How to Continue Your Child’s Bilingual Learning at Home

How to Continue Your Child’s Bilingual Learning at Home

When it comes to language learning, many parents often wonder how they can help their children become more proficient in their comprehension. In many cases, students will often struggle to pick up new language cues and improve fluidity of bilingualism if their studies don’t extend beyond the classroom. In fact, in order to obtain true bilingual capabilities, children require an immense amount of exposure to the languages – exposure that extends well beyond the classroom. So how can you help your child continue bilingual learning at home?

Bilingual Learning at Home

It’s well-known that pediatricians and early education professionals have long supported the relationship between reading and communication with language skills in young children. Parents are encouraged to both read to their children and interact with them directly as much as possible in order to expand their child’s language understanding. The same is true for learning a second language.

The key to expanding a child’s understanding of bilingualism is exposure – lots of exposure – to both the native and second language. Since language learning does not stop once your child leaves their classroom, parents should be continuing the learning at home by incorporating the second language as frequently as possible in the home life. This can be done by reading books, playing games, following recipes native to that language, or even just simply in regular conversations with their children.

Hands-on Learning, Not Screen-Time Learning

It’s important to understand there is a major distinction between direct bilingual exposure at home and that picked up by screen time. While certain online activities can help boost a child’s basic understanding of language, true fluidity is only possible by frequent submersion in the language itself. In other words, talk with your children in meaningful, bilingual conversations, or read to them directly to give them the most proficient means of immersion.  

“In order to foster language development, the exposure has to be person-to-person; screen-time doesn’t count for learning language in young children – even one language – though kids can learn content and vocabulary from educational screen-time later on,” explains the NY Times in report of pediatrician recommendations on bilingual language learning at home.

Plenty of Language Exposure and Patience

With language learning, the best thing parents can do for their child’s learning process is to continue the language education at home by increasing their child’s exposure to the linguistics. There are virtually unlimited ways in which parents can do this, as mentioned above, but also, home submersion isn’t the only aspect to keep in mind when helping children grasp bilingualism.

No matter the age, bilingual individuals will always have a tendency to combine, or mix-up, their languages from time to time and children are no exception. Parents need to keep in mind that their child will need plenty of patience during the bilingual learning process, as well as the ability to not get discouraged when languages get mixed. This is normal and all a part of the learning process. In fact, experts say that language “mix-ups” are actually a sign of a deeper understanding of bilingualism and considered a sign that individuals are truly grasping the second language when this happens.

Above all, parents who want to help their child expand their bilingual learning at home need to take an active role in helping them do so. Frequent and fluent language interactions in both languages will help continue the submersion outside of the classroom while patience and encouragement during the learning process will help them gain the confidence they need to continue their learning even further.

Bilingual Learning Experiences for the Holidays

Bilingual Learning Experiences for the Holidays

Holidays may bring extended breaks from school, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t a fantastic time to offer your children some unique learning experiences. In fact, the holidays are rich with opportunities for kids to broaden their knowledge on cultural and communicative topics, if parents provide them with the tools to learn. Let’s take a look at some of the fun and innovative ways children can expand their bilingual learning experiences at home during their holiday breaks from school.

Holiday Bilingual Learning Experiences

The fact is, children master the art of becoming bilingual much easier through immersion learning – or being all-encompassed in dual languages both in school and out. It goes without saying then that parents who make a point to incorporate language learning at home give their children a more thorough understanding of second languages and the greatest chance at being truly fluent in both as they grow.

So how do you go about incorporating a second language in learning experiences at home – especially over the holidays or extended times away from school? One of the easiest ways is by adding various cultural experiences to your family holiday repertoire in order to let your child see first-hand how other cultures celebrate the season.

Ways to Incorporate Cultural Learning Over the Holidays

There are virtually unlimited ways in which parents can add cultural learning experiences for their children over the holidays, so it’s really up to you which angle you choose to take. You don’t need to plan a trip to a foreign country in order to give your child a bit of immersion learning over break. There are things as simple as baking cookies from various cultures to acting out traditional activities practiced around the world – all of which will give your child an invaluable cultural experience and a better understanding of how others celebrate during this time.

If your child is enrolled in foreign language learning in school, that is a great place to start when considering cultural holiday learning activities. To expand on their learning, take a look at the traditions and practices of the language they are studying in school and plan some activities at home that will expand their understanding while they’re home on break.

Depending upon the culture, you could add a holiday baking day that allows your children to experience the various sweets enjoyed by their language of study. You could also prepare a holiday dinner together using the traditional foods and preparation of that culture. If food isn’t your thing, try looking into other traditions of the culture such as candle lighting ceremonies, parades, or even things like hiding brooms or placing shoes by a window – each culture has their own celebratory methods that are sure to enhance your child’s learning experience.

