3 Hands-On Pre-Reading Activities for Preschoolers

By Tori Galatro

Your child can get a head start on reading if they learn to recognize letters and sounds at an early age. There are plenty of apps and TV shows that can help your child learn their letters, but hands-on activities are just as great for a number of reasons. For one, they can help your child to develop fine motor skills beyond tapping a screen. Hands-on activities can also help with memorization by providing spatial and physical interaction. Most importantly, hands-on activities tend to be more social, and involve contact with parents and other children. This social emotional contact is essential for learning and developing other crucial skills, as well as helping to create meaningful memories associated with their pre-reading skills. The following three pre-reading hands-on activities are easy to set up, easy to clean up, safe, cheap, and so much fun for young children.

Activity #1: Make an Alphabet Book

This idea comes from the mommy blog Teach Mama. Sick of throwing away those ads you get in the mail from the grocery store? Put them to good use by making an alphabet book! Gather 26 pages of colored construction paper and write one letter at the top of each with marker. Write both capital and lowercase. Even if your child isn’t learning to read yet, they can start to recognize these symbols and learn that they have meaning. Then, go through the magazines and ads with you child and help them to look for items that begin with each letter. Help your child to cut or rip out each item as they go and paste it under the letter. When you’re done, you can help your child to bind the pages together into a book with yarn and a hole punch. Don’t worry if they don’t finish the book. They can add to it anytime the mail comes in and continue to build letter-sound associations.

Activity #2: Play the Alphabet Memory Game

This is another game that you can return to over and over. Take a pack of paper plates and write uppercase letters on half and the equivalent lowercase letters on the other half. Then, mix them up and spread them out on the ground face down. The object of the game is to match the upper with their lower case letters by remembering where each letter was. Each turn, your child turns two letters face up, try to remember them, and then turns them face down. If they get a match, those plates get removed from the board. This game can be challenging for anyone, so it can be played in a group of varying ages. You can join in too! You can try this game several different ways depending on your child’s level of development. They can match equivalent capital letters, match letters to words beginning with that letter, or even match letters to pictures of words beginning with that letter. They can even write or draw on the plates themselves for a whole other activity!

Activity #3: Learn with Alphabet Bingo

All you need for this game are a few printouts which can be found at the mommy blog Crazy Little Projects, available in both capital and lowercase letters. This game is great for any number of children. When you pick the letter, you can show it to them, or just call it out for an added challenge. Children can use candies to block off the letters as they go, or if you don’t want to spoil dinner, they can use cotton balls, coins, or anything you can think up. Since every board is different, younger children can even look at the older children’s boards for help, and it won’t be cheating. Children can use the skills they’ve learned, but everyone has an equal chance of winning.

Why Do Children Learn Languages Faster than Adults?

By Tori Galatro

It’s a commonly held belief that children learn languages faster than adults. For the most part, science and research support this belief. However, there are still a lot of unanswered questions. For example, why do children learn languages faster? How much faster do they learn them? Do they learn them faster because of their environment, their brain chemistry, or some combination of both? Is it possible for adults to learn the same way children do? Let’s look at some of the factors that attempt to answer these fascinating questions.

The Environmental Advantages Children Have When Learning Languages

Children have environmental advantages when learning language that most adults don’t have. Very young children aren’t formally instructed in language the way adults and older children are. They learn by being immersed in multilingual environments. They passively “absorb” the language through contact. When formally instructed, it is through games and songs, not verb conjugation and exams. In fact, adults also learn much faster through immersion, but the cost of immersion is much higher for adults than it is for children. Children have virtually no responsibilities in life, so they have the time and energy to spend hours in environments that challenge their communication skills. Most adults don’t have that luxury.

Children are also better candidates for immersive language learning because they have fewer inhibitions. It’s much easier to learn a language if you’re comfortable making mistakes and sounding foolish, a hurdle that makes most adults extremely anxious. Also, the standard of language competence is much lower for children than it is for adults. They aren’t judged the way adults are so they don’t receive, or give themselves, as much negative feedback when they make mistakes. They also aren’t tested the way an older child would be, so there is less pressure. The learning process is more playful and natural.

