Category Archives: Families

No Kidding! Bilingual Books Help Prepare Dual Language Learners for Kindergarten, says New CECER-DLL Report

 

 

photo credit: woodleywonderworks @ flickr.com

A scary new building.  Big kid chairs.  A terrifying new teacher whose smile may or may not be genuine.  Swarms of giant children rampaging around an unfamiliar playground.  And my daddy’s just gone off and left me… The first day of kindergarten is tough!

…Now imagine how much tougher it is for dual language learners (DLLs), lost in an aural fog of language they don’t understand.  Not to mention that they will now be expected to meet a whole raft of new Core Curriculum Standards during their journey from K-12th grade.

 How can you, their preschool teachers, help prepare them for the huge transition into “Big School”?  And where do bilingual books fit in?

 The recently-published Center for Early Care and Education Research-Dual Language Learners (CECER-DLL) report states that “Unfortunately, the disconnect between ECE policies and practices and those typically used in k-12 classrooms often means that once they enter kindergarten, DLLs accomplishments and abilities in both of their languages are not identified and built upon and they are not provided with the time and support they need to reach their optimal development in either language.”  Authors Dina Castro, Linda Espinosa, and Gene Garcia make it abundantly clear that more needs to be done to support DLLs as they get ready for kindergarten in order to capitalize on the good work that’s already been done at the pre-k level.  They say there needs to be more “coherence” between the programs.

 How can I use the report to make a difference in my classroom?

There are many ways in which preschool educators can create that coherence.  You can get started now using bilingual books to make the transition to kindergarten easier for your students.  There are several key areas where bilingual books can help, both academically and socially.  This article will focus on how the use of bilingual books can support the transition from an academic perspective and link to the Common Core Standards.  Our next post will examine how the books support the transition by building interpersonal skills.

 Teachers who use bilingual books can create preschool links to the k-12 Common Core Standards, specifically in speaking and listening, and reading.  By the time they leave a preschool class in which bilingual books have been utilized, they have built up a strong foundation in the key academic areas in which they will be assessed during the next thirteen years of their education.

 Speaking and Listening

The discourse skills that children learn in their home language can support their ability to use those skills in English.  With bilingual literacy resources, DLLs will have plenty of practice discussing a variety of topics in the language in which they have the most extensive vocabulary, while gaining new vocab in their home language and in English with the rest of the class.

 This practice is valuable enough for a student’s general growth and development!  However, it also happens to underpin the skills they need to meet Speaking and Listening Literacy Standard 1 (“participate effectively in a range of conversations and collaborations with diverse partners, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own”).  By discussing bilingual books, they’ll be up to speed with their monolingual peers when it comes to oral assessments in kindergarten.

 


Reading

The Common Core State Standards Initiative explicitly recommends “extensive reading of stories, dramas, poems and myths from diverse cultures”.Therefore stocking your “literacy-rich environment” with books in your students’ home languages and with stories from their home cultures will benefit all of your students – not just the DLLs.  Bilingual versions of the Bengali folktale Buri and the Marrow, or Russian folktale The Giant Turnip will provide home language resources to your DLLs while also exposing all students to diverse stories.

 These books will also help pre-k students start to crack Reading Literacy Standards 1 (reading for meaning and making inferences) and 2 (understanding central ideas and themes in a text).  Teachers can go over the stories in both languages and ask questions about them in the students’ home languages so the whole class can access the keys to these standards.  ¿Cómo se sentían los cerdos cuando el lobo feroz derribó su casa?  ¿De qué material crees que deberíamos construir nuestras casas?  Of course your little ones aren’t expected to write essay-style answers about the way the three little pigs felt, or what materials the story suggests we should use to build our homes, but this type of thinking lays the groundwork for developed responses to fiction and non-fiction once they’ve made the transition to grade school.  Once your pre-k DLLs have accessed the stories and their vocabulary, they can start to move on to deeper and higher-order thinking about them that can only make their k-12 experience richer.

 The CECER-DLL Report states in no uncertain terms that DLLs need the help of their pre-k teachers to thrive in the k-12 environment.  The power of bilingual books to help you give them that help is amazing

 For more information…

 …on ways to improve your classroom for DLLs: What’s the Real Home Language Story?

