Tips for Leading a Young Bilingual Playgroup

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:

  little bear puppet by  hine

little bear puppet by hine

  1. Keep classes small, ideally capping them at eight children per teacher. If the child is under age three, have the parent(s) stay.
  2. Plan three consistent activities that happen every class, plus two new activities each time.
  3. 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.
  4. Consider a theme for each class, such as trains and transportation, safari, body parts, my neighborhood, home and family, party time!, etc.
  5. 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.
  6. Limit non-movement activities to 3-5 minutes to match young children's attention spans.
  7. If children have trouble keeping their hands off each other, consider having them sit in hula hoops on the floor to designate personal space.
  8. 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.
  Ring Around the Rosy by  Aaron Shafoval

Ring Around the Rosy by Aaron Shafoval

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)?