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.
The start of the school year is just around the corner. Where did the summer go? It seems like just yesterday that we were watching our students head out the schoolhouse doors. Before we know it, they will be rushing back through those doors again.
With the coming school year so close, it is important that teachers start thinking ahead to the needs of their bilingual students. Language activities, music, bilingual books and writing materials are just a few examples of resources to have on hand. Are you prepared?
Reading out loud is one of the most wonderful ways we can help our children learn language(s). It helps to build vocabulary (in many languages) and helps children fall in love with literature and the written word.
The more we can make storytime a great experience for children, the more they will look forward to reading on their own down the road.
It doesn’t take a lot to make storytime a child’s favorite time of day. However, reminding ourselves of some key elements can help make it even better.
Picture this: A classroom bustling with students engaged in a variety of activities. On one side of the room, the teacher mingles with a group of students who are working on a collage. It is spread out across a wide table and students are discussing, in English and Spanish, where to place the different items. The teacher meanders by, a student asks for some advice in English, and a short discussion takes place.
A few minutes later the same teacher approaches a student sitting in a bean bag chair on the floor reading a book in English. The student asks the teacher, in Spanish, about the meaning of one of the words in the book, and together they talk about the word and its context in the sentence.
This easy movement between two languages is happening in many bilingual classrooms throughout the United States. Not only do classrooms such as these help non-English speaking students learn English, it also helps native English speakers learn a second language. Bilingual classrooms give students the opportunity to become truly bilingual. Continue reading Bilingual Books in Bilingual Classrooms→
Flowers are beginning to blossom in and the talk of eggs, bunnies and little yellow chicks is underway. It must be springtime! Students are excited and invigorated by the changing season, so it is a perfect time of year to incorporate activities that match the energetic mood of your classroom.
Even though many of your students may not celebrate Easter, they are sure to notice the supermarket shelves lined with plastic eggs and chocolate bunnies. One activity from Easter that is sure to please all students is the search for hidden eggs. However, instead of calling it an Easter egg hunt, make it into a “scavenger hunt” or a “treasure hunt”! Have your students search for all kinds of things, big and small, to strengthen their language skills and help them get moving!
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.
Have you noticed that about halfway into the school year, new ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) students, who once seemed excited and energized, seem to hit a wall? Students who once were bright-eyed and cheerful come to school looking listless and detached. More than just the mid-year doldrums, they may be in the crisis stage of the powerful phenomenon of culture shock.
What is culture shock?
In the 1950s, a diplomat named Karl Oberg first used the term “culture shock” to describe the difficulties both he and his fellow expatriates experienced as they adjusted to their new lives overseas. He suggested that people depend on cues given by their familiar groups to define who they are and to support their self-concept. Without these cues, people are prone to anxiety and frustration, which can lead to physical ailments. Continue reading How to Help Students Survive Culture Shock→
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.
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.
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.