Thanksgiving is almost here… and it offers a perfect opportunity to reflect on all that we have to be thankful for. Here, we offer 3 ideas that will inspire kids to celebrate the wonderful diversity and traditions in our communities and our world.Continue reading 3 Ways to Celebrate Diversity This Thanksgiving
The US is a country of many languages. In public schools, about 10 percent (4.5 million) of all kids are English Language Learners (ELLs). Of those ELLs, Spanish is the first language of about 71 percent, but there are hundreds of different languages spoken in US schools. Any one school can have a dozen or more languages spoken by its students.
Schools put different types of learning programs in place to help students transition to speaking English. One example is sheltered instruction, which combines English language development strategies with content area instruction.
American schools typically offer five categories of English language programs. The programs offered at any given school or district depend on school demographics, student characteristics, and available resources. The US Department of Education provides resources to educators working with ELL and foreign born students, such as the Newcomer Toolkit.
Check out the graphic below to learn more about ELL learning in the US. To find diverse children’s books in many languages to support literacy among ELLs, feel free to browse the Language Lizard website.
(Graphic included with permission from Gergich & Co.)
by guest blogger Karen Nemeth EdM
Cognates are pairs of words that sound alike and have the same meaning in two different languages. They are useful first steps in learning a new language.
How Do Cognates Work?
In English we say “elephant” and in Spanish we say “elefante.” English and Spanish speakers can easily make the connection between these cognates to learn and remember the animal’s name. In English, we say “frog” but in Spanish we say “rana.” Frog and rana are not cognates, and the lack of connection means learners will find those words harder to use and remember. We know that people need to use their new language to really learn it. Cognates make it possible for language learners at any age to use their new words right away. By starting with the cognate words, a learner can build their vocabulary and gain the confidence to add more words in their new language.
Find Cognates in Your Target Language
Spanish and English share hundreds of cognates and have borrowed from each other for centuries. There are also many cognates that connect German to English, such as “mouse” and “maus”. Other languages, like Chinese and Arabic, have fewer cognates with English words. Lists of cognate words in different languages can be found online. I created a resource for Spanish-English cognates in preschool and kindergarten called Language Castle Cognate Guide. It has user-friendly lists of simple cognates in the different educational domains to support early learning. Other cognate resources can be found at colorincolorado.org. Bilingual children’s books, or matching books in two or more languages, can also be great resources to find vocabulary connections.
Learning Activities Using Cognates
Research shows that teachers and families can help children learn a new language successfully when they use cognates to explain the meanings of words in conversations and stories. Look for examples of cognates to support the language learners you work with. Use the pairs of words to help children understand the characters, stories and facts in books. Plan activities around the cognates you have found. Add cognates to familiar songs. Use cognates in puppet shows or pretend play to give children more opportunities to practice and use the words. Highlight cognates on word walls or classroom dictionaries. Plan science and math lessons that use cognates to strengthen children’s comprehension. Building connections through cognates is a sure path to success.
Read more about what experts are saying about the importance of using cognates to build second language learning:
August, D., Carlo, M., Dressler, C. and Snow, C. (2005) The Critical Role of Vocabulary Development for English Language Learners. Learning Disabilities Research & Practice, 20: 50–57
Collins, M.F. (2010) ELL preschoolers’ English vocabulary acquisition from storybook reading, Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 25(1), 84-97
Gillanders, C. & Castro, D.C. (2011) Storybook reading for young dual language learners, Young Children, January 2011, 91-95
Lugo-Neris, M.J., Jackson, C.W., Goldstein, H (2008) Facilitating Vocabulary Acquisition of Young English Language Learners, Language, Speech, and Hearing Services in Schools, 41, 314-327
Pérez, A.M., Peña, E.D., & Bedore, L.M. (2010) Cognates facilitate young Spanish-English bilinguals’ test performance, Early Childhood Services, 4(1), 55-67
Wallace, Christopher, (2007) Vocabulary: The Key to Teaching English Language Learners to Read, Reading Improvement, 44.4 , 189-193
Be sure to check out languagecastle.com, Karen Nemeth’s website that offers a wealth of resources for anyone who teaches young children who speak different languages.
