123 Andrés on language learning at home and school

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by guest blogger, 123 Andrés (Andrés Salguero, D.M.A., and Christina Sanabria, M.Ed.)

Summer is cooling off and educators and parents are starting to plan a new year of learning! If learning a second language is one of the goals, here are some tips on language learning that we hope you can use at home or in the classroom.

Tip #1:   Start by supporting students’ awareness of other languages.

Babies as young as six months can identify when adults are speaking different languages, boy and globebut by openly discussing the existence of other languages with children, you can spark their curiosity about other languages even further. Look at a globe or a map together, identify different countries, and then talk about the languages that are spoken there.  (Don’t forget to mention minority languages!)

If possible, introduce students to people in your community who speak other languages, and (respectfully) ask those people to teach you and your students a few words or phrases in the languages they speak. Guide children away from comments such as describing others who “talk funny” by explaining that those people are actually speaking a different language, and that we can all learn from them.

Tip #2:  Model your bilingualism.

If you are multilingual, make sure your students or children see you engaging with the other languages. Read a book or magazine, write a letter to a friend, and listen to music—all in the other languages. If you are learning a second language, let children see you studying and practicing what you learn. Children will notice how you value bilingualism, and it will become more important to them.

Tip #3:  Enrich vocabulary with high-interaction activities. 

123 Andrés with elementary students
123 Andrés teaches students at Claremont Immersion School in Arlington, VA. Photo Credit:  Eylul Grungor

Get away from your desk and learn languages by doing! There are many things you can do with children at home and school in your target language—from playing a board game or planting flowers, to collecting stones outside or dancing the Hokey Pokey.

Prepare by introducing content-area vocabulary the children may not know. For example, for a board game you may need to know the words for “dice,” “pawns” or “spaces.” Children will be more likely to remember these words because they engaged with them in a memorable and interactive way.

“We can’t wait to hear the songs you and your students will create!”   —Andrés and Cristina

Tip #4:  Scaffold with sentence frames. 

Empower children to speak in complete sentences, and to make those sentences more complex, with sentence frames. For example, if you are playing a board game with children (from the earlier suggestion), some sentence frames you could introduce are “It is _____ turn” (my / your / Carolina’s), or “___ move ___ spaces.” (I move five spaces. Anh moves six spaces.)

Prompt children to speak in complete sentences as you work together and, when they master these, encourage them to vary and combine them to increase complexity. Even for advanced speakers, sentence frames can help them work with higher-level forms like conditional tenses, the subjunctive, and others.

Tip #5:  Involve the arts.

Photo of Cristina and 123 Andrés singing and playing with children on a stage.
123 Andrés and Cristina – Live at Wolf Trap Children’s Theater in the Woods, June 2016. Photo Credit: Eylul Gungor

Music and dramatic play are wonderful tools to use when learning a second language in creative ways. A young brain processes the rhythm of music and melodies in the same way it analyzes speech: it breaks a stream of sounds down into small sections (syllables) and recognizes patterns.

When the rhythms of words and the rhythms of music are combined, many children learn and memorize more quickly. Plus, it’s fun! You can go from listening to music, to singing along, to singing a capella, and finally to creating your own words to a known melody or writing your own song, with or without accompaniment. We can’t wait to hear the songs you and your students will create!

Bonus Tip #6: Create a community! 

Share tips, ask for advice and support each other with colleagues or a group of parents, in person or virtually. Here’s an idea… start by sharing this post!


About 123 Andrés:

123 Andres is a Latin-Grammy-nominated teaching artist and performs at schools, libraries and festivals across the country and in Latin America, and offers workshops for families and educators about using music to support bilingualism and academic achievement.

Learn more at www.123andres.com.


Editor’s note:  Please help us grow the CABE Corner community by not only sharing this post with others, but also by reminding them to click the FOLLOW button, so that they never miss a post!

Many thanks to 123 Andrés for bringing music and fun to CABE 2016 in San Francisco!