By Karen Nemeth, Ed.M.
Photo credit: christine (cbszeto)
Learning to talk is one of the biggest jobs a baby has to do – so wouldn’t learning two languages be confusing? The answer is: No!
According to the latest research, babies’ brains are so well prepared to analyze, absorb, and make sense of language, that learning in two languages simply comes naturally.
Through their research, Dr. Patricia Kuhl of Washington University and her colleagues have found that infants who grow up bilingual maintain brain plasticity for a longer period of time as they develop two distinct yet connected languages. We also know from York University’s Dr. Ellen Bialystok’s research that this early experience helps children get to school with more advantageous self-regulation skills and can benefit brain function even until old age.
That’s why growing numbers of parents and childcare programs are endeavoring to raise children who are bilingual right from the start. Continue reading Building Baby Brains with Two Languages
As we mentioned in our previous post, Bilingual Students: Using Holiday Celebrations to Promote Language Development in Multicultural Classrooms, bilingual students often have a lot to say right after they return from their winter holidays. They are eager to share activities that they engaged in with family and friends and to talk about the gifts that they may have received. However, once the excitement of returning back to school has worn off, it can be more challenging to get bilingual students talking.
A wonderful way to encourage bilingual students to share information and thoughts is to have them narrate about familiar topics. The more a student knows about a topic, the more inclined he or she is to want to share information about it.
The key is finding topics that are of interest to each student, which is not an easy task for a busy teacher with many students in class. One way to go about this is to give your students opportunities to talk about things with which they are intimately familiar: Favorite stories, preferred activities and beloved toys can get even the quietest bilingual student narrating in detail.
Another approach is to ask bilingual students to tell you and the other students about favorite stories, books or chapters that they read (or had read to them). The idea is not to require the student to remember key elements from the story; rather, the goal is to simply get the student talking!
Another benefit of narration is that students will remember things so much better than when they are passively listening. As soon as a student starts to narrate about something, images are created in their minds that will stick around for a much longer time and have more impact.
Here are some tips on having bilingual students narrate:
Continue reading Bilingual Students: The Benefits of Narration
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
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.
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
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
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!
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
Starting school for the first time can be both an exciting and nerve-wracking experience for a young bilingual child. Aside from possible language barriers, cultural differences may often play a role. Things that are done in the classroom often do not match what a child is used to at home and this can make a bilingual child feel especially uncomfortable and insecure.
It is important to give bilingual children a lot of time to get used to the classroom setting. Although this is true for all children coming to school for the first time, for bilingual children there are some unique elements which can help them transition more successfully.
Below are tips to make the transition go more smoothly for bilingual students in your classroom:
Continue reading Bilingual Children and the First Days of School
Children love music and singing. There is something magical about words being set to a melody that make children perk up and join in. Since most children’s songs consist of catchy beats and poetry-infused lyrics, it is a perfect combination of rhythm, rhyme and fun.
An added benefit to children’s songs is that they are often easy to learn. The short, repetitive sentences lend themselves to easy memorization and retention. What better way to learn words in context than to sing them out loud? Children don’t even realize how much their language skills are improving while joining in the singing fun.
Bilingual children, in particular, can benefit from singing songs in their second language. Even if most of the words are unfamiliar at first, mimicking the words in a song can help children practice producing sounds in the new language. Eventually the sounds give way to actual understanding as the song is practiced over and over again. It is a win-win situation all around.
Here are a few tips to think about when introducing your bilingual students to songs: Continue reading Using Music to Help Children Learn Languages
Chinese New Year is almost here! Chinese families around the world are already celebrating this exciting event which lasts for fifteen days. The celebration begins on the night of a new moon and culminates with the Lantern Festival, a celebration that takes place under the light of the full moon. Families join together in the streets carrying lighted lanterns to create a beautiful light display.
Before the Chinese New Year begins, homes are cleaned from top to bottom. The goal is to sweep out ill fortune and encourage the good fortune of the new year to enter. The evening of Chinese New Year is a big event celebrated with traditional feasting and ending with a fireworks display. Each of the fifteen days of Chinese New Year has a special significance: friends and families share traditional feasts, honor ancestors and deities, exchange gifts, visit extended family members, give children red envelopes with good luck money, and enjoy traditional music and special celebrations.
To share this wonderful event with your students, we encourage you to download our free Chinese New Year lesson plan which takes students on a journey through the Chinese New Year by utilizing geography, crafts and discussion. Continue reading Chinese New Year: Lessons to Help Children Appreciate Cultural and Linguistic Diversity