A reflection on bullying

When I was a child growing up in the deep south in primary school, I remembered how we were oftentimes discouraged from enjoying the experience of learning new and interesting subjects in school. I recall a third grade teacher, who told us (a class of African American students) that we would be unable to complete an experiment in static electricity because our hair was “too oily.” The experiment was designed so that the students would have to rub balloons against their heads to attract bits of paper on the desk. When the teacher saw that some, though certainly not all of the students of African American descent, were unable to complete the experiment satisfactorily, she made the aforementioned comment. To this day, I am still baffled as to why she said this. Did she want to discourage us from developing an interest in science? Was this a form of passive aggressive bullying or not?

Bullying was rampant at school when I was student in primary school. I went to school in South Carolina in the Low country region, not too far from Charleston. Racism was the focal point of many a bullying incident at school. If you wanted to play volleyball at the playground and weren’t white, you had to be made into an honorary “white boy” to play, but then you’d be ostracized by other students for engaging in activities that were not considered “appropriate” for your ethnicity. It sounds bizarre, but I almost exclusively was on the receiving end of bullying just because I liked to study, primarily by male members of my own ethnicity.

The bullying was mostly passive in nature but resulted in exclusion from activities (e.g. sports teams, social events etc.) just because I liked studying. It is difficult to qualify what it means to “like studying” because it was hard work and not all fun and games, but all I can say is that there was certainly a negative correlation between how well I got on with people and how well I did in school in terms of grades I received. It may be the case that people experience this around the country regardless of ethnic or social background; however, at least in my context, this seems to have been a beast spawned by racialist thinking. It’s been my experience that passive aggression is the worst type of bullying. Being excluded, given a label, and ignored are the most demoralizing things and serve to diminish students’ self-esteem. How does one deal with passive aggression, particularly when the factors that led to its creation exist and/or are inherent at a local or societal level.

Even if there is ostracism inherent in schools and this can lead to the bullying and isolation of individuals who do not conform to the status, then why would ethnic minorities, choose to eschew education (as is often suggested by the media) given the obvious economic and social incentives currently associated with academic success? Recent research answers this question by more accurately suggesting that environmental factors and personal relationships demarcate the role of education in the lives of minorities. An immediate conclusion from the aforementioned is that minorities’ resistance or acceptance of educational opportunities cannot be readily and solely predicted by historical inequalities or injustice.

Lee (1994) provides evidence for how relationships between parents, authorities, and peers encourage or discourage minority students. In particular, the researcher notes that Korean students feel indebted to their parents’ sacrifices for their education (p. 418). Korean students’ parents in turn support their accommodation of white culture; furthermore the dominant culture (e.g. teachers and others in power) promote, encourage, and expect these Asian students to excel in academia (pp.416-417). It is apparent that the expectations from the local community and parents are congenial, which is associated with academic success according researchers (Hones and Cha, 1999, p. 154). Thus, we see that when both the community and parents expect and encourage minority students to succeed, children are more likely to make progress. Contrastingly, it has been found that other Asian groups are worse off academically when they perceive themselves as victims of discrimination (pp. 424-425).

Hones and Cha (1999) present us with a gamut of environmental factors affecting minorities’ educational performance. On one hand, if both parents and the local community reject the aspirations of minority students to succeed academically, those who happen to succeed might become alienated from both groups. The result would be that fewer minorities in such situations would succeed (p. 45). On the other hand, groups like the Hmong, when placed in schools where minorities are encouraged to succeed, will more than likely do well given their culture’s insistence on academic and professional development (p. 112). Again, encouragement from the local community appears vital in producing desirable results for the Hmong. In conclusion, the researchers suggest that schools implement cultural therapy programs to mitigate the influence of negative environmental factors. Through cultural therapy students will have the opportunity to learn “social skills suitable for participation in the larger society” (pp. 139-140).

The question quite naturally arises however as to what social skills are suitable for society, especially if our society is potentially the culprit that engenders inequalities and disparities in education that lead to bullying, ostracism, and isolation? After reflecting on the readings this week, I believe the way forward is to connect parents and educators by promoting cross-cultural awareness, but without a systematic analysis of the factors that discourage minority students, such intervention may not have the desired results.

Ultimately, I believe that in order for students to succeed, educators must strive to create learning environments where students feel confident to express themselves, where diversity is seen as a valued asset, and where students are given tools to become agents of change both inside and outside of the classroom. My reasoning for the aforementioned is that I believe that in order for schools to become viable in an increasingly diverse society, every student must be treated as an integral member within an inclusive, educational environment.

