Category Archives: Teacher Resources

Using the Arts to Teach Bilingual Children


by Lizzie Davey

Because language learning is a creative process, it makes sense to incorporate the arts when teaching languages, especially to children, who are very visual. Using different art mediums, such as music, visual arts, and film connects the left brain (the creative side) to the right (the logical side). This can speed up learning because as new information is being collected, it is being “pattern matched” to what is already stored in the brain.

For example, a child may hear the word ‘naranja’ (orange in Spanish), and understand what it is. But when they hear the word and see a picture of the object named at the same time, they create a rounder, more complete notion of the word and its meaning. Taking this a step further, if a child can hear the word, see it, and witness it being used as it is meant to – someone eating an orange – the notion is further concretized because all three dimensions of the word are connected using the whole brain.

Music and Dance

Music is great for language-learning lessons. Children love music and find it difficult not to move about when an upbeat song is playing. Simply playing a song in a different language for children familiarizes them with the language’s unique sounds and intonations. But teachers also can incorporate Wendy Maxwell’s Accelerative Integrated Method (AIM), which helps teach vocabulary by matching words with correlating gestures to go along with the audio. So in addition to learning the words to a song and singing along with it, children can make up a dance routine that describes the words being sung. Acting out the word combined with hearing it creates a deeper understanding; the words are much easier to remember when both the body and the brain are being utilized in the learning process.

Visual Art

The visual and hands-on aspect of art makes it an invaluable part of language learning for bilingual children. Bette Setter, founder of Young Rembrandts, a mobile art education program, says that children “have a big responsibility in decoding everything. Art and art images help children develop in their natural quest for knowledge.” Again, the use of visual art when teaching language connects the creative brain to the linguistic one, forming parallels and pairing words with their visual counterparts. Integrating a country’s artwork into a language-learning curriculum also helps children connect to the history and culture surrounding the language they are learning.


It’s no secret that children love films; there is something about the combination of moving images and words that transfixes them. Although there is no substitute to in-person interactions when learning a language, appropriate films and videos can be useful tools to supplement the language learning process. With most DVDs, there are language-altering options – either by applying subtitles in your desired language, or by getting the movie in the target language. Both these ways of enjoying the movie can add to the language-learning schedule. Subtitles familiarize the child with reading the language (even if they don’t know much of it) and gets them used to how the written language looks. Listening to the film in another language gets them used to hearing the language. If a child is very familiar with the movie, they probably know the context and so will be able to connect certain words with certain characters and scenes.

Cultural Events

All languages have a culture from which they originate; a culture that incorporates all kinds of art practices. Many of these can be found at cultural festivals and events, which offer a fully sensory experience of food, film, music, art, and dance. Attending these cultural events can open children’s eyes to the new culture, exposing them to the language and its customs in an entertaining and accessible way.  

Using the arts to teach children languages can make learning more enjoyable. Follow the child’s lead and you can find ways to integrate learning a language with their love of dance, music, painting, or their favorite film. After all, it’s common knowledge that children are more inclined to learn something when the learning is fun!

Author bio:  Lizzie Davey writes for Languages Abroad and Teenagers Abroad, which offer language schools all over the world, from China to Italy to Mexico. Last year, she spent time in Madrid learning Spanish and realized that in order to successfully master a language, language learning has to become a part of everyday life. She now writes about creative ways to learn a language and, most importantly, ways to keep it fun, effective, and accessible. 

Children dancing – Source:

Festival – Source:

Painting1 – Source:

Multicultural Gift Ideas

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.

Board Books

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

Teaching Thankfulness in Bilingual Classrooms

teaching thankfulness bilingual classroom

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

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!

Grants and Funding for Bilingual Classrooms

Grants and Funding for Bilingual Classrooms

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