Wednesday, November 26, 2008

A Cultural Kaleidoscope for our Children

As a mom of bilingual children and an educator to many, I am passionate about inspiring children to live a multicultural life. The gift of being bilingual is one of the greatest gifts that you can give to your children, as they grow up in our ever changing global society. Through my Bilingual Fun language classes and with my own young children, I teach Spanish as a second language through music, movement, and fun activities. By teaching to the multiple intelligences of children, they are learning in a very natural way, which facilitates the language development of their pliable young brains.

Some of creative ways I teach language is through movement.
*TPR ( Total Physical Response) techniques which encourage children to act out verbs and vocabulary in the target language.
*Dance Party: this is a favorite of mine and my children. We play upbeat Spanish music and make up dances using vocabulary words. For instance we 'Brinca arriba, da una vuelta, tres pasos adelante, etc ( jump up, turn around, 3 steps to the front, etc). We also use a variety of action verbs to move to the music. I have kids give the commands and we have to follow. Such as 'marcha- march, baila- dance, salta- jump, gatea- crawl, corre- fun, aplaude- clap, brinca en un pie- hop on one foot.
*Teaching feelings: we use many hand movements and facial expressions to reinforce feelings. The children are able to easily respond when I ask them ' Como estas- how are you?", by using a hand motion/facial expression with the appropriate Spanish answer. By reinforcing the target language with movement and actions helps young children to make connections and retain the words.

Another creative method I use is to incorporate music in all aspects of learning.
* Fluency, pronunciation, and comprehension is reinforced by singing. I always pick thematic songs that correspond with the lessons we are learning. For instance, during a food unit we sing " Soy una Pizza" by Charlotte Diamond, and "Chocolate" by Jose Luis Orozco. Or during an animal unit, we sing " Vengan a Ver Mi Granja" by Jose Luis Orozco, or " El Zoologico" by Junior Jukebox.
* Using familiar tunes to teach new phrases has been very successful. I have many original songs that I have made up and are favorites of my children. We use the tune of Frere Jacques, Skip to My Lou, Farmer in the Dell, and many more to create easy to sing along songs in Spanish. Children are able to quickly learn the songs because they have prior knowledge of the tune.
*Songs with objects. Whenever I can give children something tangible to hold during a song really makes their learning realistic. Children are able to identify with an object in a hands on environment while they are singing. For example, we sing a song called " La Fruta- Fruit". Every child has a plastic piece of fruit in their hands, and as the vocabulary is named in the song, they hold it up. Or when we sing the ' Soy Una Pizza" song, each child has their own little felt pizza with ingredients. Kids make the pizza as they listen to the words in the song. By have children actively involved in a song and lesson, makes the learning more relevant and easier to absorb.

The bilingual development and learning of my own children has certainly given them an awareness of the multicultural world that we live in. Having traveled numerous times to Mexico, my children have gained an understanding of this culture and the similarities and differences that we have. Because they have been exposed to multiple languages at a young age, my children are very inquisitive when they hear people speaking other languages. My daughter loves her globe and will ask me where is China, or India or Germany after we have met native speakers or have heard the language. As parents, my husband and I try to expose them to as much diverse literature as possible, reading them stories from different countries. One of their favorites is a book about how to say Hello in 32 different languages. We always refer back to the globe to find the different countries. We also have a wide variety of friends that have many different backgrounds. Giving them this opportunity to experience differences and learn about cultures and families is very important to us. We want our children to have a global awareness from a young age, and we are dedicated to fostering that throughout their lives.

I was SO excited to find Global Wonders, which offers a fantastic cross cultural experience for young children. What a tremendous resource!

If you want to learn more about parents that are dedicated to giving their children a "Cultural Kaleidoscope", please visit Twittermoms!


Tse Family said...

I have been thinking about you guys as our Hannah prepares for her Christmas program at school. They are singing songs in German, French, English, Spanish and an African dialect. Her favorite is A La Nanita and she has really picked that one up the best other than the French which she hears more. We are definitely living in a cultural kaleidoscope and it is so amazing for them.
To get books in English I generally order from and I was ordering for Christmas and birthdays recently. After I gave a book to our friend's daughter and sat down to read it to her, I realized I had ordered it in Spanish. I was completely embarrassed because is was a mistake, they are from Minnesota and she is in French school. I was very surprised to find her parents both majored in Spanish in school and will be able to read Mortimer (by Robert Munsch) to her. What a fun way to find out we can practice our Spanish if there's any left after squeezing in all this French!

maria said...

Dear Maestra Jen,

What a wonderful creative teacher you are!

I wish I could be a little kid again and go to your school as I love learning languages.

Maestra Jen said...

Gracias Maria! :)

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for sharing these wonderful ideas! I was so impressed reading your post and think it’s wonderful how you are engaging children through music, dance and activities. Not only are they learning, but they’re having fun doing it, which is exactly what Global Wonders is all about. I can tell how passionate you are about helping children develop an appreciation of different cultures, and I have no doubt that your work will help your students (and your own children) throughout their lives. Thank you again for your work and for sharing.

-Rashmi Turner
Founder/CEO, Global Wonders

growingupartists said...

Get back here...I have tons of questions!

Liza Sánchez said...

Thank you for offering these tips. I am always looking for ways to enhance my own second language teaching. Sounds like a great program. What a wonderful idea! Liza Sánchez