I believe that schools should serve as safe havens where our diverse student body can utilize their cultural capital without fear or prejudice. In such a school environment, networks would be formed at school where students would be able present information about their home cultures and language. Knowledge of students’ home cultures can serve as resources for teachers to connect students with the content of their lessons. Such content will be culturally appropriate and meet the needs of the students (Luke, 2009, pp. 301-303). Opportunities for students to share their home cultures through different mediums such as blogs, wikis, and presentations will ultimately serve to reconcile home and school cultures. Knowledge gained from these activities can serve as a platform to connect teachers with parents and correct misconceptions teachers may have about students and their parents and vice versa.

Finally, I believe schools should empower students to overcome “deficit” and “racializing” discourses that have long plagued American society. These discourses have often branded minorities as being culturally and linguistically inferior in addition to being marginalized as the “other.” Schools can empower these students in two profound ways:  The first way is to give students opportunities to provide feedback on their teacher’s performance. Students should be able to openly discuss aspects of their classroom experience that they find difficult or confusing. The second way is to make explicit the kinds of discrimination students are likely to encounter in the real world (Freeman, 1998). The aforementioned involves increasing students’ awareness of the factors that have created their circumstances, which can position them to take on the role of change agents (Freire, 1970). In the aforementioned view, the school becomes a bunker where students can actively and collectively resist the status quo rather than becoming molded and shaped by it (Freeman, 2000, pp. 203, 206-207). In this way, educators will be able to serve as catalysts for change.

 

Bibliography

Freire, Paulo. (1970). The adult literacy process as cultural action for freedom. Harvard Educational Review, 40(2), 205-225.
Freeman, Rebecca D. (1998). Bilingual Education and Social Change. Clevedon, UK: Multilingual Matters.
Freeman, R. (2000). Contextual challenges to dual-language education: A case study of  developing middle school program. Anthropology and Education Quarterly, 31(2), 202-229.
Luke, A. (2009). Race and language as capital in school: A sociological template for language-education reform. In R. Kubota & A. Lin (Eds.). Race, culture and identities in second language education. New York: Routledge.
Hones, Donald F., & Cher Shou Cha (1999). Educating New Americans: Immigrant          Lives and Learning. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.
Lee, Stacey J. (1994). Behind the model-minority stereotype: Voices of high and low-achieving Asian American students. Anthropology and Education Quarterly 25(4), 413-429.

Every child is unique: New waves of inclusive support

Connecting with children is the key to promoting their positive development. Barry White, a teacher from North Carolina, understands the significance of connecting with children early on. He has become an educational celebrity recently for giving his students personalised, elaborate handshakes when they enter the classroom in the morning. This allows him to engage with his students on a deeper, almost spiritual level of connectivity that transcends the boundaries of the classroom and recognizes the children for who they are; unique individuals with their own, unique styles that need to be recognised, respected and celebrated. White echoes this sentiment when he says that he wants each “child to feel special.”

If we truly want to embrace the needs of every child, we have to understand that children are unique and that our approaches to supporting those children differ. Improvement for a teacher may mean that the students are using self-correction strategies in the classroom more whereas for parents it may mean being able to dress oneself independently. For students who have autism, the challenges of language learning and literacy development require differing solutions. These are problems that can be overcome if we understand that children are intelligent in their own special way. We also need to understand what strategies can best support different types of learners.

Howard Gardner, professor at Harvard University, reminds us that children have multiple intelligences, which define how they interact with and understand the world. This understanding of intelligences differs significantly from the traditional view where intelligence was viewed as a singular, all encompassing entity to be assessed on tests of reading, writing and mathematics.

The newer view of intelligence has expanded graciously to include:

  1. Visual-Spatial Intelligence
  2. Linguistic-Verbal Intelligence
  3. Logical-Mathematical Intelligence
  4. Bodily-Kinesthetic Intelligence
  5. Musical Intelligence
  6. Interpersonal Intelligence
  7. Intrapersonal Intelligence
  8. Naturalistic Intelligence

You can read more about each of these intelligences in more detail as well as take a quiz to determine your dominant intelligence orientation here: https://www.verywell.com/gardners-theory-of-multiple-intelligences-2795161

Understanding intelligence in this way can help us to break from traditional patterns of thinking where the worth of a child was solely based on his or her test scores. Some children are naturally gifted at art, others are movers and shakers, and yet others are sociable and can make friends easily. Knowing our children’s learning orientations can empower all stakeholders to begin the process of ensuring that children needs are being supported in a way that does not diminish the self-confidence and well being of the child.