As an adult, if you move to a foreign country and nobody speaks your language, you’ll quickly start to learn the new language because you’re motivated to communicate and connect with others. But few adults willingly put themselves in that situation. Young children are often exposed to language in such a situation, but they don’t need to deliberate the merits of their decision. They don’t even know they are learning a new language or know how it may serve them later in life. They just think, “this is how I talk to Dad” or “this is how I talk to my classmate”. It’s the pure desire to communicate that drives the learning.

The Cognitive Advantages Children Have When Learning Languages

Environmental advantages may be important, but it’s hard to deny the cognitive advantage very young children have when learning new languages. Babies and very young children form neural connections at a rapid pace. As the brain develops, it becomes more specialized, reinforcing the neural pathways that are regularly used. This is a good thing because it makes the brain more efficient, but it also makes learning new things more challenging. That’s why those who learn a language at a very young age have the accent of a native speaker. Later in life, those neural shortcuts our brains have created to increase efficiency force us to fall back on the sounds, or phonemes, of languages we already know.

It is because of the brain’s elasticity and rapid neural formation that babies and young children are able to learn languages at a faster rate. This is sometimes referred to as the “critical period”. It is theorized that if a child does not learn any language, including non-verbal languages, during this time period that they may never be able to learn any language, because the necessary neural foundation for it has been permanently damaged. We can’t know the answer to this question because testing it would be inhumane.

The Critical Period of Language Learning

It’s difficult for us to know just how important these factors are when judging the speed of child language learning against the speed of adult language learning. Whatever the primary factor, there are so many advantages to learning languages as a child that it would be a shame not to take advantage of those critical years.

To learn more about how you can enroll your preschooler in a fully immersive bilingual environment, where they can learn languages naturally, visit Tessa International School in Hoboken.

How Bilingualism Promotes Social Skills in Children

by Tori Galatro

In 2016, two studies were conducted by researchers at the University of Chicago on the social effects of childhood bilingualism. Their findings suggest that bilingual children can understand different perspectives more readily than monolingual children. The two studies also remind us of how much we still have to discover about how children perceive and understand others, and how their early experiences transform their understanding. In addition, it provokes questions about how we ought to apply these findings to education and parenting.

The First Study: The Toy Car Experiment

In the first study, researchers took children 4-6 years old and presented them with three toy cars: a small car, a medium car, and a large car. Then, an adult, who could only see the medium and large toy cars, would say, “Oh! I see a small car. Can you move the small car for me?” Some children were able to understand that the car that the adult was referring to must be the medium car. They could understand that the adult could only see the medium and large toy cars so, to them, the “small car” was the medium car. The researchers found that bilingual children moved the medium car more often than monolingual children, who chose the small car instead.

This study suggests that bilingual children are better equipped to put themselves in the shoes of others than monolingual children. This makes sense in a way. If you have multiple languages to choose from, and you need to communicate, you need to be able to see from others’ perspectives. You need to modify your words based on context and perspective. This also suggests that exposing children to multiple languages can help them develop essential social and emotional skills, like empathy, compassion, and communication.

The Second Study: The Banana Experiment

After the results of the first experiment, the researchers wondered if the same result would apply to even younger children. In their next experiment, they chose 14-16 month olds who were just beginning to talk. They presented the children with two bananas. Like in the toy car experiment, one banana was hidden from the adults view, while the other could be seen by both the adult and the child. Then, the adult asked for “the banana”. The bilingual children more often chose the banana that could be seen by both themselves and the adult. Again, this suggests that bilingual children are more accustomed to understanding the experiences of others.

What Does This Mean for Monolingual Children?

Although both experiments showed how bilingual children have an advantage when it comes to interpersonal skills, follow-up experiments held good news for monolingual children. As it turns out, when the same experiments were performed with monolingual children who were sometimes exposed to multilingual environments, they acted the same as the bilingual children. In other words, simply being around different languages can help a child to understand different perspectives.

The researchers also ran cognitive tests for executive function on the bilingual children, monolingual children, and monolingual children who are sometimes exposed to multilingual environments. Scientists already know that bilingualism has positive effects on the brain so they were not surprised to find that the bilinguals scored higher on the cognitive tests. However, both kinds of monolingual children scored the same. This suggests that the social skills gained from being exposed to a multilingual environment are not effects of greater cognitive strength, but rather the knowledge gained from the social experiences themselves. In other words, the social benefits can be obtained without becoming bilingual.

