5 Reasons to Set Up a Language Learning Corner for your Bilingual Child

In my former life, I was a preschool teacher and teacher trainer for a publishing company.  That was quite a few years ago before I married, began having children, and started my work as Community Manager for Learn Safari. As it turns out, however, you can take a girl out of teaching, but you can never take the teacher out of the girl! I never stopped loving being a teacher, and now that I’m a mom raising a bilingual child, I see myself thinking back to those days and using some of those same skills in my home.  As it turns out, my classroom was also something that I could not completely give up! I ended up creating a Language-Learning Corner for my child based on the following 5 reasons, and after hearing me out, you might be inspired to do the same!

I Wanted to Create a Space Where Bilingualism is Encouraged

Raising a bilingual child is very important to me. I was raised bilingually and I must say I will be forever thankful to my parents for sticking to it, even when it was hard and I was set on not speaking English!  (“no habla Inglés mami!”) I was able to advance in my career, had access to more information, and was able to communicate with relatives and make new friends because I was able to speak English. These are all things I want my little girl to have.

Of course, as parents raising bilingual children, we all know that it’s a lot of work! Sometimes it feels like it’s much easier said than done and there are many ways to go about it and many philosophies to guide parents. The one thing I knew, however, is that I needed a space where we would be encouraged and inspired to use our second language.

Last Summer we were visiting relatives in Florida and we made a Target run. Low and behold, I found that much talked about  dollar spot!  Two Frappuccinos later, we had a cartful of teaching aids and all kinds of cool stuff to stock a mini classroom, and that’s how I got my learning corner started.

Photo by Becky Garcia-Muir.

I Wanted to Give Her a Work Space She Could Call Her Own

A sense of independence, responsibility and ownership helps children build self-confidence, and the sooner we started, the better.  My little girl likes things that are “hers” and setting this space works for both of us, as she can color, draw, sing and read in one spot.  She can store and find everything she needs! The space is her own, which also helps to motivate her to clean up with very little help (yes, that one’s for me)

I Wanted to Ease Her Into The Habit of Studying Every Day

Living in Venezuela means that school is mandatory from a very early age and tons of homework is expected every day.  We’re talking 4 year-olds getting homework every day! So, to stay ahead of the curve, I decided that it was in our best interest to start this habit early. I figured that if we started in a fun, enjoyable way, we could make this a good habit and set her on the path of lifelong learning.  I know this all sounds way too serious, but if you’ve had to stay late with a cranky child finishing a last minute assignment, you know this makes sense.

Photo by Becky Garcia-Muir

A Space to Keep Our Daily Routine in Check

We could talk about the importance of a daily routine for hours, but most of us will probably agree that even if it’s hard, in the long run, a routine is better for both child and parent.  Small children rely on this to feel safe and in control.  Parents rely on routine for the same reasons.

Our routine is loosely as follows:  After school we talk about our day, change clothes, eat lunch and take a nap. After that we have our little “English Immersion Program” where we set the date on the calendar and sing, talk about what we’re going to do, read a book, do seat work which includes coloring, sorting and/or matching. It takes us about 45 minutes, depending on her mood and stamina. Afterwards, she enjoys her screen time and free play.

A Space to Spend Time Together and Check on Her Daily Progress

This is my favorite reason! My baby girl is smart, funny and willful; a powerful combination that drives me both to laughter and tears (both of frustration and pride).  To see how she grows and how her mind works is a privilege and I’m lucky to spend so much time with her. This corner of our house is a special place where we get to learn, grow, and bond together! And it’s even a place where she can invite other special people to participate with her in the learning and fun.

Reading with Grandma. Photo by Becky Garcia-Muir

What Should You Put in the Language Learning Corner?

The possibilities are endless! You want it to be a print-rich environment, but you also want it to be interesting and adapted to their needs and age. But here are some basic suggestions to get you started:

  • Books
  • Signs, posters, etc. in target language
  • labels in target language
  • Paper
  • Writing Utensils
  • Art Supplies: paper, crayons, markers, scissors, glue sticks, paint (if you dare!)
  • A Maker kit: loose pieces, nuts, bolts, pliers, hammer, nails
  • A world map, atlas, or globe
  • Images of the places and cultures that speak the target language
  • Puzzles
  • Games and manipulatives
  • Calendar and weather info (especially for younger kids)

This learning corner is a work in progress, but so far my Twinkle Toes is enjoying her work time. Sometimes we spend a good amount of time in our learning space, sometimes it’s just a few minutes, but the important thing is that she’s using the target language and starting to look forward to it.  But remember, do not limit the second language exposure to just a corner of your house, you can take a bilingual break anytime, anywhere!

I’d love to read your comments! Do you have a language corner?  How do you keep the target language at home? What’s your child’s favorite activity? Please share your experience with our community below.