Improving the Quality of Student Support

Knowing our children’s dominant learning orientation requires active communication between administrators, teachers, parents and family members in order to “set the tone” for providing effective support. Munk and Dempsey (2010) suggest that educational organisations answer the following questions in order to begin the process of creating a culture that is responsive to children’s needs:

  1. “How does our school vision acknowledge a commitment to inclusiveness to the success of all learners?
  2. “How do school personnel demonstrate equality and respect in the way they talk to and about learners with diverse abilities and needs?”
  3. “How and when do we solicit input from parents about the quality of the program” (p. 112).

Questions such as these, which could form the basis for stakeholder advisory committee meetings, could help to orient leadership, teaching teams as well as parents in the direction of creating inclusive environments. For example, in order to support our children’s multiple intelligences, it may be necessary to organise groups of parents and teachers who can support children in developing their musical, art, mathematical, or kinesthetic abilities. The purpose being that all children regardless of economic, social, ethnic, religious or ability will be able to have equal access to the curriculum through support from key stakeholders.

Needs analyses, in the form of assessments, can also be beneficial for the students themselves and could be the starting point for discussions around support for children. For example, the following can serve as a type of Response to Intervention (RTI) strategy in which parents and teachers come together to develop proper support mechanisms for children who need special support. This example serves to highlight the move transition from setting the tone for the promotion of inclusive education toward implementation of collaborative and reflective strategies that can potentially create a more inclusive learning environment with pre-entry or in course based tests in order to determine which children need support (Munk & Dempsey, 2010, pp. 16-17).

Learners in Mind: Inclusive Support

 Here is an example:

William Green is a student at a certain setting. Over the years, he has made substantial improvement in his ability to communicate in English. However, often teachers have given feedback that William’s behavior needs to improve. He fidgets a lot and is often off task, playing with toys that he secretly brings to class, looking aimlessly around the classroom, on the floor rummaging through his book bag during class time among other disturbances such as occasional conflicts with Susan, one of his classmates. He has difficulties reading, answering questions, and following commands.

The following observations were made in regard to his performance on a recent observation conducted at the school on using video games in the classroom.

  • Despite indicating an interest in video games, he was the only student who indicated that he did not like the activity where students collaborated in an online activity to solve problems. Particularly, he didn’t like working with others in his group.
  • He regressed in his performance on the pre and post-test of the study which was unexpected and not observed among most of the other students in his group.
  • Four teachers have all suggested that William’s behaviour is inappropriate and unacceptable in the classroom. In addition, William’s parents also recognise that there is a problem and something needs to be done.

Given our understanding of multiple intelligences, it is clear that William has a kinesthetic learning orientation.

It is said that kinesthetic learners:

  • have short attention span
  • like activities to keep them moving and doing
  • prefer to show rather than describe things
  • learn best with hands-on; prefer to try things out themselves.” (http://www.kids-activities-learning-games.com/kinesthetic-learners.html)

Kinesthetic learners prefer being active and especially enjoy being given the opportunity to move around the classroom and interact kinesthetically with the learning material. Intervention will be best if it focuses on the use of tactile learning activities to promote differentiation as well as self-reflection and observation to determine if any progress is being made.

Rather than punishing or berating learners like William, we need to think of ways in which we can help them make the best use of their talents. Perhaps at home, we could have a building area for William to make structures using Legos. At school, we can have him engage in sensory tasks using ice in addition to listening to a story about winter in order to deepen his understanding of the subject. The rationale for providing this type of support is that inclusiveness should be celebrated and cherished; furthermore, it should be the highest priority of all stakeholders to ensure that all have opportunities to succeed through continual reflection upon what it means to be truly inclusive.

Encouraging children to develop narratives by connecting ideas and events in stories

 

Literacy acts in Early Years involve more than merely reciting a text, viewing pictures on the page or learning new vocabulary. Literacy is a dynamic process, which not only involves an individual and a text, but rather a “transpersonal” phenomenon simultaneously involving “social, cultural, and linguistic acts” (Cummins, 2005, p. 98). With this understanding in mind, the purpose of this Week Ahead will be to demonstrate how parents can develop children’s language abilities through exploring text and print resources (e.g. picture books) to develop and scaffold children’s language abilities.

