A diary to capture your child’s expressions 17.01.13
I had read somewhere and for ages wanted to do a journal on my children and the things they say that make us laugh. I read this letter and I thought of a letter that I have in my Hypnobirthing journal read by a father to their unborn. It’s a beautiful letter of promises in how they mean to raise the child. Dr Laura Markham encourages us to write family mission statements and develop rites and customs. So I thought today I need to make a family journal with our promises to each other and what our mission statement is. I need to jot down my children’s crazy sentences and celebrate when they code switch and use the minority language. I can also write a letter about my promise to them to fulfil a journey into Spanish.
Culture and language 17.01.13
Reading this article this morning I was thinking that being monolingual and of mixed heritage how can my children appreciate the spanish culture.. This Christmas I decided that we were going to borrow some cultural activities from Spain and Latin American culture since we celebrated the Día de los muertos we also celebrated el día de los reyes magos and we made un roscón de reyes as an example. In my Bilingüebabies classes I will also add the cultural element to the optional craft so children will have the language and the cultural aspects associated.
My language thoughts today 16.01.13
With spanish becoming increasingly popular, I am ever more pleased and delighted that we are heading on holiday at Easter to spend time with my spanish childminders family. I never knew I would find such a lovely childminder nor that we would develop such a lovely friendship. Maybe this will be the start of language immersion holidays for the eldest. Fingers crossed. So for those of you who are not native spanish speakers nor have family or friends abroad. Starting Skype friendships or pen pals or even hiring an au pair could change your lives and enrich it in the minority language.
European jobs for multilinguals the benefits are there for being bilingual or knowing another language.
Fantastic advice from other bilingual raisers across the globe 15.01.13
Over the past few days I have been listening to LBC talking about us mono cuddling our children and not raising them resilient to deter bullies etc I am not giving my opinion on that but I am going to go into some observations from school today
Disclaimer..not all kids, teenagers are the same but the majority in my school..
Teenagers are obsessed with celebrity 10.01.13
Gone are the days when teachers were respected and held up as being the oracle.
I ran a PowerPoint provided to me for registration, form time and few paid any attention until we got to the celebrity videos.
Ambitions of some of the teenagers I work with..
To be famous, to be singers, models, hairdressers, to be dancers and work on tv
Some of the girls expect to be spoofed and cannot hold their concentration for more than a few minutes.
Which led me to thinking about my own kids and how to get the best out of my toddler classes, maybe we can overturn the short attention span of children in our schools by a few steps at home and in informed classes such as Bilingüebabies…
Developing Focus and Concentration in Young Children 07.01.13
The ability to focus is connected to our success at performing and assignment while filtering out information that has nothing to do with the assignment. This ability can be developed, already from the time of birth.
Yael Zaob, a child psychologist, explains hot to develop this ability in children.
The processes that the brain goes through while focusing, are complicated. When an adult focuses, 70% of their energy is spent on ignoring other information in the environment, that is not related to the concentration.
Often we look at our children and wish that their attention span would be longer. But when we understand the development of attention span and concentration in children, it will be easier for us to monitor and develop this ability in our children.
It is possible to increase the attention span in a child at any age, while playing and interacting with the child. It is beneficial to know what the typical attention span is at any age, and what can be expected of a child.
First of all, we need to know that there is a difference between the way adults focus and the way children focus.
Lets compare focus to a flash light. An adult focuses his attention like a single beam of light on one spot, similarly to a spot light. A child focuses like a light house, or one of those lights at a prison – the attention is rotating around in the environment. This type of concentration helps children comb their environment for things that they can learn from. This way they do not miss learning opportunities.
First weeks after Birth – try face to face communication
A newborn has an automatic reaction to a loud sound. A baby will turn her head toward the noise. This is still an automatic reaction to a sensual stimulation.
An infant will pay attention to dominant things in her environment, especially if they also make a sound. Within a short while the baby will learn to consciously pay attention to object that are interesting to her.
At this age you can encourage your baby to pay attention, by holding the baby close to your face and talking to her. The baby will pay attention to your face, your voice and your smile. At first will the baby focus on your eyes, and later she will learn to focus on your mouth and your lip movement.
