Classes

Basketball to make flashcards more fun

How can you use basketball to make learning flashcards more fun? Lucas, my 11-year-old son, came up with this idea to do with his Chinese tutoring students. He and I brainstormed tons of ideas to make learning Chinese characters more fun and this one is one of our favorites!

GETTING STARTED: 

  • Find flashcards that you want your children to use or make them yourself. Put one word on each card.
  • Decide on the number of cards that you want your student to learn
  • Review those cards with your student
  • Place the cards in a semicircle around the basketball hoop (farther for older kids, closer for younger ones)

HOW TO PLAY: 

  • The student needs to say the word on the flashcard before he/she can try to make a basket
  • If the student gets the basket, he/she gets to keep the card as a “point”
  • If the student does not make the basket, he/she needs to move to another card and read that one.
  • The student keeps on moving from card to card until all of the cards are “won”.

TIPS:

  • If playing with multiple students, make sure that they take turns. One child goes, and then the other. You don’t want the students so focused on making the basket that they forget to stay the word on the card.
  • Designate a spot for students to put the cards that they have “won” so that the cards don’t get messed up in a pocket or mixed up with another child’s cards.

VARIATIONS: 

  • If your children enjoy competition, set up a challenge to see who can get the most cards.
  • If your children do not enjoy competition with one another, set up the game so that the children see how well they can improve. How many cards can they get in a certain time period? Can the student get the points within two shots for each card? Set up the game so that your child finds it enjoyable.

Have fun! Please let us know how it went in the comments section of this post!

This post contains affiliate links.

Filed Under: Chinese, Classes, Flashcard Fun, Games to Learn a Second Language, Homeschooling, Posts with Videos

Struggling to find time to teach your kids a foreign language? Try something radical.

lisaLisa Sarafidis – Guest Blogger

Struggling to find time to teach your kids a foreign language? Try something radical.

In my family, we believe that foreign language instruction and music training are extremely important, as artistic and practical pursuits, as well as for brain development. My children take violin and piano lessons, we use Rosetta stone for French, my husband speaks Greek to them, and we are planning on starting Spanish soon. My kids also watch a lot of TV, lest you think we are some sort of uber parents…it all balances out.

 

homeschooling teaching a second language The difficulty with languages and music is that they are not disciplines you can easily fake- you get out what you put in. My 8 year old practices violin an hour a day, piano 15 minutes a day, and French 20 minutes a day. My 7 year old practices violin 30 minutes a day, piano 10 minutes a day and (inconsistently) French 20 minutes a day. The challenge, of course, is fitting this in either before or after school, in addition to their extracurricular interests (dance for my daughter and soccer for my son), homework, chores, time together as a family, hanging out with friends, and the ever-elusive “unstructured free play”. Exhausting- and we already set limits on how many activities our kids can do (they are actually less busy than a lot of their friends).

Not Enough Time!

When we added up all of the time requirements on our young kids (and on me, enforcing these schedules), we realized that mathematically, it just didn’t work. There truly aren’t enough hours in the day for the things we think are important. So, we are considering something many people would consider radical: homeschooling.

 

Create Your Own Schedule through Homeschooling

Our goal is not to make UN translators or professional musicians out of our children, but to instill in them the disciplines ofhomeschooling second language hard work, determination and mastery, qualities often hard to develop in a traditional school environment, where much of the focus is on acquiring superficial knowledge, with the primary goal of succeeding on standardized tests.

Having time for music and languages is only a part of our rationale for considering homeschooling. Taking my children’s individual learning styles into account, as well as our wish for them to discover early on what they are passionate about, what they are good at, and what gives them fulfillment, educating them at home, as well as with the help of mentors we find along the way, is an extremely intriguing option.

Without the requirements of a traditional school day, and all of the externalities that go along with it (getting to and from school, the never-ending after-school snack, and homework) here is a sample schedule of what my rising 4th grader’s day could look like next year :

8:00am-9:45am music practice

9:45am-10:00am mini-recess break (yoga, go for a quick run, look at the birds out the window, whatever)

10am-11am  Math

11:00am-11:15am mini-break

11:15am-12:30pm Language Arts (reading, writing, grammar, spelling)

12:30pm-1:30pm Lunch and play break (my daughter can make her own lunch and even have time to go for a swim at the YMCA across the street)

1:30pm-2:15pm Foreign language instruction

2:30pm-3:30pm SPECIALS (rotating through Art, History, Geography and Science, with one free day)

homeschooling with SpanishFrom what I hear, this is a really packed schedule (apparently, kids only spend about 3 and a half hours learning on any given day at traditional school, so I may be aiming way too high here). But built into this sample schedule is time for a weekly field trip to a museum, musical, play, different town, you name it. Wherever my kids interests take us. And then we can build on those interests in following weeks, or veer in a different direction entirely.