Given the fact that “language and literacy development begins within the home and through family experiences,” many researchers have suggested that parents be trained in using stories to serve as a foundation for “decontextuali[s]ed discussions” which has been correlated positively with gains in language and literacy development in Early Years (Jimenez, 2006, pp. 431, 433; Sehlaoul, 2008, p. 288). The following studies provide insights into how parents can utilise literacy acts to develop their children’s language abilities at home.

The Hu and Commeyras Study

The Hu and Commeyras (2008) study sought to investigate how utilizing wordless picture books in conjunction with literacy events, such as storytelling, would enable a young Chinese elementary school student to further develop her spoken, written, and reading abilities in both English (L2) and Chinese (L1). The researchers cite the fact that very few studies have focused on bi-literacy among individuals who use both Chinese and English in their daily lives (pp. 1-2, 5). The child in this study had only been in the United States for a month and had recently started attending English classes at an Early Years setting (p.5). Chaochao was required to meet with the researcher, three times a week for ten weeks to discuss ten different wordless children’s picture books about animals, school, and the seasons (pp. 5-6).

When the researcher and Chaochao met on Mondays, they engaged in pre-reading activities where the researcher assessed Chaochao’s knowledge concerning the pictures in the book by asking her to name the pictures. In addition, the researcher familiarised the little girl with the content of the story and presented word labels based on the textbook pictures. After this, she was allowed to tell a story about the pictures in the book in both English and Chinese. In addition to recording these sessions, the researcher transcribed her stories and “corrected the grammar of Chaochao’s sentences and wrote the correct sentences on cards” which were to be utilized during the second meeting. On Wednesdays, Chaochao engaged in what the researcher referred to as “reading activities” and was thus allowed to tell her story again, read flashcards containing English and Chinese vocabulary that she used in her stories on Mondays, in addition to reading “the biliterate text that [the researcher] had made.” On Fridays, she participated in post-reading activities. She was allowed to retell her story again while the researcher expanded on sentences and words that Chaochao used during the previous sessions. These expanded activities consisted of the following:

  1. Picture searches (the researcher read a word from the vocabulary cards from Chaochao’s earlier utterances while Chaochao searched.)
  2. Recitation and Word-Picture matching.
  3. Creating sentences using words from the vocabulary cards.
  4. Creating sentences based on pictures within the book.
  5. Pairing words in Chaochao’s sentences with words from the vocabulary cards
  6. “Invented spelling of Chaochao’s words and her own sentences in English” (pp. 6-9).

The researchers in this study concluded that, as a result of the storytelling sessions, Chaochao “began to use more vocabulary and make longer sentences in both English and Chinese storytelling” (p. 13) Interestingly, she made the greatest improvement in terms of sentence length and word use in her native Mandarin. Furthermore, the researchers found that Chaochao’s sentences became more and more complex throughout her meetings with the researcher, and she also made fewer errors in English, especially in regard to tense. Finally, she was able to steadily make gains in her ability to read words that she produced when she met with the researcher. As a result, Chaochao improved her Chinese as well as English language abilities (pp.13-19).

The Jimenez Study

Jimenez (2006) set out to determine the effectiveness of training Spanish parents in developing reading techniques and strategies to promote the development of their children’s competencies in the home language. The researchers sought to examine if the aforementioned training would enable children to increase the “quantity and variety of [their] language during storybook reading interactions in the home language” (pp. 435-436). The participants consisted of 16 primary school children, who were selected from southern California (p. 436).

The researchers began the intervention and training of the parents by assigning one of two research teams to visit each family every other week. When researchers met with the participants’ parents, they informed them about the study and assessed the parents’ literary practices in the home. In addition, the researchers had the parents read a book, which they had previously read, to their children. During subsequent visits, the researchers taught the parents “six shared reading strategies over three separate sessions” which were presented in the following order:

  1. Connecting with the text. (e.g. Are you similar to the main character or different?)
  2. “[P]raising and encouraging child’s responses.”
  3. Asking more elaborated and well-developed questions. (e.g. What do you think of the main character?)
  4. Scaffolding the child’s responses by adding new ideas and more details. (I wonder if Jack grows beans on the farm.)
  5. Speculating about future events in the story (What will happen next?).
  6. “[I]ntroducing new vocabulary” (e.g. He is very happy and excited) (p. 437).

The researchers found that, in line with previous research, children’s production of the target language increased as parents implemented the various learning strategies. In addition, the researchers found that parents were more likely to give their children time to speak during reading sessions as their competencies in the techniques and strategies increased. The most frequently used strategies by the parents were number (1) and number (3) listed above. The researchers conjecture that these two strategies were the most frequently used because they “were also the most rewarding” in terms of assisting children by further scaffolding the development of their linguistic skills (pp. 437-444).