Keep the Learning Growing at Home

There are so many festivities and traditions celebrated by different cultures each year during the holiday season. Being on winter break from school doesn’t have to mean a break from learning – bring some culture and immersion learning into your child’s routine by trying new experiences and adventures related to their language learning. Do a little search to find out area festivals or activities you may have nearby or get ideas on how you can add fun learning tricks at home!

Role-Playing 101: Why Children Learn Faster with Interactive Activities

Role-Playing 101: Why Children Learn Faster with Interactive Activities

One of the key staples of childhood learning and play is acting out different scenarios through a variety of means. We’re talking, of course, about role-playing activities. These activities usually involve your child imagining themselves in various situations in which they play out pretend dialogues either on their own or with others. Some common role-playing scenarios can include pretending to be a mom or dad to “play house,” super hero or emergency personnel play (think police officers versus “bad guys” or firemen saving a home), and even situations like pretending to be a teacher or grocery store clerk.

Witnessing these instances, many parents assume their child is simply participating in imagination play and don’t give much stock to its importance. The truth is, however, these role-playing scenarios are an immensely important part of a child’s learning process and can be a fantastic teaching tool for parents and educational professionals looking for ways to bring about a deep understanding about different concepts and lessons. The benefits of role play learning are an invaluable part of the learning process that stay with children throughout their lives.

“Role play moves a step beyond the dialogue and places students in a situation in which they are called upon to cope with the unexpected or with a new setting using the material they have learned through dialogs and other classroom activities,” explains South Carolina’s Department of Education.

Role-Playing 101

Role-playing is a multi-faceted teaching and playing activity that allows children to grow and learn through imaginative scenarios. Since these activities place children in interactive situations requiring them to work out solutions and reactions on their own in order to play out the role, this type of play often brings about a deeper understanding on topic of play. Essentially, role-playing combines teaching techniques which allows children to grasp a concept much more thoroughly than traditional teaching means.

It’s no surprise that children learn from experience, no matter their age, so by allowing them to act out various experiences on their own, we’re essentially arming them with unlimited learning opportunities. Since the sky’s the limit with role play, there are an infinite number of potential teaching and learning experiences for children every single day if we know how to harness and encourage the techniques.

Including role-playing activities in a classroom daily – whether structured or unstructured – will only serve to boost the learning potential of students by getting them to actively participate in their education without even realizing it. In fact, the skills that children pick up from these role-playing scenarios are invaluable tools that will stick with them throughout their lives, arming them with the tools they’ll need to work through practically every situation they face in their adult lives years later. Role-playing is so much more than simply pretending to be another person; it gives children the chance to try on new roles and work their way through different challenges.

The Benefits of Role Play Learning

When children put on different costumes and act out scenes during play time, they’re doing so much more than simply playing dress-up. Role-playing allows kids to try on different hats – both figuratively and literally – and imagine what it’s like to be in that role. This is a key teaching tool because it puts children in the driver’s seat of learning by cognitively processing what they believe would happen in each situation. To put it simply, role play allows children to gain a better understanding of any given scenario because it gives them the opportunity to see things from a new perspective and to use their minds to work through them.

This opportunity is one that is brimming with new connections and gaining a deeper knowledge of those around them. Some of the greatest benefits of role-playing are centered around the social and emotional growth that stems from the empathy children gain by putting themselves in someone else’s shoes and learning to cope with different struggles and obstacles that arise in that experience. This kind of play allows children to explore different sides of real-life situations, which in turn gives them a greater knowledge on how their actions affect others around them. Some of the most important benefits gained by role-playing include:

  • Developing empathy towards others by experiencing new perspectives
  • Increased problem-solving skills
  • Improved self-expression through communication
  • Learning to work better with others
  • Gaining better social and emotional skills

Invaluable Experiences with Role-Playing

Since role-playing experiences feel more like playing than a more rigid lesson plan session, children tend to gravitate toward these activities without even realizing they are learning in the process. This is a part of what makes role-playing so invaluable. Another part of its interactive genius is that it allows children to gain a better perspective on who they are and who they may want to be when they are adults. Role-playing is often the best way for children to discover what they truly enjoy and to explore different avenues of interest in a way that lets them try out new roles.

Something as simple as putting on a police hat or a white lab coat can allow children to experiment with various careers and areas of interest. By pretending to be a police officer, children can use their imaginations to harness a desire to help others or be the protector. Putting on a stethoscope and grabbing a toy medical bag can allow children the opportunity to explore what it’s like to take care of those around them. Virtually every scenario is ripe with the chance for children to see what kind of interactions they are drawn to the most – something which will come into play quite a bit in the years to come.

