Parents Night for Bilingual ELL Families

colorful stick figure people in a classroom with a chalkboard that says, "Bilingual Parents Night"Have you thought about hosting a Parents Night event just for your bilingual families? It’s a great opportunity to create a personal connection with parents who have a unique set of concerns, as well as a valuable skill set to bring to your classroom.

1. Roll Out the Welcome Mat

Don’t be shy! Use all available forms of communication (emails, letters and even phone calls) to make sure every one of your bilingual families understands how much you want to meet with them. Send multiple reminders in the days leading up to the event.

Try to remove the roadblocks that might prevent parents from attending. Offer childcare and/or dinner. Consider meeting dates/times that better accommodate their work schedules. Possibly use an alternative meeting location that is familiar to the parents, and minimizes their travel distance, like community centers or libraries.

2. Research & Prepare Your Presentation

Do your research beforehand, and look out for potential cultural expectations that parents might have coming into the meeting. In some cultures, teachers are considered the authority figure, which may keep parents from speaking up. Do moms and dads have cultural, differentiated roles in the upbringing of their children? Knowing about cultural differences ahead of time gives you a chance to address them directly, and lay down new expectations with the parents.

Find an interpreter for your Bilingual Parents Night, and meet with them beforehand to go over the main points of your presentation. Leave enough time in your speech for lengthy translations. Plan to speak in shorter bursts, to ease the translator’s burden, and improve the flow of your presentation.

If you haven’t already, proudly display your bilingual and multicultural items in your classroom. Posters, books and decorations create a welcoming and inclusive environment.

3. Celebrate Parent Involvement & Bilingualism

During your Bilingual Parent Night, encourage the use of each family’s home language. Make it clear that you value bilingualism, and see it as an asset. Emphasize the importance of reading with their children every night. Offer translated resources to take home. If you already have a bilingual classroom library, now is a great time to show it off!

Encourage classroom involvement. Bilingual parents have a unique set of skills, knowledge and experiences that can be a great benefit to all of your students. Ask them to introduce their cultural traditions to the classroom. (Traditional foods, holidays, and fables are always a hit!) Ask them to volunteer as classroom and school helpers.

Leave plenty of time for questions and discussion. You might be surprised by the specific concerns they have, so be ready to write them down for future follow up. 

Give parents the opportunity to mix and mingle. If they have a chance to meet, network and develop a sense of community, it can lead to a myriad of benefits for their children and the school as a whole.

3. Follow Up and Be Consistent

You put a lot of care and effort into planning your Bilingual Parents Night, so make sure you maintain the valuable connections you have established throughout the year.

Reach out to the parents frequently via translated emails, letters or phone calls. Offer additional bilingual resources when you find them, and be sure to follow up on the concerns they addressed.

The extra effort you put into hosting a Parent Night especially for your bilingual families can “translate” into lifelong benefits – not just for their children, but for all of the students in the class. 

4 Musical Multicultural Kid Crafts

Music is an wonderful way to introduce kids to different cultures. As Henry Wadsworth Longfellow said, “Music is the universal language of mankind.” It can evoke emotions that are at the heart of the shared human experience. Here, we offer four musical multicultural kid crafts that celebrate diversity and remind us of what we all have in common. Try them with your little ones at home or school!

Panpipe (Zampoña)

Panpipes (aka panflutes) are one of the earliest known musical instruments in the Americas.  The oldest was discovered in Peru, and dates back to 4200 BC. We made our kid-friendly version of this woodwind instrument by cutting straws to different lengths and taping them to pieces of cardboard. Gently blow across the tops, and enjoy the soft, echoing sounds.

Chinese Pellet Drum (Bo Lang Gu)

Pellet drums (aka rattle drums) originated in China around 300 B.C. as an instrument used during banquets and religious celebrations. It’s now generally known for its use by street vendors and as a children’s toy.  Our kids’ version is made from two paper plates, yarn, beads and a chopstick. Just twist the rod back and forth so the pellets strike each side of the drum.

Rain Stick

A number of ancient civilizations used ceremonial rain sticks to call for rain. The origin of the first rain stick is unknown. (Some say South America, others say Africa or China.) We made ours from a paper towel roll, which we pierced with a few toothpicks. Fill it with beads or dry beans, close off the ends, and enjoy the peaceful tap-tapping sound of rain. You may want to keep an umbrella nearby!