In conclusion, parents can benefit from having children talk about the stories that are read at home while extending their children’s ideas and understanding about key concepts that appear in stories. The secret to success in developing children’s language as they talk about their favourite stories lies in the following types of intervention:

  1. Allow children to be autonomous and decide which books would be read and what would be discussed in those books.
  2. Make “declarative statements” and allow children the chance to respond to those statements.
  3. Ask various types of questions (‘open ended’ and ‘closed’) and give children time to respond to those questions.
  4. Scaffold a child’s response to the text or question by using more “advanced language” or demonstrating more “complex” versions of the child’s utterances (Lim & Cole, 2002).

References

Bell, J. (1995). The relationship between L1 and L2: Some complicated factors. TESOL                            Quarterly, 29(4), 687-704.

Courcy, M. (2006). Multilingualism, literacy and the acquisition of English as an additional                      language among Iraqi refugees in regional Victoria. Proceedings of the University of                     Sydney TESOL Research Network Colloquium. 2, 1-31.

Cummins, J. (1979). Linguistic interdependence and the educational development of bilingual                    children. Review of Educational Research. 49, 221-251.

Cummins, J. (2005). Teaching for cross-language transfer in dual language education:                                  Possibilities and pitfalls. Presented at the TESOL Symposium on Dual Language                                   Education: Teaching and Learning Two Languages in the EFL Setting. Bogazici                            University, Istanbul, Turkey.

Hansen, L. (2001). Language attrition: The fate of the start. Annual Review of Applied        Linguistics, 21, 60-73.

Jimenez, T. (2006). Shared reading within Latino families: an analysis of reading interactions                     and language use. Bilingual Research Journal, 30(2), 431-452.

Kopke, B. (2004). Neurolinguistic aspects of attrition. Journal of Neurolinguistics, 17, 3-30.

Lim, Y. & Cole, K. (2002). Facilitating first language development in young korean children                      through parent training in picture book interactions. Bilingual Research Journal, 26(2),                    213-227.

Martinez-Roldan, M. & Malave, G. (2004). Language ideologies mediating literacy and identity                in bilingual contexts. Journal of Childhood Literacy, 4, 155-180.

Paez, M. & Rinaldi C. (2006). Predicting English word reading skills for Spanish-speaking                        students in first grade. Topics in Language Disorders. 26(4). 338-350.

Potier, B. (2003, November 13). Research on ESL children has surprising results. Harvard           University Gazette. Retrieved from http://www.news.harvard.edu/gazette/2003/11.13/03-                      lesaux.html

Ran H. & Commeyras M. (2008). A case study: Emergent biliteracy in English and Chinese of a   5-year old Chinese child with wordless picture books. Taylor and Francis Group. 29, 1-      30.

Reyes, M. (2001). Unleashing possibilities: Biliteracy in the primary grades. New York:   Teachers College Press.

Robert, S. (2008, August 13). In a generation, minorities may be the U.S. majority. The New         York Times. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2008/08/14/washington/14census.           html

Sehlaoul, A. (2008). Language learning, heritage, and literacy in the USA: The case of Arabic.                    Language, Culture, and Curriculum. 21(3), 280-291.

Spolsky, B. (2000). Anniversary article language motivation revisited. Applied Linguistics, 21       (2), 157-169.

Verhoeven, L. (1994). Transfer in bilingual development: the linguistic interdependence

hypothesis revisited. Language learning, 44(3), 381-415.

Wakabayashi, T. (2002). Bilingualism as a future investment: The case of Japanese high school     students at an international school in Japan. Bilingual Research Journal, 26(3), 631-658.

How can We Beat Racism in the 21st Century?

In our 21st century context, racism, particularly the kind that is prevalent in the West, manifests itself in the form of institutional or systematic acts that serve, intentionally or unintentionally, to maintain hierarchical systems of oppression. Those affected by racism suffer physiologically, psychologically and economically from issues such as higher blood pressure, increased risk of depression, as well as reduced opportunities for social mobility.

To be clear, when we are talking about racism, we are not only talking about people using derogatory language toward each other and we are not talking about overt acts of racial aggression such as lynchings or mob violence. These very overt forms of racism, while they occur, are exceedingly rare in our normal day to day interactions. And while acts of brutality may occur, it has become easier to prosecute this form of racism within the legal system.

