I am Bilingual. What is Your Superpower?

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Photo Credit: Raising Bilingual or Multilingual Kids Blog

Every year, at the beginning of the school year I do a community building activity where we all think of what we are good at and then decide what our superpower is and share it with the class and display it in the hall. I must say that usually more than half of the class says that their superpower is that they can speak two languages. I think that making kids value this is huge! They think that learning a foreign language is cool! A century ago, that wouldn’t have been the case but right now our students are living in a globally connected world that is eager to know more about one another.

Here is a picture of one of my students last year. I printed it for her and then she had to write a paragraph sharing what she thought she was good at and why. Sorry, I sent the writing home with the students but if you are interested in doing this activity you could just use a blank piece of paper for students to write or create a sentence frame using Microsoft Word.

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I am a superhero because _____________________________

Soy un superhéroe porque _____________________________

 

 

I don’t Need to Share With Other Kids!

I saw this blog post on my social media this morning and I clicked on it
thinking that it was going to be about all I stand against. I mean… I thought it was going to provide me with true reasons why parents complain about their back to school supply lists. I really thought it was going to help me understand why some parents think that sharing is not caring. I have heard comments in the past like the ones Monica shares in her post. Why would anyone buy an extra box of tissues?…”ESPECIALLY when those might not get used by my kids?”.

http://community.today.com/parentingteam/post/why-i-wont-buy-one-extra-box-of-tissues-for-my-kids-school-supplies-signed-a-frustrated-parent_1477939498?cid=sm_fbn_pt

I still remember last year when a parent who could be classified as not one of the neediest in our school, decided to take EVERYTHING home when I reminded her that in our class we share all supplies. She said… well if my son is not the only one using these special things I am taking them home! I tried to explain to her that many our her son’s peers were not able to bring anything to share and that we would love to keep some of the supplies she brought and she continued to say, I guess you are buying it all then! I wasn’t mad but I was disappointed in her behavior. We, teachers, try to so hard to make kids understand that each one of them matters and that we don’t discriminate. And here she was, a grown up modeling for her son, to not share with those who couldn’t provide for themselves. I was in shock for a couple of days.

Don’t think that this supply list had more than 10 things listed on it. At our district teachers don’t come up with the school supply lists anymore because parents have complained about them. I understand that when you have several kids it can get expensive. However, why are you buying the fanciest binders, folders, pencils….? They don’t need to be stylish (even if your child asks you too), they only need to serve one purpose, assist in his or her learning!

I teach at a very poor Title One School where we are lucky if kids bring school supplies the first days of school. How could I let the few kids that do bring some special folder to keep it in the classroom? I don’t want the rest to feel like they don’t have a special folder so on our school supply lists we make sure to note to parents that we SHARE it all!! If they are able to bring any, we very much appreciate it but if they cannot it is okay.

I mean our main goal is to make education available for everyone and not a hurdle. That is why sometimes our community partners have helped us in the past and have donated school supply items. Sadly in the last 3 years, we have seen a reduction in Title One school funds which we used to use to purchase some of these items, and guess who ends up buying it all now? You guessed it! The teachers do!

Every year I complain about the amount of many I spend out of my paycheck and we are talking thousands of dollars because if I have 46 students who are not able to bring anything from the basic supply list that the district send out, I end up buying it all! And that total quickly adds up! When January comes along, what do you think we do then? Buy some more! And this total doesn’t even cover the money spent on special activity materials or even markers, Clorox and kleenex (which or district believes is too expensive to ask for).

So I thank parents like Monica who understand why we ask for such materials and don’t mind providing for those who can’t afford to. From teachers like me, THANK YOU!

 

 

Which Language Would you Choose?

After deciding what language you think you should learn next it is time to share your choice with the rest of us to make yourself feel a little more accountable. Don’t forget to specify why you selected that language on the second question. The poll will be open until August 13, 2017.


Although the brain is not a muscle it acts as one because you can exercise it until it improves. According to this video by Mia Nacamulli posted in Best British Centre‘s website, there is enough research that shows that those who are bilingual or multilingual have higher gray matter and more brain activity than those who are not. It is crazy for me to believe that before the 1960’s many countries believed that being multilingual was considered an impediment! However, we have enough evidence now to understand all of the benefits of learning a new language brings.

Did you know that the majority of humans are at least bilingual? However, not all have all four components of a language mastered (speaking, writing, listening and reading) but anyone with time can become proficient in all four.

Mia suggests that there are three types of bilingualism. I must say that I agree with this almost 100%. I would classify as a Compound Bilingual because I learned Spanish and Basque simultaneously since I was a little girl. I learned about the world around me as I was learning both languages at the same time. However, I would classify as a Subordinate Bilingual because when I came back to the US. I was learning English by translating it to either Spanish or Basque. Those were my primary languages and I simply learned what the equivalent words, sayings, phrases were to match what I already had in mind.

There is a third category in between being  Compound Bilingual and a Subordinate Bilingual and I must admit that most students with Hispanic descendant at my school fall under this category called the Coordinate  Bilingual. Even if we start in Kindergarten teaching how to read, write, speak and comprehend Spanish and English, these are the students who continue to speak their native language at home while learning English at school.

Although the dual language program strives to have students fall under the Compound category (learning both simultaneously) since school in the US starts so late (compared to other countries), students already know how to conversate in their own language by the time they come to Kindergarten. Nevertheless, thanks to dual language programs, these same students are able to become proficient in two components of language proficiency, writing, and reading, that they didn’t have before starting at a bilingual school.

