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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 Spotlight Series: How to Choose a Second Language for Your Child

Language Spotlight Series: How to Choose a Second Language for Your Child

Language Spotlight Series: How to Choose a Second Language for Your Child

So, you’ve done your research and you’ve seen the benefits of bilingual education for children… now what? If you’re not already a bilingual household, deciding which second language your child should begin learning can be a difficult decision.

Chances are, you have decided to expand your child’s language learning because you’ve seen the immeasurable benefits that come along with it. And because of this, you now want to ensure your child is not only getting the best bilingual education, but firstly, chooses the right bilingual education option.

Understanding that there really is no “wrong” choice here, deciding which language to introduce to your child boils down to essentially what’s right for them. As such, there are a plethora of options and factors to consider before making a final decision. When you’re trying to choose which language is best for your child to begin learning, you’ll want to weigh the following:

Common Languages

One of the biggest considerations is to take a look at what languages are the most common and the most widely-used. While there’s (unfortunately) no way to predict what career path your child will follow when they become adults, you can try to equip them with the broadest set of language skills, or you can choose a more specific and isolated language.

According to USNews.com, “the three most commonly spoken (foreign) languages are Mandarin (898 million), Spanish (437 million), and Arabic (295 million).” Based on this alone, you may choose to select a language that is widely used across the globe to give them a greater opportunity to utilize their language knowledge later in life.

What if, however, you live in an area dense in French or Chinese culture and an education in those languages would be highly useful locally? In these cases, you may choose to select a language that may not be one of the most widely used but would give your child a huge communication benefit in your own community.

Marketability

If your main concern for teaching your child a second language is to give them a leg-up on the job market competition upon college graduation, then you need to take a look at marketability demands. What does this mean? Essentially, it’s researching what languages are behind the most successful career trends and basing your decision on what would give your child the greatest “marketability” later in life.

It’s no surprise that learning a second language improves a child’s prospects for their career advancements. That in mind, teaching them the most in-demand languages can help them even more, according to Readers Digest at RD.com.

“Proficiency in a second language opens the door to new markets for businesses and allows them to create new relationships with prospective partners,” they explain.

What’s trending? Well, if you go by RD, they suggest introducing your child to either French, German or Mandarin as a second language. Those three are the top choices for what is expected to give the greatest growth opportunities in the foreseeable future.

Cultural Aspects

On the flip side, you may not be looking to groom your child to be the next CEO of a multi-national corporation. Perhaps your reason for adding a second language is closer to home.

Many parents choose to incorporate a language that has cultural or familial meaning to them. Some households may even have the added benefit of teaching through immersion language learning if they are already a multilingual home. The beauty of learning a second language is that it’s highly versatile and multifaceted. Being a melting pot of nationalities and heritages, many in the U.S. choose to embrace their cultural beliefs and extend the teachings to new generations.

While adding a second language certainly gives children an advantage they can carry over into the career world, it isn’t the only reason parents choose to incorporate bilingualism. No matter what your reasoning may be, your child will surely benefit from (and have fun learning) whatever second (or third!) language is chosen!

Language Spotlight Series: The Importance of Bilingualism in Early Childhood Education

Language Spotlight Series: The Importance of Bilingualism in Early Childhood Education

Language Spotlight Series: The Importance of Bilingualism in Early Childhood Education

Parents often seek advice from pediatricians and early education professionals on what their children should be learning. By now it’s pretty much common knowledge that reading to young ones is a fundamental tool, as is having frequent conversations with them. These key components teach children the basics for language and communication foundations that will stay with them for the rest of their lives. We know this, right?

If communication and language development is such a critical part of a learning foundation, then many have considered expanding that learning base by adding additional languages. Bilingual education – the act of learning two or more languages simultaneously – is growing in popularity across the globe in recent decades because of this theory.

Considering the fact that 21 percent of young children are already immersed in a second language at home (Hanen.org), it’s easy to understand why multiple languages are being introduced earlier and earlier in schools. In addition, a growing number of the general population speak a language other than English, so learning to be bilingual is becoming more of the “norm” today than ever before.

While some have been hesitant to add a second language to their young child’s educational repertoire, others are discovering how highly beneficial it can be. According to the U.S. Department of Education, “Learning more than one language is an asset to individuals, families, and our entire society.” In fact, many researchers are encouraging parents to consider adding a bilingual approach to their child’s education for numerous reasons.