In the 21st century, our issue with racism, to my mind, lies in a sort of covert exclusion in which the oppressed have fewer opportunities for advancement or empowerment and the exclusion serves to remind the perpetrators of their privilege and the oppressed of their lack thereof. It results from discrimination based on group affiliation and since this form of discrimination is based on color, it makes it difficult to identify the perpetrators intentions  or that the perpetrator is aware of his or her own intention. If I refuse to sit next to someone because I am afraid of my perceptions of that person’s race or deny a minority the opportunity to contribute in a meeting, are these to be considered acts of racism? After all, decisions have to be made and this quite naturally means that some will be excluded and others avoided for the sake of taking action.

Racism ultimately  emerges when such acts occur systematically. Victims feel discriminated against because such acts have happened time and time again in ways that have affected their physiological, psychological or economic well being. For example, I’ve known Ivy league graduates of color who were greatly skilled in their area of expertise who were rejected from jobs or, in several cases, where the interviewers created extra steps in the interview process after it was clear that the candidates were clearly qualified. The interviewers purpose was to prevent these candidates from gaining employment. Stories from the oppressed are abound with examples of systematic mistreatment even as the perpetrators were not aware that they were perpetuating these systems of destruction.

Covert exclusion, in our modern age,  manifests itself in daily interactions in the form of racial microaggressions. Dr. Sue describes microaggressions as “the brief and everyday slights, insults, indignities and denigrating messages sent to people of color by well-intentioned people who are unaware of the hidden messages being communicated.” (click here to learn more). Victims may report being racially profiled, or being avoided because of one’s race or being given fewer opportunities to contribute or take part in discussions or feeling that one’s contribution is worth contributing.  Aggressions may result from being suspected of stealing, criminal activity or accused or wrongdoing. Racial microaggressions have replaced the lynching mobs of the 20th century as the tools to maintain a status quo that define those who have privilege and those who do not.

So how do we stop these things from happening in the 21st century? We want to hear your suggestions. Please comment below in the comment section and let us know what you think can be done to beat racism in the 21st century.

My E-Flipbook

This post is a culmination of the extent of my online presence. I have integrated my E-Flipbook as well as key videos and links into this post as a way of organizing my ideas. I hope the extent of my experiences within the field of education and use of technology effectively  underscores the necessity of technology within the field. In reflection, I understand how technology can be utilized to level the playing field, extend our students’ learning and connect cultures on an international scale.

The following videos and links can also be found in my Flipbook above.

My Reflection: Why Technology Matters

Using Technology in the Classroom: Poetry in the ESL Classroom

Shanghai Shopper
An e-Commerce website that I created:

Important Links related to my E-Flipbook!

  1. E-Flipbook (if you would like to view it full screen) (click here)
  2. Teaching Philosophy (click here)
  3. My Resume (click here)
  4. My first iOS app: Year of the Monkey (click here)
  5. A collaboration website that I created (click here)
  6. Dissertation research summary – Padlet (click here)
  7. Learning Theories in the Classroom (click here)
  8. Technology Word Cloud (click here)
  9. Innovative Teaching and Learning Infographic (click here)
  10. My first educational blog (click here)
  11. Shanghai Shopper – An E-Commerce Website (click here)

 

Learning through Fun and Play during the Summer Holiday

With the summer holiday just starting, a common question that we hear most frequently from parents is what can they do to ensure that children make the best of their break time and maintain or exceed their current level of progress in preparation for the next academic year. First of foremost, we’d like emphasize that play and freedom to explore are essential in enhancing children’s social, emotional and educational progress. This is true at school and it will be equally true during the summer holiday when children are at home or on vacation with you.

Nonetheless, the question of how to go about promoting learning during the holiday is well warranted and certainly one that we have given considerable thought to. The overwhelming majority of teachers wholeheartedly recommend activities which promote group interaction as well as allow for individual self-reflection during the summer holiday.

Here is a list of activities that can help your child learn effectively during the summer holiday.

1.      Indoor Activities

There are a variety of indoor activities that children can engage in this summer to help them prepare for the upcoming term. Indoors is a great place to be during the summer, particularly when it’s extremely hot or humid outside. We’ll focus on board games at length in this section as parents may not have considered using board games before and, as we will show below, board games can be used to review and reinforce previously learned concepts.

