All posts by languagelizard

Chinese New Year: Lessons to Help Children Appreciate Cultural and Linguistic Diversity

chinese new year bilingual children books

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

Supporting Bilingualism: 4 Reasons Parents Should Speak Heritage Languages at Home

Although the United States has been dubbed “the graveyard of languages” for its lack of heritage language support, today’s children’s futures need not be so bleak. Given the right encouragement, immigrant families can pass on the best of both worlds to their children: a home language in addition to the community language.

For many decades there has been a common misconception that immigrant families will help their children most by completely switching to English in the home. The belief is that the more a family uses English together, the stronger their English language skills will become.  While it is true that family members can help one another by practicing English together, English should not supplant the native language in the home. In fact, dropping the home language in favor of English can end up having many negative consequences.

Why would a family do this? A strong desire to prepare children for a competitive education system is one very common reason. Continue reading Supporting Bilingualism: 4 Reasons Parents Should Speak Heritage Languages at Home

Bilingual Children: 5 Tips for Using Language in Context

There are so many wonderful ways for our children to learn languages today. Online programs offer interactive multimedia opportunities that we could have only dreamed of having when we were young. Bilingual books and DVDs can be found in many libraries around the country, and children’s language learning classes abound.

What parents and teachers sometimes forget is the value of context when it comes to learning a language. Flash cards and online vocabulary games can be fun, but they don’t offer the kind of language development that human conversation provides. We use language for communication, and therefore it is best learned in its natural form: through discussions, conversations and stories.

Continue reading Bilingual Children: 5 Tips for Using Language in Context

Multicultural and Language-Learning Gifts: Our Top Tips for Holiday Gift-Giving

Twinkling lights, fires in the fireplace, and the smell of fresh pine needles – the holidays are upon us! For many, the most difficult part of this 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 favorites which would make perfect holiday gifts for young language learners, multicultural children and a special teacher. Let us know if you can’t find what you are looking for. We are more than happy to help.

Continue reading Multicultural and Language-Learning Gifts: Our Top Tips for Holiday Gift-Giving

Bilingual Book Review: Marek and Alice’s Christmas

Marek and Alice’s Christmas
Written by Jolanta Starek-Corile
Illustrated by Priscilla Lamont
Paperback
Ages 3-8
Review by Maureen Pugh

This brightly illustrated book is part of our celebration series, which explores the way people celebrate different festivals around the world. In the story, Marek, his sister Alice, and their parents are visiting their extended family including their babcia (grandmother), dziadek (grandfather) and prababcia (great-grandmother) in Poland. All are involved in preparing for the big Christmas celebration and Marek is full of questions. Why does prababcia put hay under the table? Why does she set an extra place at the table? Why do they look for the first star of the night before they begin their feast? Continue reading Bilingual Book Review: Marek and Alice’s Christmas

10 Tips on Celebrating Cultural Diversity in the Classroom this Winter Season

Santa Lucia celebration

As the days shorten and the weather turns cold and crisp, families are warming up with their winter holiday celebrations. Candles, lights, sweets and gifts highlight this time of year in many cultures around the world.

Although celebrating specific religious traditions is not permitted in most classrooms in America, there is no reason for teachers to avoid winter holidays all together. In fact, teaching about winter traditions can be a wonderful way to help bilingual children, in particular, feel even more comfortable and included in the classroom setting. The overall focus should be on helping students appreciate both the diversity and similarities of our global traditions.

Here are 10 suggestions for how teachers can help students appreciate winter holidays from around the world:
Continue reading 10 Tips on Celebrating Cultural Diversity in the Classroom this Winter Season

Children’s Books: Stick with the Real Thing!

As a recent article from the New York Times reminds us, when it comes to children’s books, print is still where it’s at. E-books may be perfect for a bus ride home after a long day in the office, easily tucked away into a briefcase or backpack. And an iPad can help distract us and our children during a long wait in the doctor’s office. But when it comes to the beloved bedtime story or a read-aloud at school, parents and teachers turn to the tried-and-true paper and glue book.