For monolingual parents, this is great news. It means that you don’t need to speak multiple languages at home for your child to benefit from multilingualism. Even limited exposure can help your child to understand different perspectives. The social advantages of understanding different perspectives not only helps your child to think more critically, but it also helps them to become a more empathetic and well-rounded. Contact us at Tessa International School to find out more.

The Different Types of Preschool Bilingual Learning

by Tori Galatro

You may already know that bilingualism can have a hugely positive impact on your child’s future. You may also know that the best time for your child to learn a new language is when they are young. However, there are many ways for children to become bilingual, and many factors that can influence the speed of their language education. When a child reaches preschool-age, from three to five, immersive language learning can be extremely helpful for children that have been exposed to two languages from birth, as well as children who’ve only ever heard one.

The following are common ways researchers distinguish between the differences in early language education. Learning these approaches may help you to think about how your child’s preschool language education can introduce, promote, or supplement their previous experience with bilingual learning.

The Six Models of Childhood Bilingualism

The Huffington Post recently published an article outlining the various ways in which children can learn languages at home, at school, and in their community. The article outlines six different models of bilingual language acquisition.

  • Model Example #1: Both parents speak a language at home, while a different language is spoken by the child’s school and community. Such parents may have moved from a different country, or simply wish their child to learn a different language than the one spoken at home.
  • Model Example #2: One parent speaks one language exclusively, and the other parent speaks the language of the school and community. In this model, the child would benefit from supplemental help during preschool in the first parent’s language, as they are getting only limited exposure, but would more readily absorb the community language.

The six language models referenced in the article are different variations on this general concept: the child’s preschool education should vary according to where, when, how often, and by whom each language is spoken. However, this research was published back in the 90s and many studies have since developed these models further.

The Two Types of Early Bilingualism

The models of childhood bilingualism mentioned above have also been grouped into two categories by researchers: simultaneous and sequential.

  • Simultaneous bilingualism occurs when a child is exposed to two languages equally, from birth.
  • Sequential bilingualism occurs when a child is introduced to one language after the other, during childhood.

Both are considered to be great methods of bilingual language education. Both methods fall under the category of “early bilingualism”, which means both languages need to be acquired roughy before the age of five, during the normal period of language development.

Children who learn sequentially, or learn their second language after the age of three, but before the age of five, actually learn the second language completely fresh, rather than using their first language for guidance, as older children might. This gives them an advantage since these younger children are less likely to rely on the grammatical patterns of their first language for support. They also tend to have a period of adjustment to the new language during which they may stop speaking in the environments where only the new language is spoken. They may use hand gestures only, until they begin to test out their new language. After that point, they have a high potential of becoming just as competent in their new language as a native speaker.

Understanding How Bilingual Preschool Education Can Help Your Child Learn

Your child is capable of becoming multilingual at a very young age, and speaking each language with the competency of a native speaker, but they are going to need the proper level of exposure, before the age of five. A child won’t become fluent in a new language by watching a foreign language TV show once a week. Their exposure to the new language must be consistent, immersive, and meaningful. Children don’t understand the long-term benefits of language learning, but they do have an innate desire to communicate and be understood. That’s why the new language must be more than a casual activity. It needs to be integrated into a meaningful and consistent environment for the child to truly care about listening and learning.

At Tessa International School, we create an environment where language learning is not just fundamental, but also enjoyable. Contact us today to enroll your young child in an immersive bilingual learning program, and encourage language learning that has already happened at home, or start completely fresh.

Interesting Facts About Childhood Bilingualism That Might Surprise You

by Tori Galatro

Cognitive development in children is a fascinating subject. Children have an incredible ability to absorb information. Parents who expose their children to multiple languages at an early age give their children a unique advantage in their language development. New research is coming out everyday on the subject of cognitive development in children as it relates to bilingualism and multilingualism. Yet there is still so much we don’t know. Below are some recent findings on the subject that may surprise you.

Children “Code Switch” Just Like Adults Do

Jumping between multiple languages in the same sentence or conversation is known as “code switching”. There are many reasons to code switch, and it is a natural part of being bilingual. Code switching can show emphasis, help clarify meaning, or evoke the cultural associations of a particular word. Bilinguals may simply prefer a phrase in one language over its translation in the other. Bilingual children also code switch. Parents of bilingual children often assume this indicates confusion or struggle, when in fact, it’s a natural part of language learning. In some cases, children may use another language to substitute for vocabulary they don’t know. Parents ought to make sure their child knows the correct word in both languages. Other than that, there is nothing to worry about, and code switching is perfectly normal.