Board games for toddlers are excellent because they teach children how to follow rules to games, how to engage in turn taking as well as how to compete in a positive way at an appropriate pace and level. More importantly, there are a few board games that have been designed specifically for children in Early Years. It should be noted that most board games have small pieces and adult supervision is usually required when children play them. Here are a few board games that we recommend:

Think fun Roll and Play Board Game

In this game, children and parents get to share a huge, soft die which they roll. When the die lands on a certain color, whoever threw the die must do the actions on the card. Each color card corresponds to a different learning theme. For example, red cards are action cards (e.g. do a dance). Yellow cards are emotion cards (e.g. make a sleepy face). Purple cards are about body parts (e.g. rub your tummy). Green cards are about animal sounds (e.g. roar like a tiger). The orange cards are for counting (e.g. clap your hands ten times) and the blue cards are about colors (e.g. Find something red!). This game can be played individually or in groups between adults and children or even among a group of children. This board game should be on everyone’s list as one can review many of the concepts learned at school as well as develop children’s abilities to apply what they’ve learned.

Hungry Hippos

Hungry Hippos is a game where children and adults can practise feeding marbles to hippos. This game is suitable for 2-4 year olds. The game starts when a person touches the hippo with a hand or finger. As each person playing can have a hippo, the play in the game is parallel in nature thus the game is good for teaching children the concept of competition at a very basic level. Parents can also use the game for practising concepts such as “hungry” and “full,” colours, as well as reviewing parts of the body.

Melissa & Doug Magnetic Hide and Seek Activity Board – Farm

This game contains a magnetic puzzle board with hinged doors that open and close. Children open the doors to find removable magnets which can be placed in other doors. This is an excellent board game improve children’s memory as well as fine motor skills as parents change the location of objects in the barn and then ask children to find them. This board game is made of wood meaning that it is very sturdily made and should last for a long time.

Bug Trails

Bug Trails is a lot like dominoes but much more interesting. Of all the games here, it is probably more suitable for EY3 children or above. In this game, you try to match the colours of the legs of the bugs to pieces that are on the board. There are multiple ways to play the game but the objective is to be the first to use up all the bugs. Children must learn to think strategically as they connect the bugs together.

Other awesome summer indoor activities include:

watering and planting plants together.

  1. making ice lollies together.
  2. having a balloon party.
  3. completing DIY activities such as making playdoh.
  4. reviewing previously learned concepts.
  5. drawing or practising phonics.
  6. listening to mp3s of your child’s favourite songs and dancing to the beat.
  7. making an English corner for practising one’s speaking.
  8. reading your child’s favourite stories and having him or her retell the story.
  9. using scissors to practise cutting out shapes.
  10. using Legos to build structures.
  11. going to a museum and learning about animals, dinosaurs or art.
  12. setting up an indoor tent.
  13. tidying up indoors.

Outdoor activities

Being outdoors for moderate periods of time during the summer holiday (provided children have ample amounts of sunscreen and have applied some insect repellent) is a crucial part in developing and extending your child’s natural abilities. For one, being able to view wide, open spaces is good for children’s vision and the development of their depth perception. In addition, the freedom of movement in these spaces can help improve children’s sensory motor skills as well as enhance their hand and eye coordination.

We recommend taking trips the countryside where the air quality tends to be salubrious, nature more prevalent and spaces tend to be unimpeded thus allowing children in Early Years to explore. Trips to the beach can also promote water play and children can learn about sea animals and shells and build sand castles as well as play with other children. If you can’t get out of the city, a trip to the park can be just as helpful for breaking with routine and adding some excitement to your child’s summer holiday. Without further ado, here is our list of summer outdoor activities:

  1. Make ice cream.
  2. Make and play with hula hoops.
  3. Make art on the lawn using an old sheet.
  4. Ride bicycles around the park as a family.
  5. Try a scavenger hunt.
  6. Use chalk to draw on the ground outside.
  7. Play with torches after dark.
  8. Look for different types of bugs in the neighbourhood.
  9. Keep a garden and water the plants.
  10. Learn how to throw a Frisbee.
  11. Play with water balloons.
  12. Play sports: football or basketball for example.
  13. Make a DIY sprinkler using a plastic bottle.
  14. Use a large sheet to make a parachute.

The summer holiday presents a wonderful opportunity for families to spend time together. Through engaging in well-planned indoor and outdoor activities, children learn to collaborate. They also learn how to become integral members within the family. Furthermore, they develop confidence through having hands on experience. These are essential skills that will be particularly useful when our children return to school.