Given that so many programs have been reduced or eliminated in traditional schools to make room for testing and teaching to the test, such as recess, PE, music, arts, even class birthday celebrations, I love the idea of adding fun and creativity back into my kids schedules. And after 3:30, they are free to play, help around the house (because I’m sure they can’t wait to do more of that), and further pursue the activities they are interested in.

Think we’re crazy? Curious about how it will go? I’ll be updating you all on a weekly basis about how we are incorporating foreign language into our homeschooling adventure on The Language Playground, so make sure to come back and check us out! 

Filed Under: Chinese, Classes, Cultural Experiences, Homeschooling, Research and Trends, School for Immersion

Resolution for 2014: Introduce my child to a second language

the slightest edgeI can’t tell you how often people come up to me with wonder in their eyes asking how my children speak Mandarin when I don’t speak it at all. These parents think that accomplishing this goal was some sort of Herculean feat that took hours and hours of classes for my children and a huge change in our family lifestyle.

Not true. Here is a little secret….

I just finished reading The Slight Edge: Secrets to a Successful Life by Jeff Olson which suggests motivational tools to help you make small changes in your life toward success. The author’s main “secret” is to spend a little bit of time each day consistently on your goal. Every minute you spend on that dream moves you one step closer to making it a reality. The idea is that if you chip away at that plan each day it will add up to a lot even though day-by-day  it does not appear as if you are making much of a dent.

I did not realize it, but I was actually applying the “slightest edge” techniques to my approach of teaching my children a second language. Every day my children get a little bit of Mandarin — sometimes it is two or three hours and other times it is just 20 minutes. They get a bit of Mandarin every day — without fail. There is not a day that goes by where they don’t get some exposure in Mandarin. The cumulative effects of that exposure has allowed my children to be fluent in Mandarin.

Is it hard work? No. 

Have we dramatically altered the way our family works to incorporate Mandarin into our lives? No. 

Do we spend hours and hours drilling Mandarin into our children’s brains? No. 

Do my children speak Mandarin fluently? YES. 

But how

In our family, the kids might get to watch a TV show on the weekend in Mandarin. On a plane ride, we will bring the iPad and the kids play Mandarin games. When my husband, Jim, and I go out on a date night, we hire a Mandarin-speaking babysitter. If our children express an interest in a class, we look for a tutor or a class offered in Mandarin. Our bookshelves are filled in Mandarin books. The kids’ bedroom has posters in Mandarin. Check out my Top 10 Ways to Get Started to find what small changes to you can do that would work in your family.

Jeff Olsen’s Slight Edge theory is that if you do something that you want to accomplish a little bit each day consistently, you will reach your desired goal.

Start chipping away at your ideas today!

Happy New Year!

Michelle

michelle

 

 

Filed Under: Babysitter Help, Chinese, Classes, Cultural Experiences, Product Reviews

Video: Enroll Your Child in an Activity to Teach a Second Language

Will you enroll your child in activities like swimming lessons, kung fu or chess? Why not find that same class taught in your second language choice?

While it can be a bit more challenging to find that class, it is possible and then you kill two birds with one stone! Your child gets to partake in a fun activity while learning a second language at the same time! Kinesthetic learning (or tactile learning) is an educational style where children do a physical activity while learning, rather than simply listening to a teacher in a lecture-style format. Many children, especially wiggly ones, will learn much better with this active learning style than they would sitting at a desk learning a second language.

How can you go about finding classes offered in your second language choice?

Here are some ideas: 

Tip 1: Call around to different sports classes to see if a slot can be offered in your second language choice. Perhaps you can find a school that has just opened up and they are willing to offer you a class in French, Spanish, etc. if you agree to get two or three of your friends to join in!

Tip 2: Check out areas in your neighborhood that might offer classes in a particular language. Perhaps there is a town nearby that has a large Hispanic population — you will probably be able to find a great sports class offered in Spanish there!  

Tip 3: Post a free ad on www.craigslist.org to find someone who is willing to teach a sport/skill/activity to your child (and perhaps to a group of your friends’ children) in that second language.

Tip 4: If you are enrolled in a school or program for second language learning, ask one of the teachers if she would be interested in coming over on the weekend or after school to teach your child a sport or a hobby that she enjoys. For example, perhaps one of the teachers in your child’s school loves tennis. Ask that teacher to instruct your child in the sport while immersing him in the vocabulary for your second language. This teacher does not have to be a pro to teach your child tennis — the idea is that your child enjoys a new activity in an immersive language experience! 