Australian-Style Clapsticks (Bilma)

Clapsticks, or bilma, are an instrument used in Aboriginal ceremonies in Australia.  Traditionally made of hard eucalyptus wood, they make a hard, rapping sound when struck together. We made ours from short sections of PVC pipe, and they make a wonderful rhythm to dance to!

What’s your favorite musical instrument from another culture? Let us know by leaving a comment!

Preparing Your Classroom for Bilingual Students

cartoon children in front of a school with "hello" in many languagesIt may be hard to believe, but summer is coming to an end. Beach days and family barbecues will soon be behind us. You find your mind is full of lesson plans and an incoming class of new faces. As you’re organizing shelves and deciding on the optimal classroom layout, remember to consider the needs of your bilingual students. Now is the perfect time to create a welcoming classroom that reflects acceptance and diversity right from the start.

Create an Inclusive Classroom

You want all of your students to feel like the classroom is their own by decorating it with images that represent and support diversity. If possible, find out the cultures that will be represented in your class roster before school begins.

"Hello" "Welcome" and "Thank You" posters in many languages

Bilingual students are proud to see their home languages reflected in dual language books and multicultural posters. Create a bilingual listening and reading center, where students can read in comfort. Introduce the class to interesting and exciting aspects of different languages, cultures and countries. Traditional foods, stories, holidays and history are just a few subjects that are sure to be a hit.

Be Supportive, Yet Sensitive

Teachers often walk a fine line between giving bilingual students extra care and attention, without making them feel singled out as being different. When you discuss other languages and cultures in your class, do so generically, so that any one student doesn’t feel singled out. Your sensitivity to their needs will ensure any class discussions increase your bilingual students’ confidence.

Some students like to talk about where they, or their parents, are from. They want to answer their classmates’ questions. However, not all bilingual children feel they are different from their peers. Let each student decide what makes him/her unique and special. For those who have negative feelings associated with having a different home language, try and determine what will help them feel more accepted and appreciated in the classroom.

Find Bilingual Resources

stack of multicultural bilingual children's books

Gather bilingual books and other learning materials in your students’ home languages. Not only will it help students feel more welcome, it will also improve their literacy skills. Check out our post Bilingual Children: Benefits of Learning to Read in the Home Language for more information and tips.

You can also adapt your lesson plans to reflect the unique make-up of your students’ cultural backgrounds. Our free lesson plan “Understanding and Appreciating Cultural Differences includes a fun “I am Unique” Scavenger Hunt.

Prepare Information for Bilingual Parents

It’s important to engage the parents of your bilingual students. Help them understand the vital role they play in developing the language and literacy skills of their children. Provide them with materials in their home language. Allow students to borrow bilingual books, and encourage parents to read them at home together.

Find Your Support Network

Where can you find support during the school year? Familiarize yourself with ways your school district can support you. Are there financial resources you can utilize, or administrators who can assist teachers of bilingual students? Look into joining the local chapter of your state’s bilingual educators association.

A supportive and understanding teacher can make all the difference in the life of a bilingual child. The entire class also benefits from learning about other cultures through the eyes of their fellow classmates. Helping bilingual children blossom and shine in the classroom is truly a rewarding endeavor.

Bilingual Summer Reading List

Whether your summer is action-packed or laid back, there are stretches of time that are perfect for getting in some bilingual reading. But what books are perfect for the long ride to grandma’s, or the quiet afternoon by the lake? We’ve brought together some of our favorite summertime reads that are sure to appeal to kids of all ages and interests. Bonus: They’ll be improving their bilingual skills. Our titles are available in English with your choice of over 50 languages!

Books About Outdoor Fun

We’re Going on a Bear Hunt

It’s such a beautiful day – let’s go on a bear hunt! Dad takes his four children on a grand adventure across grassy fields, through a river and into a cave. They’re not afraid!  (Ages: 2-7)

Let’s Go to the Park

This board book is all about letting young children explore the area they live in.  What animals and people will they meet? What objects will they see and hear? The simple text is just right for young readers who are starting to recognize words. The text promotes simple conversations: What can you SEE? What can you HEAR? WHO will you meet? (Ages: 0-4)

Goal! Let’s Play!