…on funding for a literacy-rich multilingual classroom: Grants and Funding for the Bilingual Classroom

…on Common Core Standards: http://www.corestandards.org

 For bilingual books in over 40 languages: http://www.languagelizard.com

Bringing up Multilingual Children with Less Common Home Languages

On a sunny day in London, when the streets are crowded with people enjoying the rare warmth, you can hear an abundance of different languages from the majority migrant groups in the city: families discussing the school day in Somali; teenagers gossiping in Turkish; imams greeting each other in Urdu.   But passing by the shop fronts boasting posters in languages from Polish and Bengali, you won’t hear German or Cape Verdean creole – not unless you go to Andrea and Xaxa’s for tea and cake.

Andrea and Xaxa met on Cape Verde, an island country off the west coast of Africa.  They now live with their eight-month-old baby, Bruno in London.  London is a city in which there are plenty of services and community groups for more commonly found home languages, like Bulgarian and Punjabi, but little availability of these amenities in less-common heritage languages like the ones Bruno will grow up speaking.  Andrea says she wants Bruno to have “the ability to converse with his family both in Germany and Cape Verde when visiting…and to pick up further languages more easily at school”, so she is determined that he will be able to use all three of his languages even though he won’t hear them spoken by his friends and the people he meets in London.  “I speak German to him when alone with him, singing German nursery rhymes and reading German books.  Xaxa speaks Crioulo to him and sings in Crioulo.”

Valentina, who emigrated from Italy, reads to her son Isaac every day in her native language, Italian, hoping that he will grow up to feel “natural and comfortable” with his two tongues.  She’s gone out of her way to to stock up on Italian books and tries to speak to him only in Italian, even when spending time with her English-speaking friends and their children.    It worries her a little that he will miss out on the subtleties of Italian and that “we could be missing a whole level of communication between us” but overall she feels that “the positives of raising a bilingual child outweigh the challenges.”  She’s excited for Isaac to communicate with his Italian family, have the opportunity to travel meaningfully around Italy, and to have the deeper “understanding of his own heritage” that only speaking the language can really bring.

These kinds of experiences happen in many different countries, including the U.S., and in small towns as well as in cities.  Irene lives in Norwich, a smaller, much less ethnically diverse city two hours’ drive northeast of London.  Her son Matthias is growing up bilingual.  “I want him to love both his languages equally.  But I think it is probably unrealistic because he will probably be exposed to it so little and need it so little.”  She says that though she tries “to speak to him in Danish as much as possible”, she regrets that she’s “not always good at being consistent.”  Her husband Roger is English, so she feels, “I always forget and automatically switch to English.  I know this is not good, but it simply happens.”  Like Andrea and Xaxa, Irene sings and reads to Matthias in Danish, including alternating the language of his bedtime story every night.  But she admits that it’s a “major challenge” not being part of a language community: “I do hope I can find some other Danish speakers at some point – kids he can play with.”

“Research says that growing up with more than one language is like exercise for the brain,” reports national early childhood expert Karen Nemeth of www.languagecastle.com.    “It builds thinking skills in school-age children and keeps the brain agile in late adulthood, but meeting the challenge of maintaining home languages is just as important for strengthening the family bond and honouring the family culture.  It really is worth the extra effort,”

This article from the New York Times describes research about the benefits of being bilingual that also supports the efforts that Valentina, Andrea and Irene are making to keep their home language growing with their babies:

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/18/opinion/sunday/the-benefits-of-bilingualism.html?_r=0

 

So what can Andrea, Valentina and Irene do to ensure their boys feel proud of and confident when speaking their heritage languages?  Nemeth says that these moms and their partners are already doing the right thing by singing and reading to their children in their heritage languages.  This is especially important for Xaxa, whose mother tongue is not Cape Verde’s official language and is only spoken rather than written.  For Matthias, Isaac and other children with one English speaking parent, bilingual books can be a great way to share the same story in two languages with their two parents (or a parent and a teacher)

Bruno, Isaac and Matthias are also benefiting when their parents have conversations with them that are 100% in one language; it’s much less useful to simply identify objects for the child in one language, then another.

