All about children!

Snow Day Fun

Hello all

I know it’s been a while. I took some time off to have my baby (who’s 14 months old now!). 

Today is a snowy day! I am so excited to show my baby girl the fun things you can do in the snow. Staying in it’s an option but outside in the snow you can play (and learn!) too!

Snow games

1. building a snowman – while building your snowman talk about body parts or talk about the steps it takes to build the snowman

2. snow angels – after making snow angels you can talk about how our different body parts made different shapes in the snow

3. snow ball fight – well this is just fun!!

4. explore the snow with your senses – if you have toddlers (like me!) talk about the snow, how it feels, what it looks like, you can smell it, hear it (maybe?), and even taste it! (it’s up to you). Use as many descriptive words as possible!!

Ok, so now i’ll go out and play with my baby!! What other games/activities do you do with your kids? Share with us!

If you grew up in a bilingual environment, you probably never heard of these terms. However, in an education setting, teachers and speech therapists who work with bilingual children, use a lot of different terms that they should know in order to make the best assessments and eventually develop the appropriate program for these strudents. The following words are used to describe certain chracteristics of the very complicated bilingual language acquisition!

Passively Bilingual = a passively bilingual child of person is one that understands the second language but can’t speak it. This happens mostly to adults and when someone is starting to learn a second language.

Language Loss (or language attrition) = This is a very important characteristic of bilingual language acquisition. It is defined as “a potential consequence of second language acquisition, where the person losses their ability to use the first language due to lack of use or exposure”. Unfortunately this happened a lot in past decades when speaking two languages and having an accent was seen as something negative.

Code Switching =  mixing languages in the same sentence or conversation. This is very important to understand when working with children who are bilingual. It can be seen as lacking enough language skills in both languages. However, when a bilingual person can switch between two languages, it means that their skills are proficient enough to be able to manipulate the languages in different ways.

Borrowing =  speaking in one language and “borrowing” a word/s from the second language. This primarily occurs when there is not a word for that particular object or idea in the language that is been spoken. Very common among bilingual people.

critical period hypothesis = The hypothesis claims that there is an ideal ‘window’ of time (first few years of life) to acquire language in a linguistically rich environment, but that after this period,  language acquisition becomes much more difficult and effortful. This can be applied for first and second language acquisition.

Here , I only gave you a few of the terms that are used in an education setting about bilingual language acquisition. In a future post I will explain some more! 

Have you heard any of these terms?

Last week, we learned a little more about what is the the silent period and why is this a natural process in second language learning. Today, I’ll give some suggestions for classroom teachers who have second language learners in their classrooms and what to do to help them, if they suspect they are going through the silent period.

As we know children in the silent period should not be forced to speak before they are ready. They need time to listen to others talk, understand what they hear, and observe their peers’ interactions with each other. Even when they are silent, they are learning the language!

Here are some suggestions for the classroom  teacher:

  • Ask YES/NO questions: Allow the child to respond with nods of “yes” or “no”, this gives them the opportunity to participate in a non-threatening situation.
  • Accept as response facial expressions and body language. Nonverbal cues such as eye contact, flipping through pages, writing, pointing, or grabbing our should be accepted as responses. Again, this allows them to feel welcomed without the pressure of saying it right.
  • Share a word or two in the child’s language: This is also an opportunity to make the child feel welcome and gain trust.
  • Pair them with a buddy who speak their language: Other children can help them understand the rules/routine of the classroom.
  • Focus attention on listening comprehension activities/building a receptive vocabulary: Remember this is the natural process of language acquisition, so you are helping that process.

These are a few suggestions, to make the child feel welcomed, comfortable, without pressures, that will allow learning in a loving, caring environment.

Can you think of some other ideas?

Although much research has been done about second language acquisition, it is still a mysterious topic for some people. Which is very strange since 17.9% of the population in the USA (2000 Census) said they spoke a language other than English.

But acquiring a second (or third, etc) language is a complicated process that varies greatly depending on the experience and exposure with the new language, the learner’s  personality, and their emotions around learning a new language. The silent period is an initial phase of the language acquisition process, during which children acquiring a new language in natural settings are silent and concentrate on comprehension. So, literally they don’t speak much during this period but they may respond when necessary in a non-verbal way or by using a set of memorized phrases.