This blog post is linked with the monthly Creative Kids Culture Blog Hop. Be sure to check out other bloggers’ tips, teaching strategies, and resources!
One of the most popular ways to raise a child bilingually is by using the OPOL approach – One Person, One Language. It seems to be one of the easiest ways for children to distinguish between languages, because they become aware that they should speak a different language with different people.
Using our family as an example: I am a native English speaker and my husband is a native Italian speaker. We live in Italy and both speak each other’s language, however not to a native level. We have two children aged two and four years old. We have spoken with our children in our own native languages from the start to give them the best chance of becoming bilingual early on.
OPOL vs MLAH approach with language exposure
MLAH (Minority Language at Home) is another common approach to raising bilingual children. This is where one language is spoken within the home, and the other out in the community. With this approach, both languages seem to have the same amount of exposure.
With the OPOL approach, most of the time one language is lacking in exposure, the minority language. Therefore, it is extremely important that the parent who speaks the minority language sticks to it quite strictly to make it work. It is not always as easy as it sounds.
We live in Italy, the community language is Italian, therefore I am the only exposure to English my children have. It would be quite easy for me to switch to the community language, however I never speak with my children in Italian, only English. It can be quite difficult sometimes in public. There are some people who stare, or ask why I am speaking English with them when we live in an Italian community. I try my best to make my children feel comfortable enough to speak back with me in English, no matter where we are, and who we are with.
Consistency plays a key role in the language learning process
If parents are not consistent using only one language speaking to their child, there is a risk that your child will become confused. Although my husband and I mix languages between ourselves, we speak ONLY our native languages with our children. They learned from very early on, who they should speak with, in which language. They know they are expected to respond to us in the language we speak with them. They are so used to it now in fact, that if I “joke” and say something in Italian, they usually laugh at me and get embarrassed because it doesn’t seem right.
Yes, it can be difficult when having family conversations
Using the OPOL approach means conversations at home can become quite “interesting” at times. With each parent speaking a different language, the children are forced to mix between languages in one conversation.
When we are eating a meal together or playing together as a family at home, there is a mix between Italian and English spoken between us all. The one thing that stays consistent though, is that when addressing my children I only speak English, and my husband only Italian, even if we speak a mix of the languages with each other.
If we are with other Italian family members who do not speak English, I stay consistent speaking with my children in English, even if others cannot understand what I am saying. This is where consistency can become difficult, as some people can feel like they are left out of the conversation. When this is the case, I sometimes translate for them, what I have said to my child.
What about adding a third language?
The OPOL approach can also work when raising your children with three languages, it just means a “third person.” Our children are learning Spanish as a third language. We have a “playmate” named Ana who comes to spend time with them. Before she started, we explained our family situation and she has been following the same approach. She speaks only Spanish with our children, and they are expected to respond in Spanish just as they do with us in English and Italian. It was quite amazing watching them take to it so easily.
Is OPOL the only way to go?
Of course this approach isn’t for every family. Before deciding on an approach to follow with your children, it is best to assess your situation, what languages are spoken, by whom, and to which level. Then work out your family language goal choosing an approach to suit.
If OPOL works for you then that’s great. If not, you can always use it as a good foundation and adapt the approach to suit your family goals.
Chontelle Bonfiglio is an Australian mother of two bilingual children. She is a certified ESL Teacher, Blogger, and Creator of Bilingual Kidspot, a website for parents raising bilingual or multilingual children.
Help your children build literacy in more than one language with bilingual books for kids available at Language Lizard!
Learning a new language is hard work – definitely no walk in the park! As a teacher, parent or student, you may find yourself so busy with the basics of vocabulary, pronunciation and grammar that you’re hesitant to add any more work. But idioms – sayings with a shared meaning in a community, which aren’t decipherable from their words alone – are an important part of language learning, too. Read on for some helpful tips to “pave the way” to learning idioms in a new language.