While trying on various outfits and acting out different careers and roles can help children develop crucial social and emotional skills as well as allowing them to gain a better understanding of their own interests, the most important part of role play learning is something much simpler. By giving them the opportunity to act out a variety of situations, role-playing teaches children they can be anything they choose. It allows them to envision themselves in a multitude of situations, giving them the confidence and foundation for realizing their true potential in the coming years.

What to do When Your Child Is Being Bullied

What to do When Your Child Is Being Bullied

With the majority of schools today participating in at least some form of anti-bullying policies, most parents have been made aware of the movement to stomp out the aggressive behavior. While we may be more actively approaching bully behavior today, many may still be uncertain of what to do when your child is being bullied.

Classic Bullying Behavior

When we think of classic bullying behavior, we usually envision things like stolen lunch money or toys, bruises or other signs of fighting, or clothing being ripped or destroyed. These things are considered aggressive bullying and usually fairly easy to spot. Unfortunately, bullying goes unnoticed often times because it rarely fits into this category.

Less Obvious Bullying Behavior

Bullying is usually thought of as mean-spirited behavior that is manifested through physical and verbal means. The truth is, however, bullying behavior can take on many different forms – it isn’t always taunting, teasing, or physically fighting.

While it’s certainly true that scenarios involving pushing, picking, yelling, and teasing are examples of classic bully behavior, there are other, less obvious forms of bullying as well. Often times, kids can experience the effects of bullying by way of being ignored by their peers, being left out of games and functions, and even things like whispering, and note passing.

“More often than not… bullying is difficult to spot. Most kids don’t come home from school saying, ‘I’m being bullied every day by these three kids and I’m really scared and unhappy,’” explains PBS.org.

Are There Signs Your Child Is Being Bullied?

Knowing that the signs of bullying aren’t always easy to identify, one of the best things a parent can do to help their child is to know what behavior warrants anti-bullying tactics. This may seem easier said than done, but by understanding warning signs in your child, you can help stop bullying in its tracks.

So, just what are these warning signs? Similar to the signs of bullying, there are more obvious signs your child is being bullied, as well as less obvious signs. Paying attention to your child’s behavior versus what they are verbally communicating is key to getting through a rough time.

Most Obvious Signs

The most obvious signs a child is dealing with a bully at school (or on the bus, playground, or even neighborhood after hours) are usually physical signs. Aggressive bullying is often the culprit of these type of signs and can include things like a disheveled appearance when they should otherwise be presentable, physical scars and bruises or bleeding, and complaints of aches and pains with no rational explanation for them.

Since kids don’t usually tell you when they’ve had an altercation with another child, it’s usually up to the parents to pay attention to their physical appearance. This can also include their attitude – a sudden change in attitude that involves crankiness or irritability can often point toward a bullying scenario as well.

Less Obvious Signs

If your child isn’t coming home with bruises or torn clothing, but you still feel like something is “off” with them, don’t discount bullying yet. As we mentioned earlier, there are many forms bullying can take and, as such, there are many forms their reactions can take.

Some of the less obvious signs your child is dealing with a bully can include being withdrawn, a loss of interest in things they previously loved to do, and seeming sad or depressed upon coming home. Other signs to watch out for include a change in their appetite – usually a loss of interest in eating altogether, trouble sleeping (night terrors and bad dreams included), and frequent ailments like headaches or stomach aches.

Major Red Flags

There are a wide range of signs and symptoms of bullying – all of which need addressed as soon as possible – but some may require much more immediate attention. Depending upon the individual situation, children will handle a bullying experience in their own way; however, certain behaviors should always be taken seriously as soon as they surface.

If your child’s school performance begins to change – this is a huge red flag that something is off with them, usually relating to a person or situation at school. Other major red flags that should be addressed immediately include visible signs of fear or panic when they are faced with a task (anxiety over riding the bus or fear for going to class, for example), or any form of discussion involving loss of life or suicide. Noticing any of these behaviors warrants direct and swift attention by parents and teachers.

What to do When Your Child Is Being Bullied

If you’ve noticed your child experiencing any of the above-mentioned signs of being bullied, you’re likely wondering what you can do to help them put a stop to the situation. For a parent, watching their child go through a bullying situation can be one of the most heartbreaking and difficult things to witness. Often times parents wind up feeling helpless or can end up taking steps that may make things worse for their child by accident. So how do you know what to do?

