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Bilingual Students: Using Holiday Celebrations to Promote Language Development in Multicultural Classrooms

Bilingual Students: Using Holiday Celebrations to Promote Language Development in Multicultural Classrooms

Now that the New Year has arrived and school is back in full swing, students are sure to be filled brimming with enthusiastic stories of what they did during their winter holiday. Ice skating in the park, opening gifts at the fireplace, lighting candles in beautifully wrought candelabras are just a few  activities that children might share with an overjoyed twinkle in their eye. How could they not?!

As we all know first-hand, getting students to engage in conversations works best when they are inspired and excited about the topic.  This is particularly true of bilingual students, especially those who may still be mastering the community language. What better time than now to get your bilingual students talking with you and one another? Their minds are so full of wonderful memories from the holidays, they will most likely want to share as much as possible.

Here are 5 tips on how to help your students direct their holiday excitement into fun language opportunities:
Continue reading Bilingual Students: Using Holiday Celebrations to Promote Language Development in Multicultural Classrooms

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

Springtime Language Learning Activities: Scavenger and Treasure Hunts

springtime language learning: scavenger and treasure hunts

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!

Here are some of our top tips to get your students moving and communicating inside and outside the classroom:  Continue reading Springtime Language Learning Activities: Scavenger and Treasure Hunts

How to Help Students Survive Culture Shock

How to Help Students Survive Culture Shock

By Colleen Miller
Photo credit: vasta

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

The Value of Cooperative Learning Activities for English Language Learners

English Language Learners Cooperative Learning Activity

Do you remember dreading group projects when you were in school? Inevitably, our teacher would pair us up with someone we hardly knew and begrudgingly we participated in the activity. Of course, by the end of the project we knew our classmate better than ever while having had a wonderful time.

For English Language Learners, cooperative learning activities have been shown to help improve academic performance as well as increase motivation, strengthen self-esteem, encourage student bonding and promote literacy skills.  Of course, there is always the fear that a shy student won’t participate fully when paired with more outgoing students. To solve this, teachers can create more equitable groupings or create activities that encourage participation from each student individually. When paired well, a student who has stronger language skills can help a student with weaker language skills improve through cooperative learning activities.

Below are 5 ways teachers can make cooperative learning an integral part of their curriculum:  Continue reading The Value of Cooperative Learning Activities for English Language Learners

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

Bilingual Book Review: The “Our Lives, Our World” Series

In continuation of our celebration of The Bilingual Child Month, we’d like to share with you a review of three bilingual books that explore and celebrate global diversity. Read these books with your students to help them appreciate children just like them from around the world.

Goal! Let’s Play! – written by Joe Marriott and illustrated by Algy Craig Hall
Yum! Let’s Eat! – written by Thando Maclaren and illustrated by Jacqueline East
Brrmm! Let’s Go! – written by Julie Kingdon and illustrated by Leo Broadley
Paperback Ages 2-6
Review by Maureen Pugh

These three books comprise the “Our Lives, Our World” series, which explores the rich diversity of children’s lives and develops a worldwide perspective. Although the books are written and illustrated by different people, the series does have a cohesive style.

Each book introduces eleven children from eleven different countries, and every child is given a two page spread that introduces the child, and illustrates what the child is describing. The children are introduced with “my name’s Charlie …” or “I’m Abeba…”, so the text repeats the introductory phrases that we all want our children to be familiar with.

The text goes on with simple sentences, which contain mostly commonly-used vocabulary (and some new vocabulary), such as “I’m Khaled. We eat couscous and lamb tagine when we visit Grandpa.” Another example is “My name’s James, I play tennis with my family every weekend.”

Not surprisingly, Brrmm! Let’s Go! focuses on vehicles (bicycle, helicopter, tuk-tuk) and action verbs (to ride, to fly), while Goal! Let’s Play! introduces popular sports played in the country (ie, India – cricket, and Switzerland – skiing). Yum! Let’s Eat! depicts favorite foods from around the world.

Continue reading Bilingual Book Review: The “Our Lives, Our World” Series