However, this silent period phenomenon is also observed when we see how children acquire their native language. We know that during typical language acquisition, a baby spends many months listening to the people around it long before they start using words. Comprehension always comes before production in a natural process of language acquisition, therefore, when acquiring a second language, it is natural that they also follow this process. But, because usually children who come from bilingual homes start learning or are more consistently exposed to their second language when they come to school, it is expected that they speak their second language quickly, without having them the opportunity to follow the normal acquisition process. This can be frustrating to teachers since the length of the silent period can vary greatly for students in classrooms from a few days to a year, and because the child is silent in the dominant classroom language, it can be hard to know where they are in acquiring English.

Next week, I’ll give some suggestion to the classroom teacher who has a student going through the silent period!

Do you have any experiences with silent period you want to share?

When we think about music we don’t automatically think about animals. However, animals’ communication is usually musical. Now, here’s what I didn’t know, there is a field of musicology and zoology called zoomusicology, which is the study of the musical aspects of sound and communication produced and received by animals. I know, never imagined!

Recently, I saw a few articles about animals singing. I love whales and I knew about whale songs and how the males use it to communicate to the females that, well, they are ready to mate! Other whales use it to let other whales know they are there and coordinate food hunting activities. But scientists are also learning that other animals such as mice also use “songs” to communicate in social contexts (read here). In another study, researchers made females canaries sing by giving them testosterone. Now, it appears only the males of any species sing, not the females (hmmm). I guess they have very specific reasons why they sing, unlike humans. We like to sing for social reasons but also for personal reasons!

Well, all I can say is that music is everywhere even in the animal kingdom. And if you are not convince watch this video!

Have you heard any animal singing?

Parents always worry about their children’s education. Some start thinking about what school their children should attend even before they are born. Although thinking about school early on is a great idea (we could explore that in another post!), parents sometimes forget that they are their child’s first teacher! That means that good education starts as soon as they are born.

One of the characteristics of a good teacher or good education in the classroom, is that education and good teaching is interactive. What does that mean? Well, variety is the spice of life and every good teacher knows that you have to use a variety of teaching and learning styles that appeal to the different learning strengths of the students. For example, schools are now using Interactive Whiteboards to make learning more interactive. The use of this tool helps the visual, kinesthetic and auditory learners to create memorable lessons that stick in their minds.

But how can parents apply this at home with their children?

When playing with your children or just talking about any topic, you could do some the following:

  • Question them, rather than lecture: When a child wants to know about something, ask them questions that will help them think about possibilities, rather than just give them the answer.
  • Use hands-on experience: Any opportunity that your child can experience and manipulate the learning, will get stuck better in their heads. Crafts, manipulatives, building materials, and science kits, are some examples of hands on experience.
  • Share knowledge and ideas: Brainstorm together. When your child is involve in a problem-solving situation, it helps them to think about and come up with solutions themselves, rather than being told what the solution is. This way they can absorb the lesson much better!

If you still have no clue what I mean, think about the show, Dora the Explorer. In this show, kids interact with the TV. Dora asks a question and she waits for the kids to answer. This is an example of interactive teaching for young children.

Do you have some ideas how you can make teaching more interactive at home? Please share!

Scaffolding

One of the definitions on the Merriam-Webster dictionary for scaffold is a supporting framework.

Wikipedia defines scaffolding as  a temporary structure used to support people and material in the construction or repair of buildings and other large structures.

Based on these definitions, the training wheels on a bicycle, is an example of scaffolding. They are adjustable and temporary and provide the child with the support they need while learning to ride a bike with 2 wheels. Having the training wheels make the complex task of pedaling, balancing and steer (all at the same time), much easier until the child can do it on its own.

Scaffolding can also mean that a large task can be broken down into smaller tasks (to make it easier to accomplish).

In education, scaffolding is an instructional technique where the teacher models the desired learning strategy/task, and then gradually shifts responsibility to the students, whether is by giving more support at the beginning and gradually taking it away (training wheels) or by learning something in smaller steps.

Scaffolding can also be used to help your children develop certain physical, cognitive or linguistic skills.  Imagine your child is playing with a musical toy for the first time. Parents usually show the baby where the buttons are so it can turn on the music. Then, you expect the child to ‘learn’ how to do it on their own. If they can’t do it, you might point to the button, and hopefully the child now learns it. This might have to happen a few times before the child knows what to do. That’s exactly what scaffolding is. The parent gave more ‘help’ at the beginning and gradually moved the responsibility to the child.

Scaffolding gives the child a context, motivation, or foundation to understand the new information. Having success from the beginning makes the child have some interest or curiosity in the task presented. Also, breaking a complex task into easier, more “doable” steps facilitates success.

So next time you see your child attempting to learn something, how are you going to use scaffolding techniques to help them?


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