To add an extra boost of German, Italian, Dutch or Crioulo conversation power for their children, these parents can also search online for local groups who meet up for chats in their heritage languages.  Valentina’s already looking for playgroups in her area: “having friends who speak Italian too will be invaluable!”  And if they can’t find any ready-made groups, website www.meetup.com allows them to create their own local group and advertise it to others in the community.   They could stop into their local library to ask about family activities in different languages too – they may even be able to work with the library to start their own.

As the children get older, their local schools can be a great connection as well.  Parents like Andrea, Valentina and Irene may meet other families who speak their language at the school gates. They can also use their experiences and the books, stories and songs they’ve collected to bring their culture and language to the school as a valuable resource for all of the children.

 The cultural and linguistic make-up of diverse cities like London is constantly changing — and maybe one day you’ll be able to hear Dutch on the street corners and Italian in the cafes.  But until then, kids like Bruno, Isaac and Matthias will continue to be special and unique, and lucky to be growing up with parents who are so invested in ensuring they grow up multilingual.

 

 

 

World Folktales and Fables: Effective Teaching Tools Educate & Entertain Children

World Folktales and Fables Week bilingual childrens books

Reading world folktales and fables is not only a wonderful way to entertain and bond with children, it is also an effective way to educate them. The stories in classic folklore offer both social lessons as well as an opportunity to teach about cultures and languages. World Folktales and Fables week is celebrated the third week of each March, so be sure to enjoy a good folktale in your classroom or home!

Children love folktales and fables. With their simple characters and settings, as well as an enticing conflict early in the story, folktales immediately grab a reader’s attention. Recall The Three Billy Goats Gruff, in which all three goats need to get to the other side of the bridge for food, but a hungry troll stands in their way. The stories develop quickly, and often obstacles seem insurmountable before, in the end, everything is resolved to our satisfaction. Good triumphs over evil.

The repetition and rhythm we see in stories such as Goldilocks and the Three Bears and The Little Red Hen and the Grains of Wheat, also are very appealing to children. And, of course, everyone loves when humor and cunning are used to outsmart an adversary.

Folktales provide an excellent way to teach kids about the consequences of good and bad behavior, the importance of cooperation, and the rewards of courage and ingenuity. In one of my favorite stories, The Giant Turnip (an adaptation of the Russian story The Enormous Turnip), a class grows a huge turnip and works together to figure out how to pull it out of the ground. The story helps young children grasp the benefits of community and working together.

Folktales also offer a great entry point for teaching children about other cultures. For instance, the fable Dragon’s Tears is a wonderful starting point to explore Chinese Culture. Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves can be used to begin teaching and learning about Arabic culture.

Bilingual editions of these traditional stories allow the parent or teacher to expose children not only to a different culture, but also to another language. I like to use Language Lizard’s bilingual version of the Indian folktale Buri and the Marrow (in which Buri wears an Indian sari) to expose my children to traditional Indian stories and foreign language scripts. The audio CD even lets them hear the story in Bengali and other foreign languages.

Folktales and fables have survived the test of time for a reason. So pick up a story, sit down with a child, and enjoy!

For World Folktales & Fables Week 2016, Language Lizard is offering a 10% discount on the following bilingual World Folktales and Fables available in English with multiple other languages: Buri and the MarrowThe Crow KingThe Dragon’s TearsGoose FablesLion Fables and Yeh Hsien: A Chinese Cinderella.  Simply enter coupon code FABLES2016 to receive the discount (valid through March 31, 2016).

“Fairy Tale” by Murgelchen94 via Flickr is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0 https://flic.kr/p/6odyvN

This blog post is linked with the monthly iTeachK-2 linkup. Be sure to check out other bloggers’ tips, teaching strategies, and resources!

Building Baby Brains with Two Languages

Building Baby Brains with Two LanguagesBy 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

The Bilingual Child Month Is Here Again!

The Bilingual Child Day 2012

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!

Bilingual Book Promotion Launched on International Literacy Day!

