Bilingual is Better

This post was originally published on September 22nd.

My 5 y/o daughter has been doing great in both languages. Both parents are native Spanish speakers so it hasn’t been ‘so’ hard to keep her Spanish active: we only speak Spanish at home.
Last year, in PreK, she had Spanish class once a week and complained of getting bored during that class. Now in Kindergarten, she is dreading going to Spanish class even more. I spoke with the Spanish teacher and expressed my concern, but her response was that 95% of her class is monolingual (English) so she can’t really do much for my daughter. I understand the teacher’s situation, but I don’t want my daughter to associate Spanish with an ‘uncool’ or boring experience. I will talk to the principal but feel I have to offer suggestions for other activities my daughter can do during Spanish class, or strategies to motivate her.
I need your help ¡por favor! Any suggestions?

–Andrea

Hola/Hi Andrea ~

These challenges of getting bored during class occur often with children, and as a classroom teacher I hope my suggestions and real-life experiences will provide you, your daughter’s teacher and your daughter with some fun and practical solutions.  Five is such a fun year, full of exploring and learning and sharing!  The ideas below will take into account various learning styles:

1.   Ask your daughter’s teacher to allow your daughter to be a co-teacher on a particular finger play, song or activity that she is doing each class.  The communication for the co-teaching can take place via e-mail between you and the teacher so that excuses of missed phone calls do not interrupt accomplishing this goal.  Allowing your daughter to become part of the teaching will make her cool to the other kids, boost her self-esteem while speaking her native language, and allow the other children to learn right along with a peer.  Stress that you are asking for only one song or one activity – not for your daughter to co-teach the entire time!

2.    Encourage the use of music during the Spanish teacher’s class without telling her what or how to teach. At this age of 5 (and through the early elementary school years) children love learning with music, and the retention of concepts introduced through music is for the long term.  Perhaps even pull some things off the internet prior to speaking with her that incorporate teaching math with music and both languages or weather with a song in Spanish.  Kindergarten students LOVE learning with music, and your daughter will find herself more engaged with movement as part of a class where before she had been bored.

3.    Offer to volunteer in your daughter’s Spanish class once a month (or if you are unable, your husband or friend who speaks Spanish could volunteer).  The goal here is to incorporate other styles of introducing Spanish as a second language – be it a new visual approach with an engaging bilingual big book, a cool puppet show with two of you introducing Spanish through the characters, or even a finger play that you grew up enjoying with your Spanish-speaking family.  When parents offer to volunteer to help in a class where their child is challenged with a situation it shows the teacher and your child that you have a vested interest in making things terrific.

On a side note, I would suggest not going to the Principal of the school until you have approached the teacher with a willingness to help.  Make certain you express your need for help from her to maintain your daughter’s love of her native language (which could easily be diminished should she continue dreading going to Spanish class).  Again, it’s all about the way in which you approach the teacher.  Try to keep her on the offensive by asking her for help and offering the above suggestions in a non-threatening manner.

Parents and teachers working together can do wonderful things for the future of our children and our world!

Happy Educating!  ¡Sea feliz educando!

Beth Butler.-Bilingual educator of young children and strives to create better communication within our increasingly diverse society. She is the founder of the internationally acclaimed Boca Beth language learning series which has garnered various parenting awards. Ms. Butler lived in Chile and Mexico where she learned Spanish as her second language and has been bilingual and biliterate for more than 30 years. She has spent over 25 years in the field of preschool and elementary education writing and recording four bilingual music CDs in Spanish and English, as well as producing three bilingual educational movies for children. Read Beth Butler´s answers here.

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