Children Have the Unique Ability to Sound like Native Speakers

The term “bilingual” usually describes someone who is conversational in two languages. More than half of the world is said to meet this criteria, but only a small percentage can speak two languages as if they were a native speaker, with native pronunciation. Most people can only achieve this if they start at a very young age, which is why early childhood bilingualism is so fundamental to language learning. It is much easier for a child to learn the phonetic sounds of multiple languages before the age that they become too accustomed to the sounds of only one.

Children Will Follow the Language of the Community

Language dominance is a very common phenomenon among bilinguals. Very few bilingual adults and children speak two languages with exactly the same frequency and skill. Different languages are often used in different contexts, or different spheres. For example, one language may be spoken at home, while a different language may be spoken at school or in the community. It is common for children to gravitate towards the language spoken by their peers, rather than their parents, as they get older and embrace the community language as their dominant language. It is advisable to supplement the non-dominant language with classes and extra conversation.

Children Derive Non-Linguistic Cognitive Benefits from Being Bilingual

Years ago, parents and researchers believed that bilingualism was bad for children and slowed their development. Modern research has repeatedly shown that the opposite is true. Of all of the studies on childhood bilingualism, none have shown any negative effects, and several have shown positive effects, even in areas of the brain not related to language development. Some studies indicate that bilingualism can improve focus, attention, and selectivity. Others indicate that it can improve reading ability in cases where both languages share a common alphabet. Bilingual children may initially have a decreased vocabulary in each language, since less time is spent with each, so the more language, communication, and expression in their lives, the better for their language learning.

 

At Tessa International School, we use proven methods, creating an immersive bilingual learning environment where parents can take advantage of this special time in their children’s lives, helping them to develop their minds while having fun. Contact us today!

How Children Learn Languages Naturally Through Immersion

Immersion language learning may sound like something that can only be done living abroad, but this is absolutely not the case. Even monolingual people have experienced the central premise. If you’ve ever made a new group of friends who use a phrase you’re unfamiliar with, then find yourself using it constantly in a week or two, you’ve already been through a very minor form of language immersion. Parents who want their children to learn a second language during their early linguistically-adaptive years can understand why their preschoolers won’t learn a language by rote memorization of vocabulary sheets and grammar rules, but instead through immersion.

Immersion and Fluency

When babies are learning to talk, we don’t start them off with written flashcards. Instead, they start experimenting with phonemes (the smallest audible parts of a word like “ba” and “ko”) that sound like the sounds the adults around them are making. As they start to speak, they also pay close attention to how others around them speak and the responses they get from their new words. Eventually, they form meaningful sentences to express needs based on their understanding of what the words they are using mean by experience and observation. In other words, all children learn their first language through immersion. Learning their second language is no different.

family, children and people concept – happy mother and daughter drawing and talking over green background

The Bilingual Household

‘Naturally’ bilingual children are simply applying that adaptive language learning stage to two different language sets. Bilingualism occurs when a child is regularly exposed to communication in both languages. This can occur at home or at school, as long as the exposure is consistent and immersive.

In the Classroom

You don’t have to have a multilingual family or travel with a toddler to give your child the gift of additional languages at a young age. Immersion can easily be created in the classroom simply by changing the linguistic context of the lessons and conducting them in the second language for the majority of the school day. This gives students, not only the opportunity to self-motivate, but also the desire to do better. In an immersive classroom, the children are asked to think, listen, write, and speak primarily in the target language, helping them learn how to interact comfortably with each other and the instructor while learning the language together.

Tessa International Preschool

Tessa International School is an immersive bilingual preschool that emphasizes bilingual language learning  We take pride in our successes bringing bilingualism to our students. In our classrooms, the children learn from their native speaking teacher and teaching assistant, and from each other. Parents are consistently surprised by the speed and completeness with which their very young children can learn a new language. Children naturally learn language through immersion, and your toddler can start learning their second, third, or even fourth language right away with us. Whether you’re a classic monolingual English speaking family or your toddler speaks your native language better than the local one, Tessa International School will be proud to teach your child Spanish, French, or Mandarin in an environment that nurtures, challenges and provides educational excellence in a wonderfully rich learning environment. For more information about how children learn language or to schedule an interview with us, please contact us today!