To celebrate International Literacy Day, Language Lizard is launching its Bilingual Book Promotion which will last until the end of October.  Visit the Language Lizard website to learn more about this promotion and how you can receive free bilingual books!

The theme for the 2012 International Literacy Day is literacy and peace. As the UNESCO website states:

“Literacy contributes to peace as it brings people closer to attaining individual freedoms and better understanding the world, as well as preventing or resolving conflict. The connection between literacy and peace can be seen by the fact that in unstable democracies or in conflict-affected countries it is harder to establish or sustain a literate environment.”

Please join us in celebrating this wonderful day!

To learn more about the Language Lizard Bilingual Book Promotion, visit the Language Lizard website. You have until the end of October to win free bilingual books!

Top Bilingual Books for Summertime Reading

When it comes to choosing bilingual books to share with our little ones during the summer, the choices seem endless. Who can decide on just a few when there are so many to choose from?

To help you pick the right bilingual books for your family this summer, we have put together the following lists based on some popular topics.

We hope you will find just the right books to make your summertime as enjoyable (and bilingual) as possible. Feel free to head over to our main Language Lizard website to find even more fantastic bilingual books!

Humorous Stories

Kids love reading books that make them laugh or have a funny, unexpected twist at the end. Get your children giggling with these books:  Continue reading Top Bilingual Books for Summertime Reading

Bilingual Children: Summer Travel Activities

bilingual children: Summertime Travel Activities

Summer is a wonderful time of year to travel: Children are out of school and the warm days beacon for lazy hours at the beach or walks through cool forests. Whether we are traveling by land, air or sea, we can make bilingualism part of every bilingual child’s summertime adventures.

Both parents and teachers can engage bilingual children in fun travel activities, whether it is during a bus ride with a summer class or as a family on the way to visit grandma and grandpa. Nothing helps the time pass more quickly (and more enjoyably) than with travel activities. Why not make bilingualism a part of it?

Here is a list of some favorite travel activities to do with bilingual children:  Continue reading Bilingual Children: Summer Travel Activities

Bilingual Children: Benefits of Learning to Read in the Home Language

bilingual children: Benefits of Learning to Read in the Home Language

We only learn how to read once. This is true for all of us: monolingual, bilingual or multilingual. Once we figure out how literacy works, it is with us forever.

The best part about bilingual children learning to read is that once they figure it out in one language, they can transfer their literacy to their other language(s)! It is a feat that can be mastered in leaps and bounds in any of a number of languages once the process is underway.

As we know, the key to literacy is language. For those first “ah ha” moments of literacy to occur, bilingual children need to know what the words are that they are reading. Sounding out a word on the page is useless if in the end the student still doesn’t know what the word actually means. This is an important reason why bilingual children should be encouraged to work on their literacy skills in their stronger language, which, for most children, is the language spoken at home. Continue reading Bilingual Children: Benefits of Learning to Read in the Home Language

Teaching Children Languages: Benefits & Strategies

The benefits of bilingualism has been a hot topic in recent years. Magazines, newspapers and blogs extol the fascinating ways in which the bilingual brain effortlessly manipulates more than one language at a time, working more effectively and efficiently than a monolingual one on specific types of tasks.

Thanks to their brain’s more robust executive control system (which comes from switching off the language that is not needed), bilinguals are believed to have better skills in tuning out distractions, which means that they are able to focus on what is most relevant at the moment. This can be a very important life skill. In addition, Prof. Ellen Bialystok discovered through her research on bilinguals that bilingualism helped those with Alzheimer’s continue functioning at higher cognitive levels despite having this debilitating disease. Basically, the symptoms of Alzheimer’s in bilinguals didn’t show up for five or six years later than those who only spoke one language. Another indication of the robustness of the bilingual brain.

While this research is exciting and inspiring, we also need to make sure that we are careful about how we introduce young children to additional languages. Using a grammar book with a young child may not be the way to go and can even cause a child to never want to learn another language ever again – even though that same strategy may be effective for a teenager or an adult.

Continue reading Teaching Children Languages: Benefits & Strategies