Tip 5: If you have a friend who speaks a second language fluently, ask her if she might offer a mini “class” for your child and hers in that second language. Perhaps your friend loves to sew, play golf or do art projects — what a great way for your child to engage in a new activity and learn vocabulary at the same time. Perhaps you can offer to pay for the materials in exchange for the lesson? 


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Our Story: 

We have discovered lots of great classes offered in Mandarin — sometimes you just have to ask.  

Have fun with these classes! You don’t have to be enrolled in the class forever — especially if your child’s interest has declined in the activity. We typically do our classes for about 6 months to one year and then we move onto a new activity in Mandarin. This way my children learn the vocabulary for each hobby or sport in Mandarin well, and then they move on to something else. Many times, I throw them in an activity if I happen to meet someone who speaks the language who has a passion for a certain sport or other times, I drive by a class that has Chinese writing on the windows and then I “inquire within!”  

We found this art program by chance! I had made a wrong turn and all of the sudden found myself parked in front of this art studio called “Wang’s Art Class” but the rest of the writing in the windows and the signs were in Chinese! I popped in and found a whole class of Mandarin speaking students learning Chinese! I enrolled my son on the spot! My son had been asking for art lessons ever since the first day of kindergarten when he sat next to his best friend who took art after school. Perfect! Win win! 

However, it was actually tough for me to get the teacher to teach to him in Mandarin even though he spoke to the rest of the kids in Chinese. I kept on having to remind him to speak to my son in Chinese and he kept on saying that when he saw the blonde hair, he would automatically talk in English! I ended up staying for the first 10 minutes of every class just to make sure that the introductory lesson was in Mandarin and to gently remind the teacher to speak with him only in Chinese. By the end of our year, Lucas had learned lots of new art vocabulary in Mandarin and got confidence in drawing through the class! Now that my son is in 1st grade, we have since moved onto new activities, but it was a wonderful introduction to art for all of Kindergarten. 

The following shows a short video of my son at his Mandarin art class.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JGjdFS750HQ&feature=g-upl

 

 

 

Filed Under: Classes, Posts with Videos

Video: Bilingual Preschool

Send your child to an immersion school!

Immersion schools, which can start as early as preschool, are a wonderful way to give your child a head start on learning a second (or third) language. Children learn all the same subject matter taught in standard schools, but in a second language!

WHERE TO FIND A SCHOOL IN YOUR AREA: 

  • yelp.com: This website is a great place to start your search and get reviews from parents like you! Just type in what you are looking for (i.e. Mandarin preschool) in the search bar and see what kind of schools are available. 
  • craigslist.com: This website is a wonderful site to search for home school programs in your area. We were surprised at just how many smaller programs were not advertised on yelp or found on the web, but were on craigslist! Many of these programs are less expensive as well since they are run out of people’s homes. 
  • Yahoo Groups: Join some yahoo groups with a focus in your language of choice and post your question about recommended schools there. There are tons of happy parents just waiting to speak about their immersion school choices. 
  • Recommended Websites: Check out our list of recommended websites for links to websites that will help you find a school in your area. 

MICHELLE’S STORY: 

While living in Japan, we realized how easy it is for children to pick up a foreign language if they are immersed in it. While Lucas was only three when we left Japan, we knew that he loved speaking Japanese in school. To continue building upon this interest, we enrolled him in Chinese and Spanish preschools when we returned to the US. Since language acquisition is easiest at an early age, our children have jumped right into fully-immersive half-day Spanish and Chinese preschools. The entire class is conducted in that language and the children love it! At two, Lousha joined Lucas in Chinese school. At three, she started Spanish. After a year, we decided to focus solely on Chinese and so we no longer attend the Spanish schools. 

Why not send my children to a “regular preschool”?

We felt that they would learn the English basics (alphabet, numbers, etc.) from us and their daily environment, and we wanted to give them a head start in acquiring foreign language skills. Children are little sponges and we know that now is the time for them to learn a new language. My kids still get all of the same elements that they would get at a “regular preschool” – social interaction, understanding of the rules, and snacktime :), only now they are soaking in another language at the same time! 

They are not in school very much — just two days a week – but their level of understanding grows tremendously with each hour! It is just enough for them to enjoy it and yet not be overwhelmed.   

VIDEO: 

Check out the following video of Lousha at her bilingual Montessori School, Growing Tree in Saratoga, CA. We adore this school, their methods, their materials and their dedicated teachers. 

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xfLG3g0YqUs

 


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Filed Under: Classes, Flashcard Fun, Games to Learn a Second Language, Posts with Videos, School for Immersion