice skating in the park, opening gifts at the fireplace, lighting candles in beautifully wrought candelabras are just a few  activities that children might share with an overjoyed twinkle in their eye. How could they not?!

As we all know first-hand, getting students to engage in conversations works best when they are inspired and excited about the topic.  This is particularly true of bilingual students, especially those who may still be mastering the community language. What better time than now to get your bilingual students talking with you and one another? Their minds are so full of wonderful memories from the holidays, they will most likely want to share as much as possible.

Here are 5 tips on how to help your students direct their holiday excitement into fun language opportunities:
Continue reading Bilingual Students: Using Holiday Celebrations to Promote Language Development in Multicultural Classrooms