In many cases, schools and other childhood educational and care facilities will have their own form of anti-bullying policies already in place. A look through their school handbook or a discussion with their direct-care professionals can help lead you on the right path for helping your child. Outside of this, there are certain things parents can do to ensure they are taking the right steps to combat their child’s bullying experience.

Anti-Bullying Behavior at Home

There are several things parents can do at home, outside of an anti-bullying policy at school, that will help children get through being bullied. For starters, the most important thing is for parents to be vigilant about monitoring their children’s behaviors so they can quickly spot any of the signs of bullying.

Other steps parents can take to be proactive about bullying:

  • Talk to your child: ask them how things are going, share with them what you’ve noticed and gauge their response.
  • Ask, don’t assume: we may be tempted to ask them what they did to warrant a certain behavior, this can lead them to believe the bullying is warranted.
  • Talk with others in their lives: speak with others who are near your child during the bullying situations and have them help determine a “safe” person they can go to when they feel bullied.

Overall, the best thing you can do for your child if you suspect they are the victim of bullying, is to be their ally. Know what to watch for, make sure you reiterate with them that you are always there, and equip them with the tools to overcome the situation by giving them a safe space or a safe person to go to when needed.

Utilizing Technology in Inquiry-Based Education

Utilizing Technology in Inquiry-Based Education

Inquiry-based education, or IB education for short, is the natural process of learning through inquisitive behavior and deep curiosity. It is, essentially, learning by finding topics that pique children’s’ interests enough that they take the driver’s seat and discover new information through research and questions on their own.

IB Education in the Classroom

When utilizing inquiry-based education in the classroom, the first step is always to find the right topic to spark enough interest in students. Since motivation is the prime factor that drives their desire to initiate learning through IB means, it’s imperative to find the right angle for your lessons to keep them truly engaged.

Not only do educators need to have an exciting and relatable subject, but they also need to include innovative ways to continue beyond the piqued interest phase. Since the process of IB learning includes both exciting topics and continued questioning and research, it only makes sense to incorporate technology into your lessons.

Utilizing Technology for IB Education

With a growing number of educational programs and apps available every day, utilizing technology in the classroom is easier now than ever before. There are hundreds of tech choices available that will enhance an IB education experience and give children the tools they’ll need to problem solve and research.

“Children naturally explore and learn about their environments through inquiry, and computer technologies offer an accessible vehicle for extending the domain and range of this inquiry,” explain researchers from Mount Saint Mary College in the Early Childhood Education Journal article, March 2010.

How to Use Technology

Since the IB educational technique is a process for learning, not traditional information regurgitation, it will help children throughout their educational careers and beyond. The process involves noticing scenarios in detail, learning to ask imperative questions, researching those questions for solutions, and presenting the information to others in a way that is clear and concise.

Knowing this, it’s easy to understand how technology could aid students during this process. Depending upon which media outlet is chosen, technology can be used in practically every aspect of IB education. It can be used to supply intriguing scenarios for analysis through videos or puzzles, as well as provide unlimited research materials to help students find solutions to the problem areas they outlined in the earliest steps. Technology can even be used in the final steps – or the presentation portion of IB learning – which encourages students to explain their findings to others.

Technology and the IB Advantage

“Inquiry-based learning is a process where students become involved in their own learning. Inquiry-based learning builds on student passion and results in increased student agency,” explains professors at the University of New Hampshire.

IB education is a highly engaging teaching process because it is focused on areas that are highly interesting to students and hands them the keys to begin learning on their own. Adding technology to the mix only serves to strengthen this desire to learn. If you want to learn more about how Tessa incorporates IB learning in their early education classrooms, check out the Program of Inquiry here.

What Is Inquiry-Based Education?

What Is Inquiry-Based Education?

As an educator or parent, few things are questioned more than how to spark learning interest in our children.  Trying to find what motivates our children to learn and avoid the dreaded “I don’t know” answers can be a daunting task. Because of this, many are turning to a technique known as inquiry-based education. So just what is inquiry-based education?

What Is Inquiry-Based Education

Inquiry-based (IB) education “is more than asking a student what he or she wants to know… it’s about triggering curiosity,” explains the George Lucas Educational Foundation. Essentially, IB learning places the responsibility of learning on the shoulders of the students rather than emphasizing teaching by the educators. In other words, it is finding a way to pique children’s natural interest to learn and using that as fuel to continue learning further.

By utilizing tactics that shift the learning process from the responsibility of the teacher to being led by individual students, IB education creates a more engaging educational experience. It is a strategy that goes beyond the books and encourages children to think freely and deeply to form their own understanding of various subjects.

Piquing Curiosity

The most important aspect of IB education is piquing the curiosity of students. Finding out what motivates them and getting children to take the reins of their own education is at the root of this learning process. So how do you go about triggering their drive to learn?

