Flashcard Fun

Headbands for Second Language Learning

Headbands is probably my favorite game in our house. Everyone can play it and everyone enjoys it! The concept is simple. Someone picks a card for you that has an image on it (cat, spoon, rake, etc.) and you need to figure out using yes/no questions the object that is on your head.

How is this a language game?

You can play this game in any language! The object is simply to guess what the object is on the top of your head and just THINK about all of the vocabulary needed to figure it out! We play this game with our Chinese-speaking babysitter because she is able to provide the kids with a ton of vocabulary of objects (like hammer, fire hydrant, etc.) that the kids might not know.

Some Tips:

  • Make it more challenging by using  a timer with the game. The student needs to guess the answer in the set time (2 minutes or so). This way the guesser and the other players don’t get frustrated as it can take a long time to figure it out.
  • If your child gets stressed out with a timer (as one of my kids does) don’t use it! Just let the child guess the object in his/her own time. This version may work better if there is an adult giving the answers as children might lose patience if the guessing lasts too long.
  • Instruct your kids to ask big questions. I have to remind my little one, Hudson, of this idea every time because otherwise she will just start guessing random words and you can imagine how long that game might take (yikes!) Some questions that you can give them as starters are the following:
    • Does it fly?
    • Does it live in the ocean?
    • Would you see it in a farm?
    • Do we have one in our bathroom? Kitchen? Garage?
    • Is it a food?

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



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Filed Under: Chinese, Flashcard Fun, Games to Learn a Second Language, Homeschooling, Posts with Videos, Product Reviews, Spanish, Uncategorized

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!

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

Hiding Game for Flash Card Memorization

There is really no better way to learn something than to teach it to someone else. Studies have shown that active learning is the best way to learn. So you can see why we were thrilled when my son wanted to make use of his Chinese speaking and writing skills to teach other kids (and gain a little money to buy Pokeman cards!)

Lucas and I have had a lot of fun coming up with creative ways to make learning Chinese fun for the beginner. Flashcards are sort of a necessary evil with learning Chinese. A ton of characters need to be memorized before you can even begin to start reading. And as I am sure you remember — flash cards are super boring.

Lucas and I have taken this as a  fun challenge — how to make Chinese flashcards learning fun! He has been testing all of these games with his little sisters and have enjoyed every one!

Hiding Flashcard Game: 

Materials:

  • box large enough to be able to lay down 5 cards so that they don’t hide another card
  • blanket
  • flashcards/index cards

How to Play:

  • Show the student the 5 (or however many you are going to study at that time) cards
  • Put the cards in the box so that the student can see all of the cards
  • Cover the box with a blanket
  • Take out one of the cards while the student covers his/her eyes
  • Take off the blanket and see if the student can figure out which card is missing
  • Voila! Learning with flashcards becomes fun!

Check out some of our other ways that we make learning with flashcards fun!

Have fun!



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

Using Soccer to Teach Spanish

lisa SarafidisLisa Sarafidis  – Guest Blogger

This may come as a shock, but my 7-year-old son’s attitude to learning a foreign language has been a bit less than absolutely enthusiastic. On a good day, we could, perhaps, describe his mindset as indifferent. I see now that he thought the bulk of the work was him choosing which language he wanted to learn, and now would I please let him get back to watching that super interesting youtube video featuring a 35-year-old man playing Minecraft in his mother’s basement.

I’m going to have to be sneaky, because few things are sustainable in a house with young kids if it causes lots of drama. Kids are drama enough. So, while my son isn’t exactly passionate about Spanish (the language he picked), he is passionate about soccer. And there are LOTS of ways to link Spanish and soccer.

El Mundial (aka The World Cup)

Soccer to Teach Spanish
Photo credit: Steven Depolo

For those of you who don’t already know, World Cup soccer is upon us! Coming to us from host country Brazil, the World Cup will be broadcasted in the US in English on ABC, ESPN and ESPN2 and in Spanish on Univision (side note: Univision has the most extensive coverage of the World Cup, broadcasting 56 of all 64 games, compared to ESPN’s 43 matches). The first game is Thursday, June 12 at 4:00pm EST between Brazil and Croatia; the final is July 13th. That’s a whole month of soccer, for better or for worse.

