Bonjour les amis! Last fall I told you about a conference I attended for teachers of foreign languages, the ACTFL conference in San Antonio, Texas, and of course it was full of information about supporting language learning. One of the sessions I attended focused on "Playing to Promote a Second Language in Toddlers and Preschoolers," presented by Raul Echevarria of CommuniKids. If you've ever thought about starting a simple class or playgroup to support language learning, you'll want to read Raul's tips:
- Keep classes small, ideally capping them at eight children per teacher. If the child is under age three, have the parent(s) stay.
- Plan three consistent activities that happen every class, plus two new activities each time.
- For more meaningful learning that promotes conversation, go beyond basics like colors, numbers, & shapes--integrate these basics into more engaging activities, such as ordering food at a pretend restaurant.
- Consider a theme for each class, such as trains and transportation, safari, body parts, my neighborhood, home and family, party time!, etc.
- Each activity should have manipulatives for children to touch and feel (such as using gingerbread men to teach body parts). Consider using puppets to communicate.
- Limit non-movement activities to 3-5 minutes to match young children's attention spans.
- If children have trouble keeping their hands off each other, consider having them sit in hula hoops on the floor to designate personal space.
- Parental support is crucial--provide parents with an overview of your program and description of your activities. Teach parents the same songs & games so they can play & reinforce the learning with their children. Consider sharing YouTube or MP3 links for music, for example.
Our local library has a Spanish story time, but not a French one. I'm not sure if there would be enough interest to support a French story time and/or playgroup, but when I read Raul's tips that I've summarized above, I'm tempted to consider starting one--but then I realize this shouldn't be my current priority with a newborn at home and homeschooling to do. C'est dommage! (Too bad!)
Have you ever been part of a language-based playgroup? What made it successful (or not)?