This is, perhaps, the most difficult aspect of IB learning, and not one that has a direct answer. For some, motivation can be as simple as keeping it relatable (scenarios about Christmas gifts or Halloween candy for example), while others have better luck using things that spark creativity or imagination (artwork, videos, puzzles).

“You have to model your own curiosity quotient – that hunger to learn that defines how we advance our knowledge of the world… think about your content area… What new piece of information might help you trigger your own enthusiasm that can then trigger your students’ curiosity?” writes Edutopia.org.

The Scientific Method

Once you have discovered what interests them, the next step in IB learning is to switch the focus from teaching to learning. How? Students are urged to come up with their most burning questions about the topic.

Think of the IB learning process in terms of the Scientific Method. First, ask students to observe the topic you presented to them and ask them to give it some thought. Once they familiarize themselves with the topic, have them form questions and think of possible answers to their questions. Ask them to come up with potential solutions or experiment with different outcomes of the scenario before taking another look at their progress and concluding what they’ve learned.

Step 1: Look at the Topic

If utilizing a method similar to the scientific method, once your students’ curiosity is piqued, ask them to take note of what they see. Have them document scenarios, write or discuss down details, and simply describe what it is that is in front of them.

This process will help them to better identify a topic and give them additional information for the next few steps. Encourage children to be as detailed as possible in their descriptions. This step is one of the greatest benefits of IB learning: noticing what’s around them and deciphering what aspects are most important to their scenarios.

Step 2: Question, Question, Question

After students have had ample time to note what is in front of them, the next step is to heavily emphasize their curiosity. This is done by getting them to begin questioning what they see. IB learning focuses on inquiry, or the desire to learn more, which begins by asking questions.

In this step, students are encouraged to think critically about the scenario in front of them and document any questions they may have. No question is off the table, and the more they question, the deeper their understanding will be so encouragement is the key. The most effective questions are the ones that drive students to have even more questions, so the focus of an educator in IB learning is more on sparking interest and less on giving answers.

Step 3: Research Their Questions

Once students have come up with their most intriguing questions, it’s time to find the answers. With IB learning, however, the students are in charge of finding their own answers. Dedicating class time and resources for children to conduct their own research is crucial to the process. This gives kids the means and the time to find answers to their own questions in a (somewhat) guided space.

The deeper the curiosity for their questions, the deeper the student’s drive to research and find answers. It is this drive and curiosity that will fuel their desire to truly learn a topic by their own inquiries rather than by traditional teaching methods.

Step 4: Hypothesize and Present

After students have used critical thinking to develop questions and research solutions to potential problems, it’s time to guide them into the hypothesis presentation stage. This is the part of the process that has students focusing on what they’ve learned and are tasked with organizing their findings to present them to others in the classroom.

Since learning is not only about discovery and critical thinking, but also about successful communication and understanding, it’s important that students be able to present what they’ve learned to others. This step forces children to understand the scenario even further, in order to find ways to share it and make sense of it to other students.

Step 5: Reflection and Critique

Perhaps the most important step of IB learning is the final phase – the reflection portion. It’s in this stage that students are asked to evaluate what they learned and to make note of any issues they came across in their research and presentations.

This step gets children to think more on what type of questions got them the furthest in their studies and which theories worked best as well. It can also help them to highlight areas that weren’t so helpful, giving them insight on what to try (or avoid) next time.

The IB Learning Experience

Overall, IB learning is simply learning that is driven by students’ own curiosity. It is highly effective because it gives students a sense of thoroughly understanding topics – or becoming experts, per se – and teaches them the art of deeper learning.

While there are no set formats for IB learning, the key is to find what motivates children and get them to think freely to develop a deeper understanding. The best way to do this? Get them asking questions and give them the resources to find their own answers. This is IB learning.

Visible Learning – How Can Parents Help at Home?

A core belief at Tessa International School is that all of our teachers should continually improve our teaching practices. Over the summer I read a book that is receiving a lot of praise from renowned educators:  10 Mindframes for Visible Learning: Teaching for Success by John Hattie and Klaus Zierer.


Unlike many books devoted to pedagogy, Hattie and Zierer used scientific-based evidence (for example, several meta studies) to determine ten key ‘mindframes’ for excellent teachers.

One simple take-away for teachers:  instead of going into a classroom and asking oneself, ‘How can I be a great teacher?’ or ‘How can my students learn the best?’ 10 Mindframes suggests that teachers should say to themselves:  ‘My job here is to evaluate my impact on my students.’

