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.

Improving Your Child's Language and Literacy Skills

Improving Your Child’s Language and Literacy Skills

Few things are as critical to a child’s educational success as a firm grasp on language and literacy skills. The ability to communicate effectively crosses over into every area of study your child will embark upon in their lifetime. This fact alone makes these skills crucial to their future ability to grasp complex subjects.

The Importance of Language and Literacy Skills

Being proficient in one or more languages has unparalleled benefits that will be seen across the board in your child’s education. Since language is the basis for all teaching efforts (and also the key to communicating effectively overall), it’s understandable why it’s such an important skill to hone.

The importance of language and literacy skills go well beyond the communication aspect, however. Students who focus on deepening their language base will find themselves gaining proficiencies in their other studies as well.

According to the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL), students who excel in language and literacy show:

  • Greater test scores on standard tests
  • Higher levels of focus and understanding
  • Increased ability to grasp scientific hypotheses
  • Higher ACT and SAT scores
  • Greater problem-solving capabilities

These are just a few of the ways in which language and linguistics will lend to the greater overall educational success of your child. Since language development requires children to hone their focusing skills, they will then be able to apply the same level of focus to their other studies.

Literacy Learning Techniques

Whether your child is focusing on one language or multilingual studies, they will have set coursework within their classroom. It’s certainly no surprise that teachers have lesson plans for their students, but you may be surprised to learn how much things have changed since your days in the classroom.

Evidence has shown students respond well to teaching methods that incorporate several different learning aids. Some of these include items that can be used as visual props while others could use online programs and themed learning (animal week, gardening week, etc.).

The key to language learning in the classroom, however, is a focus on interactive conversational opportunities. It’s less about learning grammar rules and more about learning to actually communicate.

“The primary purpose of language is communication – grammar is important, but there’s a bigger picture. Language is no longer seen as being learned through mechanical exercises, it’s developed through students interacting and engaging,” explains Huw Jarvis, a professor at the University of Salford’s School of Humanities, Languages and Social Science.

According to Jarvis, motivation is the most critical component to driving a student’s interest in language learning. Since students tend to learn faster through immersion in situations which require them to find ways to communicate, allowing them to choose their own medium gives way to a greater desire to learn.

Developing a Desire to Learn at Home

In order to truly give your child the full-on immersion experience, it’s critical to continue the language and literacy learning experience outside of the classroom as well. Most parents understand that a child’s educational success is a multi-faceted experience that involves both home life and school life.

So how do we go about providing our children with enriching language learning experiences at home? Engage them and motivate them – it’s as simple (or as complex) as that.

“The best method is the method you like… Languages cannot be taught, they can only be learned,” explains Language Consultant, Luca Lampariello.

Finding out what motivates your child to learn at home involves a basic trial and error process. Unless you’ve already figured out how to motivate your child (and if so, kudos!), you may need to engage in some simple activities with them to see what they like. Find out what drives them to want to learn more.

Finding Out What Motivates Your Child

One of the simplest ways you can help your child nurture a desire to learn and excel with language and literacy is by different communicative experiences at home. Talk to them. Sing to them. Create stories with them involved. Allow your child to “read” you a story by telling you what’s going on in the sequential pictures. There are endless ways to involve them in language learning at home.

The National Center on Improving Literacy explains that by simple daily communication efforts at home, parents can help their child improve their language learning immensely. Daily communications can be as simple as a pointed discussion about their day (asking specific questions to get them to think and give detailed answers), or as thorough as labeling items at home for a language visual.

“Engage in joint reading, drawing, singing, storytelling, reciting, game playing, and rhyming. When joint reading, you and your child take turns reading parts of a book. When reading, ask her to connect the story… Give positive feedback and ask open-ended questions during joint reading to boost her interest and critical thinking skills.” – ImprovingLiteracy.org

By including daily language activities such as reading and storytelling, you’ll gain insight into what interests your child the most. Find stories that inspire them and pique their curiosity – this will help give them a stronger drive to learn more. Asking pointed questions on the topic will encourage them to focus on the task and go deeper for a greater understanding. No matter the topic, that will give way to an overall improved language and literacy experience.