Why are Idioms Important to Language Learners?
The English language has thousands (maybe even tens of thousands) of idioms, so there’s a significant amount of day-to-day communication that can be conducted through idioms. Without lessons in local idioms, communicating effectively can be that much more difficult for a language learner.
For older students, especially, learning idioms can be one of the most fun parts of learning a new language. It also helps them get a better sense of the spirit of the community, and understand what that culture values most.
Tips to Teach Idioms
You’ll want to start by choosing a handful of idioms to explore with your language learners. Make your choices based on the most likely social scenarios they will find themselves in, according to their age and development level.
Make lessons fun by using idioms in sample sentences, and asking students to guess their meanings from their context. You may want to include pictures that illustrate when and how the idioms would be used.
Remember to have students practice how to use each idiom properly, since this type of communication can very nuanced. It’s best to teach idioms verbally, and have students practice by role playing.
What are you favorite idioms, in English or another language? Comment and share below!
While Father’s Day traditions may vary all of the world, one thing is for sure, they deserve to be celebrated! Did you know that dads in Mexico wake up early to compete in a 21 km race around the capital city? Alternatively, fathers in Finland sleep in and enjoy their favorite breakfast.
If you are looking for a fun way to show your dad you care, why not look to another country for some cultural inspiration? You never know where you may find a new tradition for your family!
This guest post was provided by Personal Creations. You may also enjoy last year’s inspirational father’s day post, “The Last Book My Dad Read to Me“. Note: For Father’s Day 2016, Language Lizard is offering a 10% discount on our popular bilingual book, “My Daddy is a Giant” (through June 2016, using coupon code Daddy-16).
“Family By the Beach” by FHG Photo via Flickr is licensed under CC BY 2.0 https://flic.kr/p/8odLni
Not everyone feels the same about the start of summer break. Yes, there’s excitement over long days to play and a more relaxed pace. But there can also be sadness and anxiety about big changes to the daily routine, not seeing schoolmates, travel and the start of the next school year looming on the horizon. Adults and kids alike can be caught unprepared for this unique mix of emotions. Here, we offer 3 tips to ease your transition into summer break… and back again.
Keep to a Somewhat-Schedule
It may be impossible to follow a strict schedule during summer break. There are so many fun things to do, fewer responsibilities and hopefully more relaxation.
Several consecutive days of pool parties and barbecues may be exciting, but can still be over-stimulating for sensitive little ones. Try to space out activities, even if that means you have to politely turn down an invitation or two.
While it’s tempting to let the kids sleep in until mid-morning and play until they run out of steam late at night, keeping consistent bedtimes throughout summer will keep kids (and their adults) from becoming over-tired and cranky.
Keep On Learning
Taking a months-long hiatus from learning might set your kids up for a rough transition back into the classroom come September. We’ve written about the dreaded “summer slide,” when kids lose some of the progress they made the year before, and how to avoid it. For bilingual learners, especially, a long break from consistent language exposure will erode much of their hard work.
Set aside some time in your schedule – it can be every day or a few days a week – for learning activities. Learning resources can come from last year’s teacher, your school, a local library and online. Don’t feel pressured to make headway into next year’s curriculum on your own. It’s ok to maintain the skill set they were working on last year.
Even when your family is on-the-go, there are plenty of fun summer travel activities to keep the learning alive.
Keep in Touch with School Friends
For younger kids especially, it’s important to see familiar faces during the summer break. Setting up a regular playdate with school friends helps alleviate boredom, as well as any lingering anxiety from the change in their routine.
Fresh off the last day of school, the summer may seem to stretch out endlessly before you. But before you know it, you’ll be school supply shopping once again, and you’ll be glad you stuck to a somewhat-schedule all summer.
What are some of your favorite summer learning activities? Comment below and share your ideas!