I invite you now to reflect when you were a child:  which teachers made the greatest impact on you?  Why?  Which moments with your parents impacted you the most?  Why?  How can you make similar impactful moments on your own child?

As a parent of a 4 year-old and a 2 year-old and a teacher myself, I often ask myself how we as parents (whether we have education backgrounds or not) can help our children become better learners and world citizens.  So I have written a few suggestions for parents who wish to make learning more impactful for students, based on many of the mindframes.

1. I am an evaluator of my impact on my child’s learning

As a parent you have a tremendous impact on your children. Do you occasionally reflect upon the memories that you are making during ‘teachable moments?’ As an example, my family and I just moved all of our belongings from house to another. Needless to say–it was an intense two days and there was a fair share of unexpected moments. My children were a part of the moving process and they saw moments that were a bit, shall we say….frustrating?  As my wife and I occasionally got discombobulated I remained very aware that my children are learning how to deal with frustration—from us.

Your children, especially if they are young, are learning so much…from you! Are you evaluating the impact you are making on your child on a day to day basis?

2. I collaborate with my peers about my conceptions of progress and my impact

Do you consult other parents from time to time, or are you so confident that you are the best parent in the world that you never need to speak to anyone?  In my humble opinion, having an open mind, key to the IB Learner Profile, is extremely important to becoming a better parent. Just because something worked with you as a child, for example, doesn’t mean that it will necessarily work the same way on your own child. As an aside, I’d like to suggest that you check out a fascinating review of a book that compares parenting styles in France, the US, and Peru here

As a general rule, the biggest issue that I see with American parenting is ‘helicopter parenting.’ Giving your children opportunities to take risks is extremely important. And check out Erika Christakis’s The Importance of Being Little if you want some advice on this.

3. I am a change agent and believe my child can improve

Do you have fixed beliefs about your child?  ‘My son is great at… singing, but not so good at sports.’ Have you ever said or thought something like this? Though these observations and ‘rules-of-thumb’ may at times be helpful to you to better understand your child, you also might be making assumptions that simply are not true. And why would such assumptions be bad?  Well, if your child implicitly knows that he or she is not good at ‘x’ or is not meant to be ‘x,’ then guess what? He might just stop trying entirely to be ‘x.’ And he may only be two years old!

4.  I strive to provide my child with challenge and not merely have him or her do his or her best

Teachers often learn about Lev Vygotsky’s concept of the Zone of Proximal Development during teacher training.  This fancy-sounding concept is essentially the idea of giving every child just the right balance of challenge and support. Do you give your children too much support?  This is often what I see as an educator when I watch parent-child interactions.  Don’t be afraid to challenge your children. Personally, I have learned the most when I was suddenly on my own with a challenge. Remember the first time you drove a car on your own?  How you suddenly knew, ‘This is real.’ And how quickly you learned a million things?  The same is true with children.

5. I give feedback and help my child understand it, and I interpret and act on feedback given to me

Do you give your child specific feedback relating to the way he or she acts?  Manners such as saying ‘please’ and ‘thank you,’ for instance, don’t come naturally to children. When you see your child acting politely or impolitely, do you give him specific feedback?

6. I engage as much in dialogue as monologue

Are you ‘the rule of law’ in your home, or do you give your children choice?  Naturally, not everything can be a choice. But do you listen to your children when they say what they like or don’t like?

7. I build relationships and trust so that learning can occur, where it is safe to make mistakes and learn from others

How is your relationship with your child?  What could you do to improve it?

8. I identify and build on my child’s prior experiences and initial learning level

Do you make connections to other things that have happened to your child?  For instance, if you have been on vacation with your child sometime in the past, and see something that reminds you of this event, do you help the child make the connection?  In a way, this relates to the teaching concept of spiraling. This is the idea that in the classroom you always return and review what you have learned previously. Imagine teaching your child a concept such as octagon.  You look at Stop signs, you draw them, and your child really understands what an octagon is. Do you ever bring up the topic of octagon again or do you assume that your child knows what it is without reinforcing it?  Naturally, you bring it back.   

I hope that some of these suggestions can help you be an even more awesome parent than you are now! 

Here is to a great year at Tessa International School!

The Process of Language Learning in Children

The Process of Language Learning in Children

In the earliest years, few things are as highly anticipated and nurtured as a child’s developing language skills. Language learning in children is a complicated, yet natural process involving a number of factors and influences.

Language Learning in Early Childhood

It’s no secret that reading to children and frequent conversations via immersion are critical components of a child’s learning process. Continual interactions with language – both written and verbal – are highly regarded by some as being the most important aspect of language learning.