There is something magical about children’s books. Our favorites are those which create the perfect marriage between image and text: a magical storyline weaving and dancing against vivid illustrations and images. We each must have a memory of cuddling up with just such a book from our childhood. It isn’t impossible to recreate this in today’s digital age, but it just doesn’t feel quite the same, does it?

Even though children will often select the same book to be read out loud, this doesn’t mean that having plenty around isn’t worthwhile. Looking through piles of books, each with its own size, shape and colors, can be pure bliss for a young child. It  helps children come to realize just how diverse our literary world really is.

Ultimately, the storyline is only part of what matters to a young child when we read out loud to them. The overall experience is the real payback. The way we read a story out loud to children transports them to another world. Holding a book in the hand, feeling the texture of the pages as they are turned, and touching the images is as much part of the experience as reading the text. So is the warmth and comfort of snuggling on a parents’ lap or laying back on a floor pillow while being read to.

Continue reading Children’s Books: Stick with the Real Thing!

Multicultural Calendar – Diversity Calendar 2012

With the holiday season approaching, we wanted to let you know about a wonderful Multicultural Calendar that we recently discovered.

This calendar would make a great gift for educators, families and organizations who celebrate diversity and teach children about other cultures and holidays.  In fact, we liked it so much that Language Lizard has decided to give a few away!

Developed by artist Sheena Singh, this beautiful calendar includes hundreds of multicultural, multi-faith and diversity related holidays and observances.  It provides accurate dates with explanations for each of the world’s twelve major religions and the cultural festivals of most ethnic groups in North America, including Aboriginal People, Bahai, Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Islam, Jain, Jewish, Shinto, Sikh and more.  It also includes cultural festivals of over 140 countries.   Continue reading Multicultural Calendar – Diversity Calendar 2012

Thanksgiving and Immigrant Cultures

Is this what you will teach your students this Thanksgiving?

By guest author: Corey Heller

Stories about the origins of the North American celebration of Thanksgiving abound. Some attribute it to the Pilgrim’s prayerful appreciation for having survived an arduous journey across the sea. Others claim that it commemorates the kindness of the Native Americans who helped them survive a cold winter without food. Still others say it stems from the originally pagan tradition of giving thanks for yet another bountiful summer crop.

Whatever the origins of this North American holiday, most of us can agree that it is a holiday motivated by feelings of appreciation, humility, and kindness. At the heart of Thanksgiving is our deepest gratitude for simply being alive to witness one more day. It is about surviving in a world bombarded by uncertainty and change. No one can know what tomorrow will bring, and all we can do is appreciate what we have right here and right now.

Immigration is central to the Thanksgiving story. The New World was a destination for European settlers searching for new beginnings, merchants seeking unlimited resources, and sadly, African slaves transported unwillingly to a strange new land. These newcomers, in turn, inundated and overpowered the Native Americans who had been living on this bountiful land for many generations. Ultimately, they too became immigrants in their own land, as they were pushed farther and farther to unknown territories.

Thanksgiving tells the tale of the settler, each with his or her own personal history. Our ancestors brought traditions tucked away in travel bags between sorrows of lands lost and hopes for a new and better life. Immigration has played an intrinsic role in all Americans’ lives: this movement of peoples has formed America into what it is today.

Continue reading Thanksgiving and Immigrant Cultures

Bilingual Books to Boost Reading Comprehension

As we all know, reading comprehension is essential in today’s world. It is necessary for mastering subjects in school, working at jobs, and deciphering written communications. Without it, we might be able to pronounce words on the page but would not be able to make sense of what the words mean when put together.

Reading comprehension demands that we create images and connections in our head based on the combination of words that we are reading. The more familiar we are with the words on the page and how they apply to what we have already learned or experienced in our lives, the better will be our comprehension.

For English Language Learners (ELLs), this is especially challenging. Most ELLs do not have a strong English vocabulary from which to pull, so it is important that they are presented with text that includes a lot of context. Pictures, short sentences, words that are repeated again and again can be especially helpful. If recognizing individual words is difficult, it will interfere with a student’s overall ability to comprehend what is being read.

Continue reading Bilingual Books to Boost Reading Comprehension