Making new friends at the Ultimate Blog Party 2013

Bonjour, Guten Tag, Hola, Ni Hao, Ciao, Salam…..

If you are new to the Living Language blog, let me share with you what it’s all about!

On my blog you can learn about world cultures and languages and how to help kids explore them. As parents, we look at many daily experiences as learning opportunities–I tap into these same experiences with a language-learning twist!

Lots of research shows how readily kids pick up new languages at a young age, but most elementary schools do not yet provide regular language instruction. But there are lots of ways to make world language part of your daily life, even if you are not a fluent world language speaker yourself. So join me on my journey to make world language fun for families, with tips, resources and activities for Living Language and enjoying culture in everyday life!

So how did I end up on this path? Almost by accident!  I intended to become a French professor and bounced around academia for a while before volunteering to run a French club at my son’s elementary school. You can read more of my story here, but the short version is that I began expanding my own horizons, learning about other languages and cultures so I could share it with the kids. As I learn new things, I share them in my blog so families like yours can have fun exploring the world too!

Thanks for visiting, and stop back again soon!  I’d love to hear about YOUR language and culture experiences as well!

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!


Get organized with Symbaloo

Bookmarks for the web

We all have our favorite web pages for news, blogs, social media and more.  If you are interested in language and culture, you might have some favorites as well such as on-line dictionaries or travel tips or photo sites that keep you inspired and help you learn. Symbaloo is a great way to keep track of your resources in a visual bookmarking format rather than just a listing of sites on your browser’s ‘favorites’ tab.  One of the advantages of Symbaloo’s free site is the ability to color code  your links to create visual categories of many topics in one simple page.

Color-coded simplicity

For example, imagine that you want to learn Italian in your family.  You have searched many websites and identified certain ones that provide cultural or historical information about Italy.  In Symbaloo, you can create a tile for each site and ‘label’ it as a color, let’s say blue.  You have also found some sites that are more appropriate for children that help review Italian words or provide age-appropriate on-line learning games.  These can be grouped together as green, for example, to help you identify them more easily.  Finally, perhaps you are planning a trip to Italy next, and are researching certain hotels, tours, or city maps to plan your adventure.  Each of these sites can be grouped and color-coded as well so you don’t have to keep searching for those bits of scrap paper where you wrote the webpage’s 57-character url…..

Language and culture at your fingertips

If you have an interest in multiple cultures and languages, you can arrange your Symbaloo page by culture.  For an example of this, visit Explor-A-World’s webmix.  Once you create your own webpage mix, you can share it with others.  Make your language adventure a family affair!  Share the same web resources with grandparents, cousins or far-flung family and friends.  Create a section on your Symbaloo page for Skype, Facebook, or your own family blog to stay connected and share your language learning experience with distant family.

Once your Symbaloo mix is created and shared, you can notify users when you add a new tile or resource. Sign up for a free account today and get your webpages organized!

If you have a language- or culture-related webmix, share it in the comments section below!

Learning in pairs: fun small group activities

Learning two by two

Kids learn a lot from each other, whether by watching a friend navigate the monkey bars, or planning a Lego city with a sibling.  The give-and-take of ideas can help children find value in their own contribution to a project while also recognizing that others have creative ideas too.  Of course, a confident child may not always enjoy taking suggestions from a group! But in the end, working together usually yields positive results.  Here are a couple ideas for pairing youngsters together to learn from each other.

Pair of Girls

Simple conversations for language learning

We learn a language to communicate, and conversation games are a great way to get the ball rolling.  For younger children, establishing a simple conversation game with a question or two and several possible answers allows children to focus on a few phrases and their use.  For example, a simple variation of an ‘I Spy’ game uses questions such as  “What color do you see?”  with responses that incorporate a variety of color words.

Mystery games make learning fun

Giving children a mystery to solve helps put the focus of language learning on the outcome or discovery rather than memorization or pronunciation.  Information gap activities are a fun way to do this.  Have a pair of children work with an image that is almost the same, but with a few differences. Each child might have a slightly different farm scene that they do not show to their partner.  Perhaps the farm scene on one paper has 3 cows, and the other paper has 6 cows. Children ask each other questions like “How many cows do you have?” using the language words.  Decide on a goal, such as finding the most numerous animal on each child’s page.

Creating together

Find creative activities that allow each child to contribute to the same project without worrying about being ‘right’ or ‘wrong.’  When learning body parts, for example, have pairs of children create a ‘monster’ by taking turns picking a card with a body part listed on it.  If the eyes are huge and purple or the feet have only three toes, the drawing will reflect each person’s creative ideas in one fun project.

In small groups, children are more likely to practice saying the vocabulary and phrases, rather than worry about speaking in front of a large class.  Children with stronger skills can be paired with those who could use extra guidance.  This gives each student a chance to share, offer guidance, ask questions and gain confidence.  In your experience, what activities work best in pairs?  Share your thoughts in our comment section below!

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!