Spring forward…Fun with Flowers and Foreign Language

Playing and learning

I’m all about Everyday Language–learning and using world language words in everyday contexts to show kids that learning can happen anywhere AND it can be fun, too!  Take a look at this simple project and see how easy it is to connect language and culture with a fun family activity.

Spring is just around the corner, and what better way to get inspired than to create bunches of fun flowers to decorate your home.  These quick creations don’t need water, sun, or plant food–just a little folding and twisting to make a neat bouquet!

Simply take a few small squares of tissue paper (about 6-8 inches square) and stack them flat on the table. Beginning at one side, fold the stack of papers accordion-style.  Next, tightly twist a green chenille stem (or twisty tie) around the center of the folded stack.  Gently separate the folds of the paper and open them up to create the flower ‘petals.’  Visit this site to see illustrated instructions of this project.

Turning crafts into learning props

Now that your flowers are complete, use them as props in games and activities to help you learn about world languages and cultures.

For simple games to practice words in another world language, try these ideas!

  • Use color words or number words to count and sort the flowers into groups.
  • Hide the flowers around the house and have children find flowers of certain colors, or give clues to the hiding spots using room or furniture words.
  • Make extra flowers to give away to family members or friends, practicing family vocabulary.

Did you know that flowers are part of many world cultural celebrations?

  • In Nice, France, they celebrate Mardi Gras with a parade of floats made of flowers, then toss the flowers to bystanders as they pass by.
  • In Genzano, Italy, Corpus Christi Day is celebrated by creating a long flower petal carpet through the town streets using intricate designs. When the festival is over, townspeople disperse the petals by walking along the flowery carpet.
  • The Chiang Mai Flower Festival in Thailand is known for its elaborate flower floats that parade through town.

Learn about more flower festivals from around the world here. Host your own flower parade and celebrate Spring, wherever you live!


Fortune Teller Crafts: fun with words

Pick a word…any word….

I don’t know about you, but my kids LOVE the cootie catcher crafts.  Or fortune tellers.  Or origami paper-folding crafts.  Whatever you call them, they became a great hit around first grade, when my boys found that they could make you pick a particular ‘destiny’ simply by having you choose a number and color from a folded paper that is manipulated by hand.  They take great pleasure in creating hypothetical outcomes, such as “you will live in a mansion.” or “you will have a million dollars.” or “you will have one hundred children.”……goodness, what a treasure!

If you haven’t created any yourself, please visit this site for instructions.  In any case, this craft is an easy way to incorporate new language words into a fun activity for kids!  They can use any eight words they choose…four of each. Colors, numbers, seasons, family members…any four words that can be chosen and spelled out to bring the chooser to a final ‘destiny.’

One of the great things about this craft is that the children don’t even realize that they are practicing new words. By counting out the numbers or spelling out the letters of each word, kids practice new vocabulary in an activity that has a different goal–to bring their partner to an ultimate ‘destiny.’  The excitement of figuring out whether the person will have fame or lose their fortune eclipses the realization that they are actually spelling or counting in another language.  Learning through play… what fun!

Creating games is a great way to incorporate learning and fun.  Children can choose which words they want to use in a fortune teller game, and they can be creative as well which increases student involvement and ownership of the learning process!  What creative crafts help YOUR students learn?   Leave a comment and share  your ideas with us!

Bookmarks galore

Language learning through crafts

Reading Time Abounds!

Reading skills are gaining a lot of attention these days among the elementary crowd. At my son’s school, there are several different times throughout the day when the kids read with either a teacher, a group of peers, or just by themselves. And then we read at home! Sometimes he tackles more than one book at a time, switching between a few, depending on what he feels like reading on a particular day. This is when those bookmarks come in handy!

Creative Projects Help Kids Learn

Bookmarks can be funny, encouraging and informative, but they can also be creative! When learning a new language, bookmarks can serve as a sort of flashcard, helping kids remember key words or phrases while also providing space to illustrate the words and show a bit of creativity. Here are some ideas for creating bookmarks that link to language, and are fun to create! For all of these ideas, start with a sturdy strip of cardstock paper about 2×8 inches.

  • When learning colors, ask children to draw objects using certain colors. For example, you might say, “Draw a smiley face that is rouge. Draw a heart that is bleu.” When you are done, you can check their work to verify the correct color and have them write the color name underneath the object.
  • Make an opposites bookmark, listing nouns/adjectives on one side of the bookmark using language words and small illustrations, and then list the opposites on the other side of the bookmark. Simple pairs such as “big/small” or “happy/sad” are easy to illustrate!
  • Another idea using adjectives is to help children create a word list that might describe a book. Using language words, help the children write “This book is:” at the top of the bookmark, and then write words such as “good, exciting, boring, fun, sad, happy, mysterious” in the language you are learning on the front of the bookmark. Ask kids periodically to describe what they are reading using the language words.

With all the reading going on these days, these little bookmark reminders are a great way to help kids express themselves through a craft that is functional, informative, creative, and FUN! What other bookmark ideas can you think of? Share your ideas in the comments section below!

Website Wednesday: Visions of Europe

Photos from around the world

A Window to the World

Each Wednesday, we’ll highlight a website that has useful information, techniques, or resources for early language learning. This week’s website is Europe Pictures, a community of photos from Europe.

We often look to link new vocabulary to situations with which students are most familiar: describing family members or talking about a recent vacation or birthday party. Familiar situations certainly do give children an opportunity to make connections between their own experiences and new words, but often the cultural context of the vocabulary is lost in the shuffle. Finding culturally relevant information for kids can also be tough–not all sites are kid-friendly or contain easy-to-find cultural content.

Europe Pictures is a great site for two reasons: first, the photos are royalty-free and available for free download for any private or commercial use. Second, the photos are categorized by country and region, with thumbnail images on each page to help you easily locate relevant scenes. You can even upload photos of your own travels for others to view! Display the photos on a screen for a class, or download and print them for use on posters or flashcards.

3 Ideas for Using Photos in Language Learning

Here are some ideas for using images from Europe Pictures in lessons for kids. In all examples, children can use authentic images of these world cities to learn about other cultures and make comparisons to their own culture:

  • Using images of a city/region that show seasonal changes, have children identify the seasons and weather in each picture. Use color, weather, or month vocabulary to describe what they see in the images.
  • Print an image on a large piece of paper and cut it into several pieces. Using directional vocabulary or prepositions, have children put the pieces of the ‘puzzle’ together to reveal the destination. Decide what clothing they would need to pack to travel to this region.
  • Identify similar images from several countries/regions (i.e. images showing houses, seashores, landscapes) and have children discuss the similarities or differences between the images using descriptive and comparative vocabulary.

The photos included in Europe Pictures are often submitted by amateur photographers who do not use fancy digital techniques to enhance their images. As a result, the images are less flashy than those you might buy from a stock photo website, but it often represents a more ‘everyman’ quality of life in Europe with scenes of neighborhood picnics, or local hiking trails. After all, the Eiffel Tower is just one landmark in a country full of diverse people and scenery! Take a peek at Europe Pictures and see what it has to offer!