During a child’s earliest years, they pick up skills and make associations between sounds and objects via interactions with their environments and those around them. In large part, it is simply a natural progression that takes place over time, using repetition and being immersed in specific linguistics, but there is much more to language learning than simply being around it.

Cognitive Functionality

From birth until middle childhood, children’s brains are essentially primed for language learning at impeccable rates. They grasp linguistic keys from practically every aspect of their environments from casual daily conversations going on around them to nightly bedtime stories.

“Language acquisition is a product of active, repetitive, and complex learning. The child’s brain is learning and changing more during language acquisition in the first six years of life than during any other cognitive ability (they) are working to acquire.” – Scholastic.com.

The earliest few years of a child’s life is the most crucial period for expanding their communication skills. After this point, hormonal changes will begin to hinder their ability to further pick up language learning on the same level. Because of this, it’s important to find ways to make the most of the critical communication window.

More Than Just Talking

Helping our children get the most advantageous benefits during their peak language learning years is an important part of their advancement. While most parents know that reading to your children on a regular basis is an excellent way to help them develop their communication skills, there are a number of other ways that are just as important.

Children learn by being immersed in language and witnessing others interacting as frequently as possible. Having basic conversations and engaging them with a pointed, inquisitive nature, will help them develop critical thinking skills as well as gathering the basics needed for all forms of more complex communications later in life.

Other excellent teaching methods include using any form of medium that makes learning more fun and engaging. Easy ways to expand their vocabulary can be through music, poetry, comic books, or even cooking can give a fun twist to learning new words.

The important thing to keep in mind, however, is to understand that communication is more than simply learning how to speak or use correct grammar. It is just as important to help your child develop effective listening skills as well.

“Engage children in listening exercises. We often forget that language is both receptive and expressive… It is essential that children are listening, receiving accurately and processing effectively what they hear,” explains Scholastic.com.

Overall, the best advantage you can give your child is to understand that their earliest years give the greatest opportunity for communication advancement. Utilize those years by maximizing their exposure to language learning opportunities from every angle.

Language Learning: Why Children Pick Up Linguistics Faster

Language Learning: Why Children Pick Up Linguistics Faster

If you’re considering adding a second language to your child’s curriculum, you might be wondering how it may affect their academic progress. While many parents are concerned with how the additional language may induce confusion, studies have shown the opposite to be true.

When it comes to language learning, children are actually built to absorb information with higher efficiency and understanding than adults. In fact, some studies have shown that the earlier children are introduced to multiple languages, the more they comprehend throughout the rest of their lives. So why is that?

Language Learning Process

Researchers have spent decades looking at the effects of introducing children to multiple languages at various stages. From early education to post-secondary exposure and beyond, there is a clear shift in not only how we learn, but how effectively we absorb new information.

By understanding how this process works in relation to our age, it becomes clearer why children pick up multiple languages easier than adults do. It all begins with our brain functionality throughout our various life stages.

Brain Functionality

To understand why children pick up linguistics so much easier than adults do, we must first look at how their brains process information. According to researchers, children’s brains function in a manner that’s designed to have maximum absorption. Over time, our brains adapt and begin functioning on a more streamlined level, decreasing the potential absorption of new information.

Neurology professor at UCLA, Dr. Paul Thompson, explains that at age 11, our brains begin to change. At our earliest education ages, our brains are primed for absorbing information at impressive rates by using the “deep motor” portion, or prefrontal cortex. As we age, this section of our brain levels off its growth and slowly begins to decline. As a result, it becomes more difficult for us to take on new language information at the same rate as younger children.

“Young children are hard-wired to learn language in the first few years of life,” explains HowToAdult.com. As a result, children learn by immersion and picking up language clues around them, whereas adults and older children must make an effort to study the subjects and master the language rules.

When we near puberty, our brains begin to change and along with it, our language learning process. In fact, researchers now believe there is a window of prime opportunity for picking up multiple languages: from birth until mid-childhood hormonal changes. During this time, it is believed that our brains are optimized for naturally picking up communication skills, multiple languages included.

Learning Without Trying

The difference between how children and adults pick up languages, begins with brain functionality, but certainly doesn’t end there. To better understand why children master bilingualism much easier than those older than them, you must also consider the methods of learning.

When young children begin learning a new language, it’s most often due to being immersed in the language at home. In other words, they are surrounded by others who frequently use the language around them, and they begin to pick up the new linguistics as a matter of hearing it used regularly.

On the contrary, most older children and adults who begin to study a new language do so because they are consciously choosing to. In these instances, the individual is essentially using a different portion of the brain, which is focused more on memorization than immersion.

“To make this easier to understand, think of it like listening to a song. When you listen to a song enough times, you learn the rhythms and lyrics whether you like it or not; this is unconscious learning, similar to how children learn languages,” explains PSU.edu.