Let’s discover games and sports played around the world! In Nigeria there’s swimming, running in France, and even camel racing in Dubai. Children will be inspired to get moving! This book, part of the “Our Lives, Our World” series, explores the diversity of children’s lives around the world. (Ages 2-6)

Books About Friendship

I Took the Moon for a Walk

A young boy goes on a magical adventure with his friend, the Moon. Lyrical verse combine with detailed illustrations, delivering a dramatic backdrop for an imaginative journey. Readers will love the serene beauty of the night time world. At the end of the book, discover facts about the moon as it passes through the sky, and the ways it influences our lives. Readers can also learn about many nocturnal animals who occupy the world at night. (Ages: 3-8)

What Shall We Do with the Boo Hoo Baby?

What should Dog, Duck, Cat and Dog do when the baby says, “Boo-hoo-hoo!” Should they feed him? Play with him? Will that baby EVER stop crying? Cressida Cowell brings us an award-winning book full of gorgeous illustrations and a story familiar to any family that’s been blessed with a new addition. Toddlers and preschoolers will love the repetition and animal sounds. (Ages: 1-6)

Keeping Up with Cheetah

Cheetah wants a friend – a friend as fast as him. But poor Hippo can’t keep up, and is left in the dust. With so many differences, how can these two characters play together? Young children will learn about what it means to be a good friend. (Ages: 2-7)

Multicultural Books

The Crow King

The evil Crow King has stolen a beautiful bride, and her husband must set out on a dangerous journey to rescue her. How can this mere mortal defeat a merciless demon? With strength and courage! This Korean tale by Lee Joo-Hye is about the fight between good and evil.  (Ages: 5+)

Mamy Wata and the Monster

Mamy Wata is the queen of all the water. One day, when she is swimming peacefully in a big river, she hears the news: a terrible monster has been scaring the nearby villagers. So Mamy Wata lies in wait near the monster’s cave. But, to her great surprise, instead of finding a monster, she finds a sad and lonely man who has been bewitched. This colorfully illustrated book brings African culture to life on each page. Children will be captivated by the lyrical text, perfect for reading aloud. (Ages: 4+)

Deepak’s Diwali

Deepak is having the worst Diwali ever! No sparklers, no fairy lights, and now Deepak is certain Ravana the demon king is after him! This story by Divya Karwal is part of our “Celebration” series. It’s a warm contemporary story, with beautiful illustrations that celebrate Hindu mythology, recipes and activities. (Ages: 3-8)

Traditional Stories… with a Twist!

Not Again, Red Riding Hood!

Little Red Riding Hood is on her way to see her father. She has ten cookies to bring to him. Along the way, she meets some familiar characters, who also happen to be very hungry: The three bears, the three billy goats gruff, and Rapunzel. And, as always, there is the Big Bad Wolf. How will Little Red Riding Hood get past that hungry wolf? This clever story combines favorite characters from many tales, and can also be used as a math counting book.  (Ages: 3-8)

Jill and the Beanstalk

Jill, the self-assured protagonist, must battle an evil giant and save her family. While on her adventure, she meets characters from other nursery rhymes, like the Queen of Hearts and Little Bo Peep. “Jack couldn’t help feeling envious of Jill, he wished he’d climbed a beanstalk instead of a hill….” (Ages: 4+)

Pinocchio and the Real Boys

This bilingual story re-tells the classic tale of Pinocchio, a puppet who wants to be a real boy. After learning lessons through some misadventures with his schoolmates, Pinocchio decides to be responsible, and think for himself instead, and finds that his greatest wish comes true! This is a great read-aloud book with lyrical text and whimsical illustrations.  (Ages: 4+)

How does your family make time for summer reading? Comment and let us know!

“Reading” by Marketa via Flickr is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 https://flic.kr/p/d5CknA

Multicultural Learning Activities for Summer

A beach in the summer timeWith summer here, many parents find themselves asking the same question: What should I do with the kids until school starts up again? There’s no reason you can’t make language and cultural learning part of your summer break routine!

Games

These 5 multicultural games from around the world are a simple way to get moving and playing together! Try a rousing game of 1, 2, 3 Dragon, or a few rounds of Palm Ball. It’s a great way to stay active this summer, all while learning about different cultures.

Reading

Taking a months-long hiatus from learning might set your kids up for the dreaded “summer slide,” when kids lose some of the progress they made the year before. For bilingual learners, especially, a long break from consistent language exposure can erode some of their hard work.

Set aside some time in your schedule for reading. To help you pick the right bilingual books for your family this summer, we put together a handy reading list with stories that are humorous, tell traditional tales, and are full of fun songs to sing!