3 Months – attention span of up to 10 seconds
At 3 months a baby will have an attention span of about 5 minutes. This is measured by the heart rate of a baby. It has shown that when a baby focuses on something her heart rate increases. At the age of 6 months the infants are looking at objects in their environment for a shorter period of time than 5 minutes. This actually is evidence of growing intelligence, as they actually learn faster and go to the next object. Now they are interested in the more colorful toys, and toys that have some movement to them. At this age the infant will be especially interested in a toy when you play with her.
In the area of concentration, the biggest achievement of a baby in her first year of life is how long she can pay attention continually to one object. The ability to focus on one toy enables the memory and comprehension to develop.
When you have a variety of toys for your child all laying around them – that does not help concentration (although it is beneficial in other aspects). For concentration – let your child play with one toy that she is interested in, remove the rest of the toys from the environment. After your child is not interested in this toy any more, which indicates that the child has learned all she can learn from this toy, you can let her choose another toy.
When your baby looks at a toy, point to the toy or pick it up and say something about the toy, like “Yes, this is a yellow duck”. Your reaction will encourage that baby to look at the toy a little bit longer, and she will focus on the toy longer, listening to you and relating what you say to the toy.
Avoid introducing a new toy to your child as long as she shows interest in a specific toy. Let your baby lead and initiate her play. Research shows that parents who let babies, from early age, initiate interest in toys and then join them – develop in their child confidence and also give them an opportunity to learn and initiate learning. This simple action provides an advantage for future development of social and intellectual development.
At about the age of one year – typical attention span is one minute.
The young brain is developing new skills, among them the focus on single subjects. Of course a child will focus better when she is calm, satisfied and alert. Everything around her can attract interest and break her concentration.
When two people look at the same thing they share an experience. This is a very powerful tool which is at the base of the development of speech and communication. When you look at things together with your child, it enables your child to communicate with you without words.
The ability of a baby to pay attention to the object you are looking at does not develop in one day. Infants often use their parents’ gaze as a tool to focus their attention. Researchers found that this typically happens between the ages of 10 month to one year.
After a baby has learned to follow the gaze of another, she will learn to cause others to follow her gaze, in order to initiate mutual attention. At first she will announce her intent by reaching toward the object. This means “Pay attention, I want it too”.
After that the little one will learn to point at things in the environment that she thinks you might have missed, for example – a cat walking by.
She will learn to look at things you are pointing at after she has learned to point at things for you to look at.
When you notice that your child is looking at something point at the object, tell her its name and describe it. Show her how to use it, let her feel it with her hand and how it feels against her cheek. This will increase the child’s curiosity, her motivation to experiment and research, and her ability to control her attention. The researchers suggest that tools to keep a baby’s focused attention on one object helps the baby deal in a more effective way with the destructions in her environment.
At the age of 18 months the typical attention span has increased to 2 to 3 minutes, and at the age of 2 years it has increased to 3 to 6 minutes.
At times the toddler will focus on a toy or a game, but it is still very easy for her to be destructed by anything that happens in her environment.
A very common way to teach a child at this age to focus is reading a book to her. This sounds easy but it’s not always simple: Children at this age are in constant movement. Don’t worry, she is listening, even if she is not sitting and actively listening to you.
It is very worthwhile to train the little ones to love this activity, as it is very valuable for continuing development – language development, reading and writing in a few short years.
In order to make it easier for your child to focus on the story, offer her a toy to hold in her hands. For example a soft ball or another small toy. This way your child will still be able to move a little bit while you are reading to her.
Read the book in a dramatic way with exaggerated sounds and movement – it will make it more interesting to your child and will keep her attention longer.
Encourage your child to participate by finding details in the pictures and participate with sound and movement.
Keep reading to your child even if she keeps moving in the room. She is still paying attention and listening to the story.
For a very young child, choose a story that has repeating parts. The repetition helps your little one to wait patiently to hear the repeating part again. It also helps them develop language and memory. Encourage her to participate when you get to the repetitive part.
Choose books that encourage activity, for example books that have different textures to touch, or “Where is Waldo” where the child is encouraged to find certain things in the picture.
For an older child, 4 to 5, suggest to visualize the content, turn it into a movie in her imagination.