How We Learn

Understanding that children learn languages differently than adults is just part of the equation. Picking up the complexities of a new language is more than being immersed in constant conversation and having the brain wired for comprehension.

Though these are certainly key aspects of why children learn languages faster, there are other factors to consider as well. For starters, children are much less concerned with mastering a language and more concerned with simply being able to use it.

What does this mean? Children pick up languages by using association – learning by seeing and doing things simultaneously. On the contrary, as we become older, language learning is more deliberate and focuses on studying grammatical rules, making it a different process altogether.

Creativity and Openness

Furthering the concept of immersion learning and brain functionality differences, children are also much more flexible in interpretation of what they see. As we age, we tend to switch to a much more fixed vision of things as a result of years of discovery and information absorption.

All of our life experiences give way to our minds basically seeing things and classifying them based on what we have already learned. This is a much more rigid viewpoint that can inhibit our ability to pick up new information. Children, on the other hand, are much more open to creative thinking and, by extension, learning new concepts.

Uninhibited Learning

Furthering the process of immersion learning, children have a tendency to be much more fearless and determined to push forward with learning. Children are rewarded for trying to speak difficult words and applauded for their strides in learning. As a result, they don’t fear looking foolish for not understanding something as older children and adults often do.

Without inhibitions holding them back, children are much freer to enhance their language learning skills. They do this by being vocal and repeating what they hear, strengthening their understanding of linguistics simultaneously.

Mastering Language

In the earliest years, children are not expected to master linguistics. They are praised for their strides in learning and language is applauded at the most rudimentary levels. We don’t expect children to speak on the same level of comprehension as older children and adults which also helps them to grasp bilingualism faster.

“Very young children don’t need to master the complexity of language that older children and adults need to communicate well. They know fewer words and use simpler sentence structures, which means they have less to learn,” explains HowToAdult.com.

Since there are so many factors that can influence how easily we pick up multiple languages, it’s difficult to pinpoint the prime conditions for learning. However, it’s evidenced that children have a distinct advantage for mastering bilingualism in their earliest years over all other age ranges.

The Bilingual Student Advantage in STEM Learning

The Bilingual Student Advantage in STEM Learning

It’s no secret that language and literacy are the cornerstones to education. The more communicatively proficient your child becomes, the greater their overall educational experience becomes. This is because knowing how to communicate effectively is the basis for all learning subjects.

It goes without saying then, that by increasing your child’s language and literacy skills – say by adding a second language – you’re increasing their cognitive ability overall. In fact, more and more studies have discovered that bilingual children show signs of significantly higher comprehension across all academic subjects than their monolingual counterparts.

The Bilingual Advantage

According to NPR.org, “People who speak two languages often outperform monolinguals on general measures of executive function.” In layman’s terms, bilingual children are adept at deciding when to use each language, giving them a higher level of focus and cognitive abilities than children who speak one language.

Executive function control allows children to decipher speech – the basis for all learning – at a much greater level of authority. Since they are forced to consider each individual speaking circumstance to determine which language to use in each situation, bilingual children gain greater insight. This insight transpires into skills such as problem-solving, decoding, focus, and the ability to read social and environmental cues – all of which are prime skills for Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) learning.

STEM Learning

STEM learning has long been a focus of educators and professionals across the globe. Studying the areas which are responsible for things such as medical advancements, scientific discoveries, pharmaceutical breakthroughs and global structural components are clearly an important set of studies.

There is a reason these areas are so important – they are complex and critical to the advancement of civilization as a whole. With such a complex set of subjects, many parents ask if there is any way to give their child an advantage as they introduce STEM subjects to their little ones.

Bilingual Bonus

You may (or may not) be surprised to learn that bilingualism is a fantastic way to prepare your child for future STEM studies. Going back to communication and language as the core for all learning, it’s easy to understand how a child who is highly proficient in literacy and language studies would have a smoother time picking up complex STEM studies.

“Bilingual children are able to focus more intently on the topics at hand and avoid distractions from academic pursuits. They are also able to demonstrate higher levels of cognitive flexibility, or the ability to change responses based on environment and circumstances,” reports TheAdvocate.org.

This ability to change responses and remain focused easily translates to better understanding things like scientific hypotheses and mathematical equations. The cognitive flexibility gives way to a deeper academic experience across all STEM studies in general.

Overall, the bilingual child is equipped with brain functions more powerful than others. This allows them to continue grasping more complex subjects and concepts throughout their lives. Their puzzle-solving, highly focused minds will pick up STEM subjects on a level high enough to sustain years of continued study and understanding.