Travel

If your summer includes travel plans, you can make bilingualism part of your family’s summertime adventures. Engage children in fun travel activities, whether it’s during a ride to the grandparents’ house, or a flight overseas. Try out these travel activities, and you’ll be there before you know it!

Ease Into Summer

Lastly, are you or the kids feeling a bit off-kilter, now that the school schedule has come to an end? Some people experience anxiety about big changes to the daily routine. In this post, we offer 3 tips to ease the transition into summer break.

What are your kids’ favorite summer activities? Comment below and let us know!

“Slice of paradise” by Kevin Dooley via Flickr is licensed under CC BY 2.0 https://flic.kr/p/d85Y5u

5 Multicultural Games for Kids to Try This Summer

Kids playing outdoorsIf you’re looking for something fun to do this summer, give these multicultural games from around the world a try! From games that you can play in a group, to one-on-one games, they are perfect for all ages. Get your kids or campers outdoors to play a fun round of Catching Stars or a competitive game of Hoops! It’s a great way to stay active this summer while learning about different cultures.

STALKER (Botswana)

In this enjoyable group game, two players are chosen to be the Hunter and the Springbok. These two players are blind-folded, and the rest of the players form a circle around them. The Hunter must try to catch the Springbok, and the Springbok tries to stay away from the Hunter. The group is not allowed to touch either player, but they may choose to make different animal noises to distract the Hunter. Once the Springbok is caught, the group chooses two new people to be the Hunter and the Springbok.

CATCHING STARS (Equatorial Guinea, Zaire)

This game is typically played with a large number of players. Split the group into one smaller group and one bigger one. The smaller group is Catchers and the bigger group is Stars. All the Stars stand in a line on one side of the field, and the Catchers stand spread out in the middle. The Catchers say, “Star light, star bright, how many stars are out tonight?” The Stars respond, “More than you can catch!” The Stars then try to run as quickly as possible to the other side of the field without being tagged by the Catchers. If Stars are tagged by Catchers, they become catchers too. The game continues until all Stars become Catchers.

1, 2, 3 DRAGON! (China)

This is an active group game that is fun for children of all ages. Players form a line with each player’s hands on the shoulders of the person in front of them. The first person in line is the Head, and the last person in line is the Tail. The Tail yells, “1, 2, 3 dragon!” and the Head starts moving to try and catch the Tail. The rest of the players must follow the Head’s movements exactly, while staying connected to one another. If the line disconnects, then the dragon has died, and the Head must move to the end of the line to become the Tail. If the Head is able to catch the Tail, the Dragon survives! The Head still moves to the back of the line to become the Tail in order to give the next person in line a chance to be the Head.

HOOPS (Greece)

It is helpful to have at least 5 people on each team in this game. There are two teams, and each team selects one person to be the Roller. The Roller will stand at the starting line with a hula hoop. The rest of the players will be on the side with small balls or bean bags. The Roller rolls the hula hoop past the people on their team, and they try to get as many balls through the hoop as possible without the balls touching the hoop. The team who is able to get the most balls through the hoop is the winner.

PALM BALL (Italy)

Similar to Dodge Ball in the US, you only need a ball and a piece of chalk to play this game. Mark off a big rectangle on the ground with the chalk, and draw a line through the center of the rectangle. Each player stands in their side of the box. One player starts by serving the ball into the other person’s box, and that player must send the ball back by hitting it. You can’t hold the ball – you can only hit it back into the other person’s box. The ball can only bounce in your box twice before making it to the other side.

Comment and tell us about your favorite multicultural game to play with your family!

“Kids Playing” by Mr Hicks46 via Flickr is licensed under BY-SA 2.0 https://flic.kr/p/51JNBG

New Bilingual Children’s Books Available!

Language Lizard is excited to announce that we’ve added two new bilingual books to our offerings:

Pinocchio and the Real Boys

We are thrilled to announce the addition of Pinocchio and the Real Boys, a title made even more special because it’s available in a new language – Kurmanji Kurdish!

Pinocchio and the Real Boys is a bilingual story that re-tells the classic tale of Pinocchio, a puppet who wants to be a real boy. After learning lessons through misadventures with his schoolmates, Pinocchio decides to be responsible, and think for himself instead, and finds that his greatest wish comes true!

This is a great read-aloud book with lyrical text and whimsical illustrations by Magda Brol. Available in your choice of 19 languages with English!