Skills to Teach Preschoolers That Will Help Them Later in Life

Many of the skills children learn at a young age stay with them throughout their lives. If you want to help kids develop into happy, healthy, social, and self-sufficient adults, it’s important to encourage certain habits and ways of thinking at an early age. Let’s look at some of the best skills to introduce to children in preschool that will help them later in life.

Language Skills

Language skills are fundamental to a great deal of what children learn throughout their lives. Learning how to read and communicate verbally lets kids absorb all types of information, ask questions, and develop their own ideas. Evidence shows that literacy is not only about developing language skills but contributes to a variety of life skills. Experts disagree about how early children should learn how to read. At the very least, however, preschoolers can learn the alphabet and start to develop a varied vocabulary. There are a variety of ways to foster language skills in children. One of the best ways is simply by talking to them. Having a designated storytime each day is also important. Don’t rely on media such as TV and the internet to give children language skills. While they have their place, they are more passive and don’t encourage thought and interaction as much as a direct conversation. Giving kids pencils, chalk, shaving foam, wooden letters, pens, markers and much more with which to scribble and start experimenting with letters and words helps them foster early writing skills.

Social Skills

Social skills are essential for many areas of life. To some extent, these overlap with language skills but only to a point. People who are proficient with language and have extensive vocabularies may lack essential social skills. Learning to get along with others involves listening as well as talking, the willingness to share and self-manage emotions. These abilities don’t always come naturally to young children. Teaching children to take turns, share toys, and consider the needs of others helps lay the groundwork for functional personal and professional relationships later on. It’s equally important for shy children to speak up and learn to be assertive when necessary. Games, sports, and group activities requiring cooperation help children learn such essential social skills.

Motor Skills

Physical skills, such as gross and fine motor skills, are essential for helping children navigate their way through life, feel confident, and learn to use tools. These types of skills are useful in a variety of fields, such as technology, engineering, cooking, sports, the arts, and many other areas. Hand-eye coordination is also necessary for writing and drawing. Many activities that children naturally enjoy, such as running, arts & crafts, playing ball games, swimming, riding bikes, and climbing help to develop these abilities. Today, children often get tethered to electronic devices at an early age. It’s important to make sure they stay active, spend time outdoors, and engage in physical play. In addition to helping them develop motor skills, this helps them learn healthy habits.

Reasoning and Problem-Solving Skills

Many problems in life, both professional and personal, require reasoning and problem-solving abilities. If children in preschool start to develop these skills, they’ll be more resourceful and self-sufficient as they get older. Many games and puzzles that are fun for children also help them think their way through problems. You can foster these abilities by talking to children about problems that arise in everyday life or theoretical questions, such as “how do plants and trees grow?” “how can we fix this broken table?” or “what’s the best way to get to the shopping center?”. This gets kids accustomed to using their minds to solve problems and empowers them to know that they can.

Creativity

In addition to introducing children to specific skills, it’s also important to encourage their creativity. Kids are naturally creative. The only question is how much the adults who supervise them allow them to express their creativity. A certain amount of free play helps them develop their imaginations. Artistic activities such as drawing, painting, building with blocks, play dough, and singing are all great for fostering creativity.

At Tessa International School, we help students work towards International Baccalaureate accreditation. This curriculum framework provides so much in the way of giving children life skills at a young age that will be useful throughout their entire educational journey and their lives. Qualities such as care, respect, empathy, and much more are emphasized daily, preparing children to be leaders of the 21st century. Not to mention happy world citizens, as they are immersed in another language and other cultures. To find out more, contact us.

 

How Interactive Whiteboards Help Children Learn

When many of us grew up, having a white board with colorful markers seemed part of an exciting wave of innovation. No more dusty erasers! Now those are giving way to interactive whiteboards.

These fantastic teaching tools help children learn in many ways:

Interactive White Boards Allow for More Interaction and Customization

Each lesson, teachers can prepare slides, similar to a PowerPoint presentation. However, the software for interactive whiteboards allows teachers and students to annotate what has been written directly onto the screen. For example, if a teacher wants the whole class to solve a math problem, the equation can be typed by the teacher on a slide. Then in class, a student (or group) can go up to the screen and work on solving it using a special inkless “pen”. If there is a mistake, the student can erase it. Unlike an overhead projector, the screen projection can be very large and there is no fumbling around with strange angles. If something is erased by mistake, there is an easy “undo” button that can simply be clicked. If teachers would like to use a hardcopy of a student’s work as an example, they can simply print it out.