What are your thoughts? Should bilingual schools like mine try to ensure that students can receive preschool in the target language so that they learn about the world around them simultaneously or will they always be under the coordinate category because they will continue to speak Spanish at home and with friends while learning English at school?

What type of bilingual are you?

The Benefits of Being Bilingual

Regardless if you learned a new language as a child or as an adult there are benefits that come from learning another language.

Did you know that most people in the world are at least bilingual? Being monolingual is actually the minority. Being bilingual makes life easier when watching a foreign movie, traveling abroad, understanding other people’s cultures better and many other benefits for the brain. Here is a visual of the benefits of bilingualism.

 

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Source: Laura.net Retrieved from http://bit.ly/lbXgH5z

 

After finding this visual I realize how lucky my students are because their parents made a choice to enroll them in the dual language program at my school. Many parents made this decision solely so that their children could communicate with their elders but for most of them, it was because of the benefits they believed they will encounter later in their adult life.

I must admit that it made me happy to see that by learning new languages I have a lesser chance of getting dementia (which my grandma is currently suffering from). I can also tell you that I can focus on tasks for a long period of time and I see that my students can too, compared to the students enrolled in the English only program.  I also see that my students don’t have such a hard time transitioning to new tasks and have a great memory! Sometimes even better than me and I am known for remembering things everyone said that people forget they even said them.

Finally, my students seem to catch on to grammar rules a lot faster and make connections between languages. This helps them improve grammatically even in their native language because they are aware of how the mechanics of the foreign language they are learning go and are forced to pay attention to things they didn’t necessarily care about learning before. In my adult Basque class, I teach, I have seen this consequence clearly. I mean… they didn’t even know what an adjective was in their first year. I was shocked! Their response was: We only know how to speak English, don’t ask why it works or what something is. Now they even know the names of the tenses in both languages simply because they had to use their native language to make connections that they would retain.

So I guess I have to thank my mom for working hard at making me trilingual (she actually tried to make me quadrilingual) and also encourage more parents to take on this opportunity that you may be able to offer your children (possibly free of cost like at my school).

Do Generational Differences Make an Impact in How Teachers Should Teach?

The readings for my blogging class this week were very thought provoking and I think you will find them thought provoking as well. After reading Prensky‘s article, I was convinced that it made perfect sense and that to an extent I could see the generational difference in my everyday life. My boyfriend of 7 years (there is also a seven year age difference) and I have repeatedly talked about how our different upbringings and ways of doing things have made us converse differently, seek different things and learn differently. In fact, when I had just read this article, before reading the other two (that disprove it) I showed him how it was describing us almost perfectly, We both agreed that it made total sense and described us to a T. We process information very differently. He needs a lot more thinking time, and I seem to get frustrated when people are too slow to catch on. Just like in the article by Presky, I, who you could call a Millennial get impatient when things are not moving fast, I am definitely used to obtaining information quickly and the only thing I do while I am not multitasking is sleep! He, on the other hand, is a Gen X-er. He can only focus on one thing at a time, hates when things go too fast and he can’t keep up, needs a lot of time to process new information and he likes doing on his own. Before continuing with my reading I was sure that I was a digital native and Josh was a digital immigrant.

However, when I read the other two articles (by McKenzie and Reeves) I quickly realized that I may have jumped on the idea of identifying myself as a digital native too quickly because these two articles clearly concluded that Prensky’s claims are not supported by good references and he forgot to address how his claims relate to any learning theory. “Without better research, the debate will continue about the impact of the Information Age on the learning needs, preferences, and potentialities of the Net Generation” (Reeves, 2008).

It is clear that this topic needs to be further researched. However, in the meantime, I believe that if a new idea is proposed there is some small fact or truth that triggered it in the first place for someone to take the time to write about it. Although I know now that Prensky’s article may not have a solid research behind it, I have to play with and investigate some of the ideas that the article pushed me to think deeper on because there may be a shift in the future or simply because a colleague may want to push Prensky’s ideas on me.

Here are some of the things I stuck with me from all three readings:
-The idea of needing to communicate with my students in the language and style that they understand without changing the content
– Provide choice on how they prefer to work, perhaps they would like to listen to music while they work, create a product for a project using a device of their choice,…
– Allow them to multitask and see if they are capable of doing so if not, don’t encourage it
– Can’t assume that everyone learns the same way even if they are from the same generation
– Don’t take what one source says as the only truth but instead compare it to what other sources say and then decide what your beliefs are

If I have a colleague that believes that Prensky’s ideas are the only ones that make sense because the students are surrounded by so much technology and they don’t know any other way, I would suggest him/her reading the counter research and asking questions to challenge their thinking like:
– Do you think that students learn more when enrolled in a distance course? – Provide me with some research to back up your statement.
– Do you think that the way we are teaching our students is not helping them get a job in the workforce? – Provide additional research.
– Where do the traditional learning theories fit in all of this?
– Can we generalize that all of our current students are surrounded by the impact of technology? What about poverty? What about students in different countries?

These are just questions that you should ask yourself. I encourage you to go and research more about this topic and find that extra research to back up your beliefs in case any parent, administrator or colleague were to ask you why you do what you do.

Reeves, T.C. (2008, January 22-25). Do generational differences matter in instructional design? Online discussion presentation to Instructional Technology Forum from. Retrieved from http://paeaonline.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/07/10c-Gen-Diff-Matter.pdf