When it comes to considering a second language, one misconception is that it may confuse a growing child during the early education stage. It’s easy to understand the basis for these concerns, but researchers have now been able to prove they’re not only incorrect, but the exact opposite is true: bilingual children learn better and faster than other children. (The Hanen Centre)

“Bilingual children are better able to focus their attention on relevant information and ignore distractions” – Hanen.org.

The U.S. Department of Education notes several key benefits to teaching children multiple languages during early childhood. To understand the benefits easier, they broke them down into four basic categories: Cognitive Development, Social-Emotional Development, Learning, and Long-Term Success – all of which, contain major benefits for bilingual children.

Cognitive Development

Perhaps the greatest (and most immediate) benefit parents can witness in children learning a second language involves cognitive development. In fact, the Department of Education states children who begin learning second languages before the age of six will “have an easier time understanding math concepts and solving word problems; developing strong thinking skills; using logic; focusing, remembering, and making decisions; thinking about language; and learning other languages.”

According to their research, becoming bilingual serves as a means to sharpen (not confuse) young minds. Essentially, it helps children form a basis for processing more complex tasks and learning processes throughout the rest of their life. Bilingualism builds a solid (and organized) foundation of cognitive development when introduced during early childhood education.

Social-Emotional Development

Since over one-fifth of the population in the United States consists of multilingual families already, broadening this language experience during school hours only serves to enrich family and community ties. By enveloping the multilingual and multicultural approach outside of family doors, communities grow tighter bonds and understanding with one another.

“Being bilingual supports children in maintaining strong ties with their family, culture, and community. Bilingual children are also able to make new friends and create strong relationships using their second language,” according to the U.S. Department of Education. By bridging the communication gap between languages, bilingual children are able to understand and connect with more individuals, building even stronger friendships within their schools and communities.

In addition to building community relations, research has also shown that bilingual children learn better focus and self-control at critical developmental stages. This crucial skill plays out with overall improved communication experiences with others and again, allows them to build better relationships than students who learn a single language.

Bilingualism and Learning

For most parents, one of the biggest concerns during the early education phase is kindergarten readiness. There is a lot of question surrounding how to help children be prepared to not only attend kindergarten but excel in it.

One of the best ways you can ensure your child will get the most out of their early childhood experiences is to introduce a second language early on, research shows. In fact, the benefits of bilingualism on the learning process of children are something they will carry with them for the rest of their life.

“Because they are able to switch between languages, they develop more flexible approaches to thinking through problems,” explains the Department of Education. This translates to being able to focus on key elements more easily. It essentially helps children learn how to intake only the important facts while weeding out the information that is otherwise irrelevant. By doing this, it allows children to fine-tune their learning abilities for everything else to come. It’s not difficult to imagine how this skill will be critical to have throughout their lives.

Long-Term Success

If you want to grasp the kind of impact a bilingual education will have on your child, look at current demographics. According to statistics, 50-65 percent of all adults across the globe now speak a language other than English. By those statistics alone, those who speak only English are already in the minority.

What does this mean for your child? Well, being in the language-minority will most certainly limit the opportunities available to your child as they reach adulthood. By limiting their ability to communicate on a multilingual basis, it is simultaneously limiting their qualifications for future successes.

“Globally, bilingual and biliterate adults have more job opportunities than monolingual adults. (They) have the opportunity to participate in the global community in more ways, get information from more places, and learn more about people from other cultures,” explains the Department of Education.

Overall, more and more researchers are proving that introducing additional languages at an early age has an immensely positive impact on children. In addition to an increase in their ability to focus, higher cognitive function, and improved social and cultural relations, bilingualism has also been linked to several other benefits. Some of which include staving off degenerative cognitive diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Dementia, and a higher annual salary bracket as a result of superior career qualifications.

“Recent brain studies have shown that bilingual people’s brains function better and for longer after developing (Alzheimer’s)… On average, the disease is delayed by four years compared to monolinguals” – Michigan State University News.

This cognitive advantage (as well as the rest of them mentioned above) all boil down to the flexibility and focus that is generated when individuals are immersed in the bilingual world. When bilingual learning begins during the early education years, it has the added benefit of improving their learning potential in multifaceted ways. While adults will still see many of these benefits if picking up a second language later in life, research has shown children stand to benefit the most by becoming bilingual.

If you’re interested in incorporating bilingual learning into your child’s early educational experience, check out these Different Types of Preschool Bilingual Learning for more information.

Tessa International School

Office: (201) 755-5585 | Location: 720 Monroe St. Hoboken, NJ 07030