A More Complete Learning Experience

If you want to apply a more direct learning approach at home, speak with your child’s teacher to discuss what methods are utilized in the classroom. Educators are usually more than willing to speak with parents about their teaching methods and how they can be enhanced at home.

You can also take a closer look in their bookbags to gain some insight into what they’re focusing on in the classroom. If you see they have a themed week at school, try continuing the theme at home. As examples, if they have a color theme for a week, use corresponding color foods in dinner plans, colored bath water, or planned outfits for school to bring up topics later.

They key to continuing language and literacy learning at home is to simply communicate. Communicate with your children about their days or share a good story with them. Communicate with their teachers to learn any tips or subject ideas to coordinate home learning themes and techniques with classroom learning. Above all, the most important thing you can do to help your child develop their language skills is to continue to engage them in communication. Talk with your kids and talk often – it’s that simple!

Why Early Bilingual Education Boosts Brain Function and Development

Why Early Bilingual Education Boosts Brain Function and Development

There has been an immense amount of discussion and research done on bilingualism in recent years. As scholars and educators dive deeper into the effects of studying multiple languages, more and more evidence is found to support international language learning.

Over the past two decades, researchers have focused specifically on the cognitive benefits gained by children who are introduced to bilingualism at an early age. Specifically, they have measured the ways in which children learn and react to various aspects of their education and found astounding results for multilingual children.

According to NPR.org, these results show benefits so great, they will be utilized and carried throughout your child’s entire life. It is a lifetime of learning in a way that is unparalleled to any other learning approach available.

Bilingual Education Benefits

While the benefits of bilingual education are exponential, there are several benefits that are so great, they should be considered priority in terms of learning. Among these benefits are invaluable skill mastery of things like problem solving, concentration and focus on any given task, and the ability to think critically and choose words with purpose and meaning.

“Researchers found that young adults proficient in two languages performed better on attention tests and had better concentration than those who spoke only one language,” according to LiveScience.com.

Problem Solving Skills

For starters, children who are introduced to a second language, are essentially challenging their brains to sort out multiple information and channel appropriate times to use each piece. By doing this, it is similar to solving riddles or puzzles – it forces the brain to consider information as a whole (call it “big picture thinking”) and sort out conflicting data. In terms of language learning, the child must sort out each language and decipher which language is appropriate to use at different times.

“Bilingual people often perform better on tasks that require conflict management… (because they possess) the ability to ignore competing perceptual information and focus on the relevant aspects,” explains the US National Library of Medicine.

Mastering Focus

Another benefit of bilingual education is the inadvertent mastery of focus and concentration. Since bilingual children must constantly think before speaking in order to ensure they choose the correct language to adequately communicate, they are naturally training their minds to reach mastery levels of focus and control.

“Because both of a bilingual person’s language systems are always active and competing, that person uses these control mechanisms every time she or he speaks or listens. This constant practice strengthens the control mechanisms and changes the associated brain regions,” the National Library of Medicine explains.

Critical Thinking

This level of concentration and focus that children with bilingual education will master, is what leads to an impressive critical thinking development. Essentially, by training their minds to pause before speaking and focus on what they wish to say, bilingual students learn the basis for a lifetime of critical thinking skills.

“Bilingual children as young as age 3 have demonstrated a head start on tests of perspective-taking and theory of mind – both of which are fundamental social and emotional skills,” reports NPR.org.

Overall, children who participate in bilingual education programs are proving to be more adept at communication in general, as well as having a greater cognitive ability and focus than their monolingual counterparts. Research continues to pour in on the benefits of bilingualism in early childhood education, but the results already reported have shown exponential plusses to international language learning.

Teach Them Young: International Language in Early Education

Teach Them Young: International Language in Early Education

When it comes to language learning, most educational professionals agree that it’s never too early to begin bilingual teachings. While you may think introducing a second (or third) language to your child as they are still mastering their primary language could be confusing, the opposite is actually true. In fact, studies have found that there is no better time to begin bilingualism than during early childhood development stages.

“Between the ages of 0-3, the brains of young children are uniquely suited to learn a second language as the brain is in its most flexible stage,” according to researchers at Michigan State University.