After the age of 2, toddlers’ attention span can expand to 8 minutes. Between the age of 2 and 3 the toddler will acquire an additional important skill: the ability to focus on another person who’s talking to them – and then going back to the toy or game they were playing with before. At the age of 4 a child can focus on one interesting object for 10 minutes.
Even when a young child focuses on one thing, they are still focusing in a different way than adults. Their attention is still scanning the environment for opportunities to learn.
Research that was done in kindergarten kids and school age kids showed interesting differences: For example, when kids were shown 2 cards and asked to remember only the card on the right hand side, kindergarten kids had difficulty with the assignment, whereas the older children could complete the assignment without difficulty.
The kids were shown a picture of a girl sitting in a room and looking at a picture of her family. Then they were asked what the girl sees, the younger children said that she is seeing a picture and also other objects in the room, while the older kids answered simply that the girl is looking at the picture of her family. This indicates that the younger children’s attention is less focused on one object.
At kindergarten age the child’s attention is not yet focused on one subject (for example as a flash light ), but more in a rotating fashion, as a lighthouse. This is not necessarily disadvantageous, as it enables the child to learn, to be open to new ideas and to be creative. Many adults would love to be as creative and imaginary as the kindergarten age child.
At this age parents are advised to limit television viewing. The fact that a child can focus on a tv program or a movie does not help them increase their attention span. Television or a movie provide a very superficial interest which the child cannot touch, research and explore, the child does not learn much from.
Very young children learn by interaction with others, something that cannot be provided by a picture or a video. It’s recommended to turn off the tv, and spend more time at the park. This recommendation is based on a research that has shown that children with ADD and hyperactivity who spend more time outdoors and in green areas with grass and trees can control their behavior better and manage to focus better. The correlation was significant, but the reason has not been found.
This is written by Esther Andrews
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Raising a child of multi cultures
My hubby attended a work induction and as usual, last place and a quick rushed guide to diversity was hurried through before finishing. He left with questions about the definitions of ‘multiculturalism and assimilation’ which sparked a debate about the two… Should we leave our cultural traditions at the airport when we move country and embrace the majority culture of the new at the expense of our heritage or do we embrace both and live a balanced life coexisting between multiple cultures? As a teacher I come across many different cultures, of parents whose children conduct parents evenings in English even though they have lived in the UK for years. This is choice and we are lucky that we can have communities where you can exist without knowledge of English. But I think you can miss out on enriching the minority culture.
In my house, we learn and take from the spanish culture, not because I am spanish but because I am raising my children bilingual and embracing certain fun traditions to enhance our learning experience. These are great bonding and talking points, an opportunity to fall in love with the language and customs.
Reading bilingual 04.01.13
After months of trying to get the little one to be interested and giving up, he finally has shown an interest in books and found the true use of them as fun and exciting. He started looking through by himself and then moved onto asking me to read them over Christmas..what joy! Maybe it was the relaxed Christmas break and more time spent with me..I don’t mind but research says that reading books with your kids is one of the best ways to learn new vocabulary so lets get going, finally!
My advice for any others is to keep going, leave books accessible, keep reading to the eldest, let your child see you reading and have fun. I am now catching up on lots of reading and have put in an order for more bilingual books.
My next post will highlight our favourites..
Multicultural London 02.01.13
Today at the supermarket I noticed that the attendant was Spanish so I struck up a conversation about Christmas, kids and a few other topics such as bilingualism. Funnily enough we got onto Franco and the link above is for a film during the Franco times on the 10th January at the French institute. What a coincidence that I would see this link today and be having a conversation about Franco in spanish in downtown Lewisham.
Opportunities to see other languages 30.12.12
It occurred to me the other day as I went to Kew gardens with an Iranian friend of mine, that we do not really take the advantage to embrace other languages. I have spent many years in many different aquariums due to my eldest having a defined professional interest in becoming a marine biologist and wanting to study sea creatures that many of the ones in Spain had many different language notices, information and signage telling you the names of the fishes in French, German, English etc. in Kew the mini aquarium in the palm house only had the fish labelled in English. As we lingered looking at the fish, I heard many different languages and thought what a shame I did not have any spanish labels.