For more ideas on how to create a Language Corner, and what it should include please read Maria’s article “A language corner for teaching a foreign language in the home” at Trilingual Mama.  I hope all of these ideas inspire you, and help you build a language corner perfect for your family.

 

Becky Garcia-Muir is a Southern belle from way South, a Bilingual teacher and mom, and community manager for Learn Safari a Spanish Learning game for children 4-10 years old. You can follow her and the rest of the team on FacebookInstagram, and Twitter.

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6 Tips for Beating the Summer Learning Slide

by: Dwight Tracy https://freerangestock.com/photos/6708/beach-vacations-scenes.html

by: Dwight Tracy
https://freerangestock.com/photos/6708/beach-vacations-scenes.html

Summer is here! The weather is warm and kids are out of school, which makes it the perfect season to enjoy beaches, pools, lakes, cookouts and vacations. For most kids, it’s the absolute best time of year! But it is also the season for that dreaded summer slide. Research has shown that over the summer, kids lose an average of 2 months of math achievement and the losses are even greater in reading! The learning loss is cumulative, which means that those kids who experience summer learning losses every year in reading, will lose an average of 2.5 years of achievement by the time they reach middle school. Scary!! But don’t worry, we have a few easy tips to help slow-down, and maybe even reverse, that summer slide.

1. Make Reading A Priority

For young children, make books readily available in all of their spaces and make sure you read to them every single day. Start this when they are infants, although you may feel silly, it is so good for them!

For school-aged children, reading 5 to 6 chapter books over the summer can be enough to prevent reading losses*.  Take trips to the library during the summer and allow kids to pick out books themselves. Perhaps spend some time reading there. Hopefully, during the school year you already have a designated reading time, but increase the amount of time kids spend reading during the summer. Maybe instead of one reading time in the evening, have an additional one in the morning and/or afternoon.

For some kids, a reading chart helps to keep them on track and offers a sense of achievement and motivation to keep going (that competitive drive can be a high motivator!).

Don’t forget reading out loud! You can read to your kids, even if they are older, and always make sure your kids read to you. For some practical tips on reading out loud, check out our blog post on the benefits of reading.

2. Limit Screen Time

If you have read our blog post on the Intentional use of Technology, you will see why we believe that technology can help our children gain invaluable skills that will be increasingly necessary in our modern world. However, we should not let our kids simply vegetate and watch a screen or play video games 24 hours a day. Limit their time to no more than 2 hours a day and make sure that they are doing something purposeful with it. Playing with learning Apps such as Spanish Safari, learning some computer coding, and doing internet research are encouraged uses of technology. Even watching a fun movie as a family has great value! But make sure they get plenty of other activities and physical exercise.

3. Summer Camps

Summer Camps are wonderful opportunities for children to socialize and learn new skills. Many sports, museums, zoos, beaches, and schools offer summer camps and enrichment activities. If you are able to, take advantage of camps offered in your area. Many will offer weekly and daily rates so that you don’t have to commit to the entire summer.

4. Plan A Family Trip

Are you able to go on vacation this summer? Well, let your child(ren) help plan the trip! Provide them with maps, brochures, and help them do an internet search to come up with an itinerary. This will get them reading and researching, but it will be exciting and it will give them agency in the family trip.

5. Science, Math & Art Activities

Design enrichment opportunities and fun activities to keep them busy. This will keep them challenged and be great exercise for their brains. You don’t have to do them every day, but if you can manage to set some things up for them a couple times a week, it can go a long way in combating learning losses, but it can also offer up some great entertainment. If you are looking for some inspiration, check out our Pinterest boards. We have collected many simple, fun, and educational activities from some of the best that the internet has to offer!

6. Kick Them Out!

It may sound harsh, but seriously, let the kids go outside. And keep them outside. They will release a lot of energy, they will be physically active, and your house will stay much cleaner! You can provide them with some toys and outdoor activities, but remember, it is not your job to entertain your children. They need to be able to entertain themselves! Just set some ground rules, depending on their age and where you live, and let them play!

Summer time can be a welcomed relief for students, teachers, and even parents. There is something to be said for taking a break from the hectic school year. There’s no denying that children need free time to unwind, explore, and practice decision-making and time-management. However, they also need to have some guidance on how they spend their summer months in order to prevent learning losses, but also to prevent unhealthy habits and weight gain. Because let’s face it, if given the choice, most kids and teenagers would choose to sit around in front of their screen(s) all summer, eating junk food and wasting away. (Hey! Many of us adults would make the same choices if we didn’t have an example to set, am I right?)

What do you think of these ideas? Do you have some more to share with us? Join the conversation and leave us a comment!

*http://www.trelease-on-reading.com/summer-reading.pdf