My plan: have my family watch the games on Univision, where all of the commentary will be in Spanish. You would be surprised how little the kids care that they don’t understand the language…my husband, son and even neighborhood kids have gathered in our house to watch past soccer championships on Univision…many tournaments are only broadcast on Spanish-language channels in this country. And everyone loves hearing the commentators yell “GOOOOOOOOOOOOOLLLLLLLLLLLL!!!!!!!!”.

Get Ready with Some Simple Vocabulary Prep

The main goal of my “Spanish through soccer” plan is to just get my son familiar with the sound of the language, and maybe pique his interest when he hears the passion of the fans, players and commentators in Spanish. Plus, he’ll get to watch TV commercials in Spanish, which is actually a great way to get learn commonly-used phrases and vocabulary. (I don’t know if World Cup commercials are anything like Superbowl commercials, but I’m guessing we’ll find out). But, to maximize what he takes away from the experience, I am going to prep him with a bit of soccer vocabulary, so he’ll be able to keep an ear out for words he knows, and maybe pick up a few new ones.

If you type “soccer words in Spanish” into google, you will find many lists to choose from. I picked 20 of the most common terms, and made a Quizlet flashcard set. If you are not familiar with Quizlet, it is pretty awesome. You just make an account (free) and then you can turn any list into online flashcards. Here is the list I put together for my son:  Soccer Vocabulary in Spanish

Shakira and Soccer

World Cup Brazil - Learn Spanish through Soccer
Photo Credit: Thomas

Music is another great way to introduce language to children, and, through the magic of youtube, we have access to a lot of songs and videos that combine both Spanish and soccer. This year, the official theme song of the World Cup is sung by Colombian singer Shakira; there are several versions- this is the one in Spanish that features more soccer (rather than just a typical music video). Shakira also sang the theme to the 2010 World Cup… her Waka Waka song was immensely popular: it features a lot of famous soccer players, and is really hard not to dance to.

There are also many compilations of soccer footage put together by fans (you can find this in any language you are looking for), and set to music. If you type el fútbol musica into youtube, you will get lots of options. And if your kids have a favorite player, there is a good chance someone has set up a tribute to that player (type players name and “espanol”). Here are a few I’ve found, but there are SO many out there:

Argentinian Soccer
Colombian Soccer
Tribute to Lionel Messi (one of top players in this year’s World Cup, captain of Argentina team)
Tribute to Maradona (famous Argentinian soccer player, can find lots of vintage footage)

Hopefully, these ideas will inspire my son. Let me know how they work for you, or if you have any other tricks or tips to share. Please post your comments below! I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Lisa

Filed Under: Cultural Experiences, Flashcard Fun, Games to Learn a Second Language, Homeschooling, Music to Learn a Second Language, Spanish, TV as a Tool

Making Flashcards More Fun with Games

making flashcards funHow can you make flashcards more fun? We use games in our house and add a “flashcard component”! Everyone is happy!

The whole family has recently fallen in love with this creative strategy game called Blokus. The goal of this game is for players to fit all of their pieces (each player gets 21) onto the board. When placing a piece it may not lie adjacent to the player’s other pieces, but must be placed touching at least one corner of the player’s pieces already on the board. The player who gets rid of all of his tiles first is the winner. You have to think ahead in order to find the best path for your pieces and to block your opponent.  It is an fantasticblokus-chinese game to build your child’s spatial thinking!

How do we use Blokus to make flashcards more fun?

Each player in Blokus is given 21 pieces and so for each piece a child puts down, he needs to answer one flashcard. Each person in the family needs to answer his flashcard before he can play so by the end we have gone through a ton of cards! There are 84 pieces in the game but not all of them will be used. Usually, there is a winner by the time 60 pieces have been put down — that’s a lot of flashcards!

What I love about Blokus:

  • Blokus is a challenging game, but a ton of fun! My daughter at 9 years old can play it, but my husband loves it too!
  • There are just enough pieces for us to get through a lot of flashcards without it feeling like the game gets interrupted too much.
  • The game also does not drag on forever as I have found with some other board games. Eventually, there are no more spaces left to put down your pieces and you need to figure out who has more area covering the board.
  • It is a great game for children to understand the concept of area.