The importance of bilingualism 28.12.12
Lovely American interview which captures all the main points and method in under five minutes
Teaching Spanish through flashcards
I spent much of this Christmas 2012 reading and researching how to improve teaching younger children Spanish through my own personal ambition as a mum but also as a professional qualified teacher who is crossing over from teaching older children. I came across reference to this book and several sites which suggested that young pre school children really do not get much out of flashcards and that the words are too small for their eyes. I am sure there are arguments for and against and as I have not read this book as yet I am in no position to say other than no one method will teach and during my teacher training we were encouraged to look at:
Ensuring our activities spanned a range of these four in every lesson.
And take into account of how our pupils learn..
Thus I am modifying my curriculum for my younger learners and ensuring at home we do more activities to explore my own children and for me to learn how best they learn too. I am a visual and kinaesthetic learner but my kids may not be..
Limiting screen time 22.12.12
This holiday I have had the pleasure of reading various articles on the bbc and links to articles on Pinterest which reminded me of the importance of cutting tv time for my toddler. It can be quite difficult as my elder wants to watch his cartoons and being six years older he tends to watch Ben 10 and Pokemon. At times we switch language into Spanish and French and try and use it as a learning opportunity I.e what are the aliens called and spanish and why? This prompts a debate about the use of language and similarities but in essence I need to spend more time finding suitable activities to embrace both age groups and or allowing the eldest some personal freedom while I build on the youngest language through age appropriate activities like sorting and building with coloured bricks in Spanish.
Spanish bilingual school in camberwell 05.10.12
This week I posed the question on twitter as to whether anyone was interested in starting a Spanish bilingual school given that we are going to have a few German and a new French primary in se London. A parent that had come to one of my spanish toddler classes emailed me with details and vision of a new Latino Spanish bilingual free school start up and asked if I wanted to get involved. Well, what do you think? Of course.. I am a teacher, MFL teacher with kids who I’m raising bilingual and to help them learn about their heritage. So I am now on the steering group and will do my best to ensure that this school is a success. It seems quite down to earth. Many of these new free schools that open are started by middle class parents wanting the very best for their kids, this school has an unusual aim in that it wants to raise academic and life chances for the Latin American community, this married with middle class English parents who want their kids to learn spanish could be quite an interesting mix. Living in a multi racial city we do need a mix, it is good for all involved to widen perspectives and attitudes and learn to embrace difference.
My family adventures with Spanish continue September2012
So I am very aware of the Spanish film festival and Latin American heritage events. On the saturday I took the family to a Latin American day, it was held in SOAS. There was food, things to buy, music, art and theatre and lots of Spanish speakers, horray. Good thing my eldest knew some of the songs so he could participate in the theatre. The youngest is happy with anything and as he is being raised bilingual this was pretty cool that people spoke spanish.
On the sunday, I took the kids to a spanish church. I did an internet search and found one not too far. Songs were from a sheet and the service was pretty good. I just need to find a bigger one with kids so we can immerse and find likeminded souls. Am I obsessed? Its about immersing the children in the language and giving them a reasons to speak the language. I am also learning new vocab. Everyone is a winner”!
Teaching toddlers v secondary Spanish August 2012
After one summer session at the cafe in Nunhead where I have been running the Bilinguebabies summer sessions for kids. I realised I was pretty exhausted so I stopped for a bite to eat with my friend. The session had gone really well, much better than the first when my son was present and was upset that his mother was giving anyone else his attention let alone his toys, better still that this time I brought my own radio to avoid equipment failure.
However some mums are very pushy even with their under 5’s, ‘what will my child take away from the session?’ Wow imagine when Rupert is 8. It is like taking a child to their first guitar lesson and expecting them to play with the London Symphony orchestra on the same day. This is a very unlikely feat. Learning an instrument takes skill and practice. So why should learning a language be any different? In order for your child to learn a language, it depends on how much you will input with your child, they will get the enjoyment from a one off class but if they come back regularly they will form a habit of hearing the languages, repetition aids learning. My own two year old is an example of this, he hears many of the songs I use and sings them.
Teaching toddlers I think requires many things, patience, the art of being a children’s entertainer, being slightly crazy, and very energetic. At least you have a captive audience. Teaching teenagers is a whole other topic, at times you are learning their language and you need eyes in the back of your head, to know them very well, develop a relationship and at times they may not want to be there. I guess I can’t answer my own question because teaching is a craft, a skill, a profession and one gets better with practice. I learn something each time I teach whether it is from a 2 year old or 22 year old. It is never boring and has to be engaging and interactive so I guess they are on par on many levels but at secondary there are targets and lots of admin, planning for progession etc which can zap the sheer joy of teaching.
