Tag Archives: parent participation

Parents as Partners in the Acquisition of a Second Language

17 Aug

Parents care about their children and often want to know how they can help them in the second language acquisition process.

Time, exposure, continued development of one’s home language, and role models are some of the ways that contribute and enhance the acquisition of a second language.

It takes time to learn another language

When parents ask me why their child is not yet speaking in the target language, my response is always “It is okay. Give them more time!” I also point out that not producing words does not mean that their child does not understand. Time therefore is a factor that needs to be taken into account and learners themselves have to be reminded of this so as not to feel discouraged.

Exposure to the target language outside the classroom

When learners are using a target language to meet a need, for example, communicating with peers, listening to a program of interest, or watching an entertaining educational program, greater retention and learning occur. Out of the classroom exposure to the target language in a social, fun and relaxed atmosphere is therefore crucial.

Using worksheets to practice grammatical rules is void of personal value and cultural meaning. If you wish to teach grammar to your child, the child needs to recognize the communicative value of that particular grammatical point in order to retain it and truly adopt and use it. For example, to teach the verb to be, ask your child to describe someone or something or talk about him or her self.  To teach verbs in the simple present tense form, discuss daily routines and habits.

Continued usage and development of one’s home language

Continued development of the home language is essential and beneficial. Many parents want their children to be immersed in the target language and neglect – and sometimes even forbid – the use of the home language but that is not to the benefit of the learner. Reading in one’s own language is pleasurable, relaxing and beneficial to the acquisition of a second language. Explaining and discussing school subjects and concepts in the child’s home language will deepen his/her background knowledge and better prepare him/her for school where the focus can then shift to learning the particular vocabulary of that theme or subject. Recognizing and discussing similarities and differences between the home and target language deepens the learner’s understanding of the target language and leads him/her to excel in both languages.

Positive role models who demonstrate the value of being proficient in more than one language

Last but not least, role models.  The presence of role models can strongly affect the desire and ability to learn another language.  Parents can play a significant role in being role models by taking on the challenge of learning a second language themselves and by sharing their successes and efforts with their children.

Parents’ involvement in a child’s second language acquisition process is vital and results in highly motivated learners and a greater knowledge of the target language so go ahead, get involved!

Feeding the Hungry One Word at a Time

1 Jun
For the past two years, I have been using Freerice with my English Language Learners. We usually kick off the Freerice Vocabulary Feeding Project in November just before the American Thanksgiving Holiday.

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Freerice is a free online educational website that is maintained by the United Nations World Food Program. John Breen, a Harvard professor, founded it in 2007.  He hoped Freerice would aid in both ending world hunger and educating as many people as possible. Since its inception, Freerice has won many awards for its ability to both raise funds and awareness about the fight against hunger.

Freerice is an intelligent game in that it adjusts to the level of the learner, offering multiple choice questions on the skill of their choice: Math, English vocabulary or grammar, SAT Prep, Geography, Art, German, French, Spanish and Italian.  A virtual bowl fills with grains of rice with every correct answer they provide.

My students love using Freerice because they feel they are not only learning new words but more importantly they are helping others.  They also love its competitive aspect and all try to be the top player of the week or the top-leading group.

I love Freerice because it makes my students eager about learning new words. Its ability to adjust to a learner’s level and to recycle mistakes is a great way to ensure that exposure to new words is being met. Using Freerice gives me the opportunity to discuss issues such as world hunger and being of service with my different grade levels. Integrating Freerice in my teaching is not only exposing my students to new words but also teaching them to be compassionate. It supports my ultimate goal: teach children to grow up to be global responsible citizens who speak English among other languages.

When my students show Freerice to their parents, I get emails requesting membership into our group from moms who want to improve their vocabulary. I have so many of my students now using Freerice at home with their own parent.

Freerice Vocabulary Words - One Step Further

Freerice Vocabulary Words – One Step Further

One of the ways I use Freerice in my classroom is to create a database of vocabulary words. For a language learner to truly learn a new word, the learner has to actually be able to use that word.  Knowing therefore involves not only learning the meaning of that word but also how to pronounce it, spell it, and use it in the correct context. With that in mind, following each Freerice session, I ask my students to choose one word that they will commit to learn for that week. They then add the word to a spreadsheet I have set up in Google Docs.  These words are then shared with everyone in the group and are used for games such as Hangman, crosswords, word jumbles and fill in the blanks. In having my ten students submit one word each, we, as a class, increase our vocabulary by ten words – words that we get to use over and over in different contexts.

Courtesy of Vietnam News

When the whole school competed in Freerice for a month, the students, along with their parents, were so focused on filling bowls of rice, they spent many evenings after school on the website. The experience lent itself to great dialogues on world hunger and effective ways of learning a new language, a dialogue involving parents and children that went beyond the classroom walls.  Its success led to newspaper coverage in Vietnam News, Hanoi’s English newspaper.

Whether you use Freerice for extra credit, to engage students in collaborative projects with other schools and classrooms, for service credits, or to keep students that finish their work early engaged, there are no drawbacks to incorporating this website into your teaching.

While it may not end world hunger, when you use Freerice, students become sensitized about the world and specifically about world hunger. More importantly, students are empowered when they see how they can make a difference and contribute to a good cause irrelevant of their age, race, language or location.