How to develop bilingualism at home

This week, we’ll explore some tips on how you can help your child get on the right path towards developing proficiency in his or her native language as well as English. A key concern for many parents is how they can help at home to enable their children to be successful in their second language. These are some common tips to keep in mind:

Make it a team effort

For your child to develop both languages effectively, everyone in the family needs to play their part. It could be that father reviews vocabulary words in the second language on Monday or that mother plays songs in the second language on Tuesday. Or perhaps the family has English speaking day in the kitchen and dining areas on Wednesday. No matter what strategy you pursue, it is important to clearly communicate your plans with all members of the family and make sure that everyone is involved. Remember, the process of bilingual language development starts at home. The more that all family members are an integral part of the language learning process the more likely your child will succeed in the long run.

                   Play games and sing songs in another language

For children, playing games and singing songs is critical to language learning success. Games include activities that involve actions such as guessing, matching, sorting, colouring and labeling. Such activities provide children with opportunities to actively use the second language while having fun. The “fun” part is really important because this will increase the likelihood that your child retains all of the rich learning experiences that takes place when they are actively involved in learning.

Songs are also equally important. There are hundreds of children’s songs to choose from and these songs should be based on your child’s interest and what they are learning at school. Try to pair dancing with music or check out Youku or Tudou for videos of dances that correspond to the song that you are trying to teach. Pairing dance with singing is exciting, reinforces key concepts through pairing sounds with action while simultaneously developing your child’s language, self-confidence as well as physical development skills.

Read children’s books in another language

Many parents who enroll their children at bilingual or international settings have a variety of bilingual books at home for their children to read. It is important to note however that it is simply not enough to read books to children. Children need to actively participate in the process. As you read books to your child, ask them about the characters, setting, and plot of the story. Teach your child new words that appear in print or from the pictures on the page and, when possible, let them retell the story to you.

Comprehension is a very important factor in the reading process. As you ask questions to your child, you will know if the level of the reading is too easy or difficult. With that in mind, make sure that your child has access to books which are level appropriate (i.e. they should know most of the words and concepts in the book and the topic should be suitable for their age). If you are unsure about the level of a book, it is often quite easy to find out if it is appropriate for your child. On the back of most recently published books is a Lexile number which corresponds with a recommended age and grade level. You can out more about Lexile numbers here: https://www.lexile.com/about-lexile/grade-equivalent/grade-equivalent-chart/

Let your child watch educational TV programs and movies in another language

We encourage parents to let their children watch television programs in the second language. Television programs such as Dora the Explorer or Super Y are great because these programs also teach concepts related to science, geography and basic vocabulary words found in daily conversation. Action cartoons with violence, fighting and videos with little dialogue are not recommended for developing bilingualism.

Get a nanny or babysitter who speaks another language

Developing bilingualism is all about exposure to the target language. Remember that the more opportunities that your child has to practise, the more likely he or she will be successful. Having a nanny or babysitter who speaks the target language will undoubtedly enhance your child’s receptive and productive skills.

Set up play dates or put your child in playgroups with children who speak another language.

Organise weekend play dates with children from your child’s class where the activities focus on using the second language to communicate. These playdates will be fun and your child will have confidence to communicate with children who they are familiar with.

There are multiple opportunities to practise using English in Shanghai as well. The website Time Out Shanghai has a section for families which contains suggestions for family weekend events such as museum trips, arts and crafts as well as visits to the park

(http://www.timeoutshanghai.com/family/Things-to-do-in-Shanghai.html). I have taken my own children to a couple of events. We learned how to build robots with iPads at one event and the organiser spoke English the entire time.

Encourage your child to actively use another language

It is not enough to simply memorise vocabulary words and phrases. Your child will need to start actively using what they’ve learned in order to truly become bilingual. Make communication in the second language a regular part of your daily or weekly routine. Make sure to read the Week Ahead to determine what your child is learning at the setting and then make an effort to begin using the words, phrases, and discussing key concepts and topics at home. Set aside time every week for communicating in the target language. It may help to make a certain area of the house a place for communicating in the second language. For example, the dining room could serve as your child’s English corner.

Be persistent

Learning a second language takes time and it requires consistent effort and diligent practise. Keep in mind that, in order to succeed, team work, play dates, language rich environments and set routines are key components to helping children bilingual. Language learning is a lifelong process that requires grit, keen determination and an open mindset. Following the steps above however should put your child on the path to becoming successful in their second language and on the road towards becoming bilingual.

 

Note: Subheadings were adapted from:

eHow: How to raise a bilingual child

Educator, startup and social entrepreneur who aims to use technology to connect teachers and students. My ultimate goal is to prepare our students for the challenges of the 21st century.