Teachers Can Transition Seamlessly Between Topics

The slides can be created and saved by topic for a day, a week, or an entire unit: it’s all up to the educator. If a child misses a day of class, all the teacher needs to do is print out the slides and provide some additional notations. When students struggle with a concept, it is easy to go back over previous slides to make certain that they understood the previous material. Having an interactive whiteboard allows teachers greater organization techniques that everyone will be grateful for.

Objectives Can Easily Be Incorporated into Slides

In a classroom pressed for space, it can be hard to find additional areas to present the day’s objectives amidst the artwork, student work, calendars, and weekly schedules. However with an interactive whiteboard, teachers can post the lesson’s objectives anywhere on the slide. For example, the phrase “analyze the descriptive language in a poem” could be placed on all slides pertaining to that lesson, so that students remember the ultimate objective. This, in turn, will help students develop metacognitive skills so that they are aware of their own academic skills as they develop them.

Links Can Be Integrated into Slides

Today, there is so much supplemental educational material available on the internet, it’s extremely helpful if educators have an efficient way to share it with their students. Whether it’s a video of an inspiring speech or of penguins protecting their eggs, teachers can link to it directly through a word or picture. There is no time lost running over to a computer.

Teachers Can Control Boards from Anywhere in the Classroom

With a special remote accessory, teachers may walk around the classroom as students work while simultaneously annotating the slides and progressing through the lesson. This tool provides teachers with the ability to look at student work to ensure that students are indeed internalizing what is being taught. Furthermore, it allows teachers the ability to manage the whole classroom and see that everybody is on task.

Allows for Interactive Games and Activities

Teachers can create slides that allow students to click on possible answers during review games. This demonstrates if children have learned the material, and allows students to have fun going over what they have learned. Once teachers learn the different functions the software allows, the possibilities seem endless. Students enjoy going up to the board to work, and teachers can keep these games or amend them in the future. Younger students can also problem solve with puzzles and so much more. The possibilities are endless!

Interactive Whiteboards Can be Mobile

Schools can purchase mobile boards that move from room to room. Not every school has teachers fixed in permanent rooms, but there is no reason why technology can’t adapt to meet their needs. As long as the software is on a teacher’s computer, they can use any interactive whiteboard for any lesson.

Interactive whiteboards are, without a doubt, a great feature for a school to have. Students will have more exposure to technology, which is essential in our ever-changing technological world, feel more connected to the material, and teachers can feel better organized with their lesson plans.

If you have any questions about our teaching methodology at Tessa International School, please contact us.

3 Games You Can Play at Home to Help Teach Your Child a New Language

Support your child’s academic language learning with fun games at home! Little ones respond best to homework when it is made into a game. Playing language games with your child is not just a great way to help them retain and build on their language learning, it is also an opportunity for you to learn the language with them, complete with a study buddy to practice with! Here are three fun language games to play with your child at home that will help them remember, absorb, and begin to actively use their new language skills.

Game #1: Clap Rhymes and Songs

“Cho-co-la-te, Cho-co-la-te, bate, bate, el chocolate”

Nothing sticks in the brain better than the combination of rhythm, rhyme, and clapping in time to a beat. From jump-rope games to circle rhymes, children have been learning this way for decades, if not centuries. One of the best ways to help your child become familiar with speaking a new language confidently is to practice saying it in rhyme with the aide of a fun clap pattern or even a little dance. Find children’s songs and chants from the language’s culture of origin and teach them to your child at home or use their vocabulary lessons to make up rhymes of your own. To help the meanings of the words sink in, use an English version as well and practice them side-by-side.

Game #2: Story Time Mad-Libs

“Once upon a time there was a prince whose favorite fruit was …”

Young children can get bored of normal flashcards quickly, but they make excellent props for games instead. If you have a set of simple color, noun, and verb flash cards, make up a story with your child that frequently uses these words. Let them fill in the blanks with their own ideas, as long as they’re in the new language, or use the flashcards to give them a clue what you’re thinking. You can also take turns making up lines in the story and using the flashcards to remember the right foreign language vocabulary word.