This blog post is linked with the monthly Creative Kids Culture Blog Hop. Be sure to check out other bloggers’ tips, teaching strategies, and resources!
“Gulf Shores 2013” by rustydollar72 via Flickr is licensed under CC BY 2.0 https://flic.kr/p/f2noUC
“Sickies.” by Monica H. via Flickr is licensed under CC BY 2.0 https://flic.kr/p/e2ugur
“playdate” by Krynop via Flickr is licensed under CC BY 2.0 https://flic.kr/p/bEEYva
The process of language development in children is an amazing one, and full of so much complexity. Here, we offer 5 fun activity ideas that can help the oral language development of the kids in your home or classroom.
Oral Language and Literacy
So much of language is learned in the early years of life, simply by listening to and interacting with those around us. As time goes by, our oral language skills improve through practice and formal instruction. Oral language is made up of three parts: phonological (how sounds are combined), semantic (the smallest components of words), and syntactic (how sentences are put together).
Literacy begins with good oral language skills. In a classroom setting, it may feel counter-intuitive for a teacher to allow students more time to talk in groups, but there are a number of advantages to doing so. They gain valuable practice with new vocabulary, enhance conversational proficiency, and improve their ability to express their ideas. Also, kids often feel more relaxed when speaking to their peers because they aren’t so worried about giving the “wrong” answer. As such, they are more open to absorbing and learning from what’s being discussed, in turn improving their overall language skills.
Activities for Oral Language Development
No matter the type of activity, keep these guidelines in mind when planning:
- Keep the activity free from anxiety by creating a positive environment to limit the fear of embarrassment.
- Provide clear instructions, possibly in different formats, so that all learning types can understand what’s expected.
- Keep activities engaging by introducing fun or dramatic elements.
- Lastly, remember that kids will need lots of repetition to practice their oral language skills.
Here are 5 activity ideas, from our post about language development in the classroom:
- Mini Circle Chats: Have your students sit in circles of 4 or 5. Give them a list of fun questions that encourage more than single-word answers. Let students know that they can engage in discussions together so they can talk about similarities and differences. If you have a very diverse classroom, ensure that each circle includes a mix of cultures.
- Word Play: Ask students to write 5-10 words (in any language). Have each student share one of their words with the class, and ask the student to explain why he or she chose to write down that word. Does it represent a feeling or an event that took place?
- Memory Drawings: Have students draw their favorite memories, then share with the rest of the class, explaining the different elements of their picture. Or, spread out a long piece of paper and have students draw their memories at the same time on a wall mural. When the time is up, hang the mural up on the wall and let everyone spend a good amount of time looking at it up close and talking about it. Eventually you can have the students sit down on the floor in front of the mural and talk as a group about what they see and what thoughts come to their minds.
- Multicultural Traditions: Have students sit together in a circle to share one of their cultural or family traditions. Then ask others in the circle if they also participate in the tradition with their family and if so, whether or not they celebrate it in the same way. Help students notice that not everyone has the same traditions, and that even the same traditions can be celebrated in different ways.
For those times when group or peer interaction isn’t realistic, an individualized learning tool like the PENpal Audio Recorder Pen can be invaluable in providing the differentiated instruction needed to help teachers reach every student, of all skill levels, in an effective way. Free video and print resources on the Language Lizard website help educators and parents use the Talking Pen to effectively develop and assess oral language skills, as well as build fluency and improve phonemic awareness with their students.
“Girl Talk” by Dean Wissing via Flickr is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 https://flic.kr/p/6r3SmY
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April is an important month for our nation’s libraries. Take the time to celebrate the many ways our libraries contribute to our communities. In a previous post, we explored innovative ways for libraries to attract ethnic populations. Here, we take a look at ways libraries can transform a community.
Diverse Communities, Multicultural Library Offerings
Libraries have always been a place to read and learn, and have functioned as important community centers. Librarians assess their communities, its needs, and decide how best to meet those needs. Community outreach is a big part of a library’s purpose. As the US becomes more diverse, it’s imperative that libraries increase their services and programs to meet the needs of non-native-English speakers. These changes establish libraries as true centers of learning for the entire community.
