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!


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!

Learning a language, as explained by Google

Language learning attitudes

People use Google to search for all kinds of information—and Google is using these queries to predict what you might be looking for when you begin to type your own search. The result is a fascinating look at how Google’s Auto-complete feature reflects common perspectives on a particular topic. Take language learning for example……

‘On-line’ sounds reasonable, given society’s reliance on technology and the ability to find anything on the internet! But ‘in your sleep?’ These results show that people want an effortless way to learn, reflecting a focus on HOW we get the learning done, not WHAT we can actually learn or achieve.

OK, maybe the effortless approach isn’t working. The expectation that language learning is hard is often based upon one’s own anxiety, past experience, or anecdotes of what other adults have told them. These expectations often prevent us from putting in even a minimal effort to achieve something we have already determined to be challenging.

Website results also included ‘learning to dance’ and ‘falling in love.’

Hmmm….now we’re getting somewhere! By comparing the process of learning a language to other experiences, we see the kind of creative, fulfilling, communicative experiences that can result! It can change us—expand our ‘soul’—but more importantly, it gives us the chance to connect and engage with others, like a dance. Focusing on what we can gain from language learning helps put the effort in perspective—who doesn’t want to fall in love all over again?

How would you describe Language Learning? Post your response to “Learning a language is like…” in the comments below!