Challenges:

If you play the game with only two people, you need to either make the board smaller by blocking off a few rows or you need to have both players play with two colors which can be confusing.

Buy it here on Amazon: 

 

What a wonderful game! We are just thrilled! I hope you are too!


 

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Happy playing!

Michelle

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Filed Under: Chinese, Flashcard Fun, French, Games to Learn a Second Language, Product Reviews, Spanish, Uncategorized

How can I make flashcards more fun?

Lucas stacking chairsAhhh… the perennial question! How do I make flashcards fun for my kids? Most people simply hold up a card and see if the child knows the answer and move onto the next one in the stack. From experience, this type of “game” does not last very long. The “fun factor” is pretty much non-existent. However, it does not take much planning on your part to make flashcards more exciting. Trust me. It is easy. 

Here is how to make flashcards more fun:

All you need is a toy/game/tool that has multiple pieces and have your child “earn” a piece by answering one correct flashcard. The more cards he/she answers the more pieces he/she gets! It actually makes the game more exciting because the child does not just immediately get all of the pieces to it! This earning method slows the game down and makes the child really focus on the goal of the game. 

What are we playing right now?

My kids’ favorite is this Family stacking Chairs Game. The children get one chair for each correct flashcard. The object of the Chairs Game is to stack all of the chairs without them falling. If the chairs fall down, the children have to start over again. My children find this game incredibly compelling and love answering the flashcards to get chairs. stackingchairs

Factors for Success: 

1. Don’t let your child play this game outside of the flashcard time. It should be played ONLY with flashcards and put away all other times. 

2. Make sure that the game is something fun. It does not have to be the most expensive toy out there — but it needs to be compelling. 

3. The toy needs to have enough pieces for your child to be able to build/create/finish it within 10-40 flashcards. Don’t pick a game or toy with hundreds of pieces because then your child will lose interest in having to answer so many flashcards to get the pieces. 

4. Have a few of these games ready to go so that in case your children show the slightest sign of being bored with it, you can tuck that one away and bring out a new one. You can then break out that old game at a later point and it will keep its “game life” a bit longer. Never let your kids get bored with a game because then it will always be labeled as “boring” in their heads. 

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 Happy playing! 

Michelle Gannon

Founder of The Language Playground

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Filed Under: Chinese, Flashcard Fun, Games to Learn a Second Language, Product Reviews, Spanish, Uncategorized

Use Bath Time to Learn Chinese Characters

Characters in the TubWhile your kids are in the tub, why not have fun with your second language at the same time!  Your kids can learn how to spell and write words in a second language easily and with laughter! While my children scrub up, we review a few Chinese characters.

I pick up shaving cream at the dollar store and we go to town on the walls in the tub. My son Lucas has just started learning characters at his Chinese school and loves showing me how the simple characters can built upon to make new words.  It is not messy either — the kids love cleaning up the leftover cream on the wall with a little sponge! 

This activity is a perfect example of multi-sensory learning that works well with my children. My son would not enjoy simply writing characters on a piece of paper — that would seem too much like school. However, writing them with shaving cream in the tub — now that is fun! 

Studies have shown that children learn better when they engage with learning materials using multiple senses. Multi-sensory learning occurs when more than one sense is used to acquire and retain information. Combining auditory (learning by listening and talking), visual (learning by seeing and writing things down) and kinesthetic (learning by touching) gives your child three means by which to understand and remember information.

HOW TO DO IT? 

1. Rub shaving cream on the wall

2. I use one of my many books and flashcard sets on Chinese characters to show my children how to write the characters. I grab a few sturdy flashcards like Tuttle Chinese Flashcards for Kids that could handle a few accidental drops from the tub and draw the characters  on the wall in the shaving cream. 

3. My child traces over the character I just made on the wall. 

4. My child then writes the same character in another shaving cream spot. 

5. We erase both characters and he writes it again on his own. 

6. Cleanup is super easy — the kids love washing the walls with their very own sponges after we are done! 

7. VOILA! Chinese characters are indelibly imprinted in his mind but quickly erased from the bathroom walls! 

 

Happy Educational Tubbing! 

 

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Filed Under: Flashcard Fun, Games to Learn a Second Language, Uncategorized

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