Teaching little ones is my secret stash of chocolate, my joy even my sanity. It is amazing to hear that some of the little ones are singing unaided when they get home. These are tomorrows Politicians, medics, lawyers and how wonderful it will be that they will be open to languages and different cultures from such a young age.
Wheels on the bus anyone?
Teaching toddlers Spanish
Often when I am giving out flyers or having a conversation with friends and family they say, ‘well my little one has not even learnt to speak English’ or ‘won’t you confuse them?’
In order to avoid having a heavy debate I sometimes drop it or just politely say no. However the research is out there, children won’t be confused, they will compartmentalise the languages. Teaching kids is not an easy feat, they won’t just soak another language up when we live in a monolingual culture with English being the dominant language. As a parent we have to get active.
Here are my top six favourite activites:
1. Attending a Toddler spanish class like Bilinguebabies- give your child access to another language in a setting with other mums and kids who are also encouraging early language acquisition.
2. Learn the language that you would like your child to learn (Mums and kids classes), use various language apps, tutoring programmes.
3. Watch ‘spanish’ kids dvds, get some abroad, check out amazon, you tube
4. Sing songs with your children in the target language. (Means you will have to learn them too). Repetition is key. Maybe use certain songs at bedtime and build up for song collection.
5. Read dual language books, read the ‘spanish’ for your child, if you are learning yourself read the English first to yourself and then decipher the language, use a dictionary to help, once you totally understand then you can put the emphasis in where it is needed.
6. Hang out in ‘Spanish’ restaurants, playgroups, make friends with Spanish speakers.
Immerse yourself where you can.. go on holiday, visit Spanish speakers. PRACTICE and make it a daily habit.
During my PGCE I have taught some students with ADHD, Downs syndrome, Autism, Speech and Communication difficulties. Training was quite sparce on how to teach kids with disabilities or learning difficulties. I kind of learnt on the job and particularly with Ahmed my DS pupil I liased with his LSA who spent 100% of her time with him. Ahmed (with DS) was so easy to teach, he loved languages and the class was so patient with him. I had to be more diligent with my teaching and activities to include him but often it meant printing out PowerPoint slides for him. Because I like interactive, hands on teaching, it was always easy to include him in different activities.
I read an article recently that DownsSideUp reteweeted about new blood tests screening for DS, On one hand it is great knowing certain issues so one can prepare for things but on the other hand I fear that we will create a society without difference. One thing that class with Ahmed knew was how to accomodate him but how many of them were his friends in the playground? I don’t know. I am not an expert in teaching languages, I am just starting out in my career but I have a passion, a passion that I hope is infectious and far reaching, above gender, race, ethnicity, culture, class, ability, disability..
My own personal experience with DS lay in tests that pulled up a 1 in 30 chance of DS with my youngest when I was pregnant a few years back. I will never ever forget the turmoil, the clinical way we were spoken to in a room with other clinicians tapping away on a computer until they realised that they may have needed to leave the room. They way we were told ‘we had options’. Howe we were separated from the happy pregnant people and the others on the other side of the clinic who needed tests or special operations to ‘put things right’. The agonizing wait over Christmas, being forgotten and not called as promised with the results of a CSV test. How differing members of our family felt they had a right to tell us what to do before we even had the results. Have you been reading about the ‘Two minus one’ the latest designer choose a baby or not saga? Well I rest my case…
Anyway I don’t want to offend anyone or depress anyone, there are so many upbeat stories about living with Downs in particular. Though my son did not end up with Downs, I have a special place in my heart for those with disabilites and I guess my previous career as a Project manager looking after the new build of an AST school, having to work with NAS and SIGNAL, finding out about best practice in building schools for kids with a range of needs means that I am a person that wants to include everyone in learning languages and that my own children need to appreciate difference. Hence we are supporting the Para lympics games..and solely bought tickets for that..