Game #3: Name That Snack

Then, of course, you can always use snacks as the motivation and inspiration that they so often are for young children. Traditionally, this game is played with colored candies, asking your child to name the appropriate color before they get a treat. You can make the game healthy instead with fruits, veggie chips, and other snack foods. When your child can ask for their favorite treat in the new language they’re learning, be sure to grant it to them (within reason). This activity can then open the door to further foreign-language conversation around the breakfast and dinner table. Inspire inquiry by showing your child how to lookup a word you both don’t know.

Practice at home is a great way to help your child retain and expand on a new language they’re learning in school. The more they stretch their minds to use the new vocabulary with familiar and fun concepts, and practice naming and talking about things in the new language, the more confident they’ll become. For a strong academic foundation for a preschool bilingual education, please contact us today!

Spanish Language Learning: Bilingual Programs Build Connections

Dual language programs, starting as early as PreSchool, introduce bilingualism and diversity into the classroom, exposing youngsters to different languages, cultures and experiences. Children’s brains are like sponges and they soak up other languages more quickly when they begin learning at young ages. This ability decreases with time. This is due to early brain development and centers of the brain responsible for language acquisition. In fact, learning two languages simultaneously reinforces vocabulary learned in each language! A surprising benefit of learning another language is the strengthening of the English language!

Bilingual Programs

Some schools are using computer apps to teach Spanish and other languages, but that’s no match for academic institutions that employ bilingual teachers. There is some concern regarding the amount of time children are spending glued to a screen, so many schools are working on finding middle ground solutions to monitor student usage instead of banning screens altogether. Bilingual academics are equally engaging without the necessity for a screen. A full immersion program is the best way. This affords children the opportunity to really become bilingual, with a teacher who is a native speaker.

Fluency in more than one language helps strengthen cognitive flexibility and many other cognitive skills, teaching students to think outside of the box! Integrating bilingual programs into schools helps build cultural competency, creating environments that are empathetic and supportive, and demonstrating the value of diversity.

The benefits of dual language education need not stop at the chalk board! Parents, you can engage in language activities outside the schoolroom, continuing the learning at home–you may find that  you even learn something too! Of course, it’s not the same as a full immersion bilingual program, but it’s better than nothing:

Teaching Tips

  • Greetings ~ Begin the day with saying, “Buenos Dias!” or “Hola! Me llamo Michael,” when meeting new people. Integrate Spanish words into everyday phrases!
  • Tactile Involvement ~ Anchor words by giving your child something to hold or touch, visually supporting the information learned. If teaching the color green, “el verde,” use a piece of green construction paper cut out in the shape of a leaf, “una hoja!” Turn learning into an interactive art project!
  • Movement ~ Dance or act out words! Using movement is another method that anchors words learned by helping with processing and memory. Try playing charades or Pictionary in Spanish! Turn learning into a family game everyone can join in after dinner or on the weekends!
  • Tell Stories ~ When reading from picture books, children derive meaning from context clues. Children’s stories are also pattern-based and use lots of repetition, which further assists anchoring new words!
  • Sing Songs ~ Melodies and rhymes help to create patterns that are easy to remember. Almost every popular radio hit has a hook that draws in listeners; it’s the same for children’s songs. Another tip is trying to sing “echo” songs, where your child repeats lines back to you. Repetition is key to learning any language! So why not have some fun with it?
  • Ask Questions ~ Ask supportive questions, engaging your child to use the language they’re working on. For example: instead of asking, “Que es esto?” (What is this?) try, “Es un gato?” (Is this a cat?). Phrasing questions in this manner uses word repetition, supporting new words learned by providing context clues.
  • Counting ~ When washing hands, count to ten in Spanish! Uno, dos, tres!
  • Shared Activities ~ If your child is helping you bake cookies, use basic words for the dishes needed to mix the batter. For instance, ask your child to hand you una cuchara, a spoon! This is an extremely powerful way to help your child learn Spanish because it provides emotional tactile involvement!

Global Classroom

Research shows learning other languages, like Spanish, has cognitive and cultural benefits on developing minds. Bilingual programs beginning as early as PreSchool send a message to children that the world is a small place and that the world is their oyster. It also strengthens our sense of global awareness and unity, in and outside the classroom! When engaging your child at home, remember to use words in context and to repeat words. And always: have fun and be flexible!