In fact, researchers have found that children begin picking up multiple languages and discerning between them within the first few months of life. It is something that is learned with the same level of ease as any other major milestone during the early years.

International Language Learning

International language learning, or bilingualism, is the process of absorption and comprehension of different languages simultaneously. Since language learning forms the basis for all other learning avenues throughout life, it makes sense to consider the benefits of expanding the language learning process.

In layman’s terms, we use language to communicate every imperative process. Whether it be conveying our feelings or teaching any range of subjects, we use language to progress through life. For this reason, language learning is considered one of the most important areas of a child’s education. By extension, learning additional languages only serves to further this core educational commodity. In short, the more proficient a child is with their language skills, the easier it will be for them to excel in other areas as well.

Learning Bilingualism Early

Knowing that bilingualism is the key to unlocking learning potential throughout your child’s education is only the first part of the equation. Many parents question when to begin teaching their children, afraid an early introduction will lead to confusion.

According to researchers at Michigan State University, however, the earlier you introduce children to a second language, the better off they will be. In fact, it has been shown that children are able to pick up bilingualism much faster than adolescents and adults. Yes, kids will learn faster (and more efficiently) than anyone else when it comes to bilingualism.

“As adults, we have to consider grammar rules and practice, but young children absorb sounds, structures, intonation patterns and the rules of a second language very easily. Up until the age of 8, young learners benefit from flexible ear and speech muscles that can detect differences between the sounds of a second language.” – www.canr.msu.edu.

Cognitive Flexibility

It is this flexibility during the early education years that makes children excellent bilingual sponges. Their ability to pick up on the subtleties of different languages are unparalleled at any other age.

Beyond their ability to learn international language much quicker than their older counterparts, the benefits of childhood bilingualism are astounding. By pushing children’s language limits, we are essentially giving them critical tools to help with virtually every aspect of cognitive reasoning later in life.

Learning Control

Essentially, when children learn second or third languages at an early age, they are also learning so many other valuable skills. What once was feared as confusion, researchers now say that children’s minds are being “tested” when bilingual children communicate. They are faced with two separate ways to verbalize what they want to say and must concentrate on which language is appropriate for their situation.

While this may seem trivial – or even confusing – in early childhood, the cognitive functions required for mastering this involve learning a high level of focus and control. Bilingualism teaches children to think before they speak; to choose their words carefully. These are skills that are critical to flexible thinking and learning all through their lives.

Object Permanence

Another critical aspect to international language learning in early childhood lies with object permanence. It may seem like a simple lesson, but while young children are learning about their surroundings and how to communicate, they also learn about physical attributes of their environments.

Part of this learning is object permanence – the knowledge that something doesn’t just “disappear” simply because it is out of sight. With bilingualism, children pick up this concept on a deeper level by understanding that the same object may have many different names, even though the object remains constant.

Cognitive Development Benefits

In addition to aiding in core learning milestones like object permanence, bilingualism in the early years also helps children’s cognitive development grow exponentially. The intricacies of mastering a second language help to sharpen the mind with things like problem solving and decoding puzzles.

“Bilingual children are also more adept at solving certain kinds of mental puzzles… the bilingual experience improves the brain’s command center, thus giving it the ability to plan, solve problems and perform other mentally demanding tasks.” – Michigan State University.

Additional Benefits of International Language Learning

According to research done by psychologists Ellen Bialystok and Michelle Martin-Rhee (as reported by Michigan State University), international language learning in the earliest years unlocks numerous skills in cognitive development. These skills are some of the greatest attributes your child will carry with them and will aid them in improving every aspect of their education along the way.

In fact, MSU states, the improved performance of bilingual children has been directly linked to the “workout our brain receives while switching back and forth between one language and another when deciding how to communicate.” This cognitive workout has even been linked to lower rates of mental illnesses such as dementia and Alzheimer’s later in life.

Overall, the problem-solving skills that are mastered with bilingualism are a highly invaluable asset that will aid children throughout their learning careers. Combining the ability to focus on a task at hand with the ability to sort out pieces of a puzzle (both figuratively and literally), bilingualism is one of the greatest learning tools you can give your children.