For the month of May, we are offering a 10% discount on Pinocchio and the Real Boys. Simply enter coupon code PIN10 during the month of May 2018 to receive the discount.

Let’s Go to the Farm

We’ve also added the bilingual board book Let’s Go to the Farm. This charming story by Kate Clynes uses bold illustrations and simple text about the world around us, to support language development in young readers. This book is also great to use with the PENpal Audio Recorder Pen (sold separately) because children can tap around the pages to hear sounds from the story!

 

Kurmanji Language & Kurmanji Books: Facts, Figures & Resources

city view in kurdistan

Today’s spotlight language is Kurmanji. We’ve gathered some background info and interesting facts about the language. We also have information on our newest Kurmanji children’s book.

Where is Kurmanji spoken?

Kurmanji is a major dialect of the Kurdish language. It’s spoken in Kurdistan, Syria, Turkey, Iran and Iraq. There are approximately 15 million speakers worldwide.

How Many Kurdish Speakers in the US?

According to the most recent US Census data, there are about 17,000 Kurdish speakers in the US. Some of the largest Kurdish populations are in New York, California, New Jersey and Florida.

Interesting Facts About Kurmanji

Kurdish dialects are broken into three main groups: Northern Kurdish (Kurmanji), Central Kurdish (or Sorani) and Southern Kurdish (Pehlewani).

Nearly all people in the Kurdistan Region can speak or understand Kurmanji and Sorani.

The Kurdish language came into being around 3,000 years ago.

Kurmanji can be written with Latin or Cyrillic scripts.

Kurmanji Books – Bilingual Children’s Books

We have long offered many bilingual Sorani Kurdish storybooks and audio books for kids, like The Little Red Hen and the Grains of Wheat and Hansel and Gretel. We are proud to now offer Pinocchio and the Real Boys in Kurmanji Kurdish, and we will be adding more titles in the Kurmanji language in the coming months.

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

“Sulaimani city view from slemani palace building” by Diyar se via Flickr is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 https://flic.kr/p/d1VH7U

The “Seal of Biliteracy” in Schools Across the Country 

Graduates throwing caps in the airAcross the country, more schools are embracing fluency in multiple languages by offering a special award called the “Seal of Biliteracy” that can be earned by bilingual students.

Earning the Seal of Biliteracy

The first program began in California in 2010 to showcase biliteracy as an asset. The Seal of Biliteracy helps to elevate language programs in our schools, and gives students a new goal to work toward.

More than two dozen states now offer a state- or district-wide Seal of Biliteracy award to high school graduates who demonstrate that they can speak, read and write in more than one language. 

The purpose of the seal is to recognize the hard work of becoming biliterate. Offering the seal also sends a message about the value of maintaining native languages, and the importance of language learning.

Once earned, the seal appears on a student’s diploma and/or transcript, or as a special certificate. In some states, students can also earn “pathway awards” as they journey toward earning the seal.

In the long-term, students who have earned the seal are more attractive to colleges and employers, which leads to greater earning potential over their lifetimes.

Are you looking for a special gift for someone earning a Seal of Biliteracy? Read our previous post to learn about some unique gifts for bilingual students.

“goodbye” by Jessie Jacobson via Flickr is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 https://flic.kr/p/6uZfvq

Diverse Gifts for Teacher Appreciation Week & to Celebrate Bilingual Students

Spring is a great time to celebrate the outstanding educators and language learners in your life!

Teacher Appreciation Week & More!

Teacher Appreciation Week is May 7-11. It’s the perfect opportunity to say “thank you” to the teachers and school staff that work tirelessly to make a difference in our children’s lives.

April is also National Bilingual/Multilingual Learner Advocacy Month. Be sure to show your support of those students who are working to maintain their home languages, while also learning a new one!

Gifts that Celebrate Diversity & Inclusion

Looking for unique gifts that celebrate diversity and inclusion?

We’re excited to offer new multicultural t-shirt designs that celebrate bilingualism and diversity such as: Welcome Your Friends (with HELLO in 35+ different languages), I’m Bilingual, What’s Your Superpower? and We All Smile in the Same Language.

There are many more design and color options available at our Amazon store, as well as bilingual and Spanish-only versions of some of the designs.

Many of the same designs are now available on mugs and phone cases, too!

These gifts encourage and promote language learning – perfect for multicultural classrooms!

Supporting Dual Language Learners and Bringing Multiculturism to the Classroom!