National Library Week
The second full week of April each year is National Library Week. It’s a time to celebrate and promote our nation’s school, public, and academic libraries. This year’s theme is “Libraries transform.” It’s an initiative from the American Library Assocation (ALA) aimed at making more of the public aware of the many services libraries offer, and the value and impact of those services in communities. The main idea behind the initiative is that “[l]ibraries today are less about what they have for people and more about what they do for and with people.”
Dia! Diversity in Action
April 30 of each year is the culmination of Dia! Diversity in Action, a nationwide initiative from the ALA. Also known as El dia de los ninos/El dia de los libros (Children’s Day/Book Day), it provides support to libraries wanting to connect their patrons to more bilingual/multicultural services and resources. The initiative is a “daily commitment to linking children and their families to diverse books, languages and cultures.”
Storytime in a Foreign Language & More
The Association for Library Service to Children, the world’s largest organization supporting children’s library services, includes multicultural programs in its list of recommended programs for school-aged children. One is Storytime in a Foreign Language, where members of the community are invited to come in and read books in their native language. Parents are also encouraged to share foreign language books and cultural stories with their children.
PENpal Audio Recorder Pen – A Unique Tool for Libraries
The PENpal “Talking Pen” is great for libraries in search of an easy-to-use, multipurpose tool that will attract and meet the needs of their ethnic patrons. In addition to turning existing bilingual children’s books into audio books in over 40 languages, the Mantra Lingua PENpal can bring fully customized recordings to any learning resource. Just some examples:
- Listen to sound-enable posters, photos or charts
- Create interactive displays
- Create verbal treasure hunts for children to follow
- Provide step-by-step instruction for any Learning Center
- Make an oral version of forms and booklets to facilitate communication with patrons.
The PENpal Recorder Pen is so versatile, it can be used to support reading, writing, speaking and listening for any person in need of an inclusive resource that develops literacy skills.
Do you have an outstanding multicultural library in your neighborhood? Tell us about their innovative programs and services by commenting below!
“Canada Water Library Shelves” by Barney Moss via Flickr is licensed under CC BY 2.0 https://flic.kr/p/dNwts8
There are so many reasons to read to your baby, especially when you’re raising a bilingual child. Not only is reading a great way to bond, it’s a chance to link spoken words with visual images on the page. And don’t forget to get older siblings involved in the bilingual reading fun! Here are 5 tips to getting your bilingual baby book collection started.
Choosing the Right Bilingual Baby Books
Your first bilingual books for your baby should be made of sturdy material that can withstand strong baby hands and teeth. Board books with thick pages are a great choice, as are cloth and vinyl books that can be washed off.
For babies newborn to 6 months, choose books with large pictures in bright colors. Older babies love books with images of their favorite things, like balls, bottles and other babies.
Make Dedicated Reading Time
Life with a baby means getting a million things done each day (and night). Feeding, changing, nap time… repeat. Find a special reading time that works best for your family: maybe at snack time, after a bath or at bedtime. Soon, reading time will be one of the best parts of your daily routine.
Read with Enthusiasm!
Whether it’s animals noises, singing or character voices, your baby (and you) will have more fun when story time is full of excitement, emotion and enthusiasm. But remember to keep your expression pleasant, so baby doesn’t get frightened if there are scary parts.
Name Everything as You Read
Don’t limit yourself to the text on the page. Feel free to point to pictures and objects and name them all in both languages!
Let Your Books Grow with Your Child
As your baby grows, don’t forget to add more challenging stories to your collection. These will have longer sentences, with more complex vocabulary. But it’s ok to keep the old favorites in the rotation! Find multicultural children books that are culturally appropriate. International holidays and common experiences, like making friends or trying new foods, are great topics that your little one will enjoy.
What is your family’s favorite story to read? Comment below and let us know!