In the toddlers next nap I am going to make Spanish visual timetable cards…
One day I will be a specialist Language teacher…this goal is coming around sooner than I thought. I have been asked to teach Spanish at a nursery and they specialise in SEN.
Why I gave up a great job as Project Manager to become a Spanish and French teacher? July 2012
About seven years ago on a holiday to Austria with friends, they pronunced a new vocation for me ‘teacher’, ‘tea-waht?!’ me, why? It was never a profession I had seriously thought about, I was working my way through local govenment and dreaming about moving back to Spain. However I did look into it briefly and decided not to bother with an interview at Kings to study MFL PGCE, as I was afraid I could not afford it (mortgage, single parent, nursery fees, travel costs), I ducked out. It was also around the same time that the government was making MFL uncompulsory at secondary and urging teachers into primary. It was all too confusing so I stuck to what I knew, local government.
Later I got married, had another child and whilst on maternity learnt how to teach baby massage and hypnobirthing. I found that I actually enjoyed teaching. However this was adults not kids at this point though I had dabbled in sunday school teaching for a bit.
The desire to be around Spanish speakers and use my Spanish degree never left me and after every trip to Spain I yearned to live there and bilingualise my son. That dream is permanently on hold as I am not able to take him abroad (shared residence etc) ..so I decided to make lemonade out of lemons and follow my passion, my desire to reintroduce spanish to my kids (I am south american through the family did not transfer spanish to my parents)
Now looking back, I may have been better off doing the PGCE years ago, with my fees being paid and a fat golden hello, instead of a student loan and a large pay cut but I don’t care. The nine months of sheer pain on the PGCE, travelling far to placement schools, being up all hours doing lesson plans, sorting kids, breastfeeding, starting a toddler spanish group in the midst, being wife, mother, daughter has paid off as I will be teaching spanish in a girls school in sept (part time)..
So the story so far…my eldest has Spanish highs and lows, he has a curiosity at times, is stubborn other times. Its a work in progress but he will compromise too, yes Ben ultimate alien is allowed in spanish with subtitles and even I know some of the aliens in Spanish..some songs will be sung and lyrics changed. It has to be fun and sometimes we use bribery, ‘if i can say 100 words in spanish can i have a lego minifigure?’ My youngest calls Pingu Piijuu and counts to ten in Spanish, I am interested to see how his development progresses. He understands both languages and is happy watching Thomas the tank engine in both languages. He has no choice. The toddler group was started for him.
I love SPANISH, I want my pupils to soar, to have opportunities to travel, to make the most of their lives and live life to the full..I like being a BME teacher too, hopefully i can be a role model. Now I am content to be here, I think I have found my calling. Though it has been a rocky road.
Teacher training chores- Skills tests
The main focus of this week (August 2012) has been to pass the numeracy skills test, in particular the mental arithmetic section. I had the view that sporadic skim reading would get me through and really left it to the last minute to get the test passed before I can offically be qualified, graduate and be allowed to teach. I was horribly mistaken that it would be a walk in the park. Not only was this the bain of my life, it became a subject of fear and terror after several failed attempts. I actually started reaching for the calming salts after one terrible attempt in Kingston (the tape was jumping and I freaked out literally) on a crazy whim of tryng to pass the test before doing the Catholic Certificate in Religious Studies (CCRS) class on saturday morning. I am known to try and stretch multi tasking to the extreme!
Let me explain a few things about the maths skills tests that are soon to be changing to two attempts and a higher pass mark and the student paying to complete the test if they fail on the first attempt (Sept 2012). One has to listen to a well spoken woman telling you a mental arithmetic problem twice and then you have 18 seconds to put the answer into a box on the screen. Not only have I realised that I am a visual learner and much prefer to see things written but panic really blinds you that momentarily one cannot add 2+2 let alone work out how many times a student has run around a track when given km and miles conversion rates.
By far the nicest people in a test centre were to be found in Croydon. All the petty surroundings impact on your nerves an mental wellbeing. A close second would be London Bridge and sorry Kingston I would never ever go there again. There is no need to be so stern!
Anyway I want to encourage those out there who are struggling and give some advice to those embarking on it. Give yourself plenty of time. PRACTICE does make perfect. Copy out the similar questions from a book (highly recommend buying or borrowing a book) and go over them loads, try the online tests on the Teaching agency website also.