Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Imagination and Language Learning

Teaching Spanish to children is something I am passionate about and this summer, I am looking forward to fun, interactive ways to keep the language alive. Through our Bilingual Fun Summer camps and with my own young children, we will be using lots of imagination and interactive games to keep their language development fresh.

Summertime is a great time to spark the interest of your bilingual child by trying new activities, getting outside, having some hands on fun, and taking field trips to realistic settings. Fun, easy activities that focus on teaching children Spanish allow kids to hear and to produce the language in a natural environment.

My children love to use their imagination, so I am going to tap into that this summer with these fun Spanish speaking activities. As I tell my students and children, not only is it important to speak multiple languages, it is FUN to be bilingual!

Animal Rescuers:
With the momentum that Diego has created, you and your children can become animal rescuers too! Make a list of 10 animals that you are going to look for outside, at the park, in your backyard, or anywhere at all. Have children illustrate the list so they have a visual. Be sure to pack your backpack with necessary items: flashlight, notebook, pencil, water bottle, rope, band aids. Paint the picture with the children that you are going to use your imagination and find the animals that need help. The adventure begins! Reinforce your animal words and phrases, so that the kids can repeat and produce the language too. When you find the pretend animal, ask kids what kind of help do you think they need?.... stuck in a tree, has a cut on it’s paw, needs water, is stuck in a dark cave, etc, etc. For example, my son is trying to rescue el jaguar that is stuck in the tree pictured above. Check off the animals as you find them. Keep reminding kids to use their imagination. Kids will love the anticipation of looking for the next animal and creating the scenario. This is easily adapted to any language, but here are some key phrases for teaching Spanish to kids with this activity:
La mochila- backpack
El aqua- water
La linterna- flashlight
El papel- paper
El lápiz- pencil
Los animales- animals
¿Dónde está?…..- where is? ….
Busca- look for
Aqui está- here it is
Vámonos!- let’s go
Ayuda- help

Bug Hunt:

This is another great outdoor activity that incorporates lots of vocabulary and stimulates the language production. I am a big fan of the The Dollar Tree, especially for easy activities like this. Get a large bag of plastic bugs and some brown paper bags. Have children decorate bags any way they chose (a perfect opportunity for color, object reinforcement!). Scatter bugs around your backyard or park. Then let the kids search for and gather as many as they can. When you get together at the end of the hunt to share your bugs, this is the chance to be very imaginative. Tell kids to count and sort bugs by color, shape or size. Then ask kids to be silly and name their bugs and give them ages. This allows the children to practice communicative activities with question/answer and descriptive phrases. Here are some easy words/phrases to reinforce:
Busca- look for
Los insectos- insects
¿Dónde está …?- where is…?
¿Cuántos tienes?- how many do you have?
Yo tengo….- I have…
¿Cómo se llama el insecto- what is the bug’s name
¿Cuántos años tiene el insecto?- how old is the bug
¿De qué colores son los insectos?- what colors are the bugs?
¿Cúal es tu favorito? – which is your favorite?

I am going on a picnic:
There are many variations of this game and you can plug in whatever vocabulary theme you want to practice and imagine. Place plastic or real food items on a table or in the center of a circle. Be creative and set out a picnic blanket, or sit outside under a tree or at a picnic table to make the activity authentic. Introduce and practice the vocabulary that you will be talking about. Start the game by saying: I am going on a picnic and I am going to bring an apple, or I am going to the beach and I am going to bring a towel, etc etc. The child has to chose the item from the center of the circle and hold it. When it is their turn, each child has to repeat all of the items chosen and then add another for themselves. Ex: I am going on a picnic and I am bringing an apple, a sandwich, lemonade, and a cookie. Etc etc. You don’t need a large group for this game, you can even play it with 2 people! This is a fun way to work on fluency and comprehension, as children have to repetitively produces the phrases each turn. Spanish food vocabulary here.
Reinforcement words and phrases:
Yo voy al picnic- I am going to the picnic
Yo traigo- I am bringing
La manzana- apple
La naranja- orange
El sandwich- sandwich
El agua- water
La limonada- lemonade
Las galletas- cookies
Las servilletas- napkins
Las uvas- grapes
El queso- cheese
La sandia- watermelon