Simple Hacks to Expose Your Bilingual Child To 1.8 Million Words a Year

Reading 20 minutes a day exposes children to 1.8 million words a year!

Reading 20 minutes a day exposes children to 1.8 million words a year!

Did you know that simply reading a book every day is the biggest indicator of a child’s academic success? Not socio-economic level, not the preschool or primary school they attend, not their parent’s level of education; but in fact, the simple act of having Mom or Dad read to them every single day. In fact, reading just 20 minutes a day exposes children to 1.8 million words a year! *

 This exposure to words is extremely important for children learning a language, but it’s doubly so for bilingual children! Which is why I advocate reading to your child in the target language as often as possible.  So really, there is one simple hack, and that is reading! However, I will share some tips (or hacks if you will) for making the most out of your reading time! 

Picture Walks 

Picture walks are exactly what they sound like. Allowing a child to “read” a story to you based on the pictures. This is especially delightful to children when they know a story well and they feel like they can be the story-teller themselves. It will give you great insight into their minds as you see how much they can recall, understand, and expand upon a story. 

Dialogic Reading 

This is a reading process based on the extensive research of Grover J. Whitehurst, Ph.D. It’s an interactive technique where adults prompt children with questions and engage them in discussions while they read a book.  

I like to use a book and read it 4 or 5 times in that many days. It looks something like this: 

Day 1: Introduce and read the book. Remember to talk about the author, illustrator and ask your child what they think the story will be about.  

Day 2: Go through the story and prompt the child to talk about what they see in the pictures. What do you see? What color is it? What is he wearing? These types of concrete questions are great for introducing and reinforcing vocabulary.  

Day 3: Looks a lot like day 2. It’s especially useful if you found that there was a lot of vocabulary your child did not know. You can also use the opportunity to expand upon what the child has said. “What do you see?” - “ I see a boy” - “ Yes, I see a boy wearing bright red boots.” 

Day 4: Use this time to ask more open-ended questions about the story. What is happening? Why do you think? How does the character feel? How would you feel? Have you ever seen something similar? These are all great questions that can get children to expand and build upon their thinking and their knowledge of language.  

Day 5: If needed, it is simply a repetition of day 4 where you and your child can expand upon what you discussed before.  

 

A great way to encourage the use of a minority language is to read the same book in multiple languages

A great way to encourage the use of a minority language is to read the same book in multiple languages

Read books in multiple languages 

A great way to encourage the use of a minority language is to read the same book in multiple languages. Read a story in the child’s strongest language and then re-read the story in the minority language. You can then proceed to compare and contrast the stories with your child.  

 

Illustrate a story 

This activity is great not only for young children, but for older children, teenagers and adults as well! It’s important to constantly use our creativity if we want to continue to grow! Creativity really is like a muscle. The more you practice, the better you will get!  

Children can paint or draw a scene from a story that they just read. They can even make comic strips or illustrate a sequel to what they have read. Simply allowing them to express themselves with their favorite medium by using a story as a prompt.  

One of the best ways to help a child with reading comprehension is to ask open-ended questions throughout and after a story. Asking why, what if, what do you think leads to much more profound conversations.

One of the best ways to help a child with reading comprehension is to ask open-ended questions throughout and after a story. Asking why, what if, what do you think leads to much more profound conversations.

Ask open-ended questions 

It’s one thing to for a child to passively listen to a story, or even for him to read a story out loud, but it’s a completely different thing for them to actually understand what he or she has read. Reading comprehension is a skill that many children, and even adults, struggle with. One of the best ways to work on it is to ask open-ended questions. These are question that go beyond who, what, and how. They seek to have the child build responses that expand their scope of knowledge.  Asking why, what if, what do you think leads to much more profound conversations.  

 

Talk about the parts of a story 

Older children can have conversations about the characters, themes and sequences of a story. These are the issues they would talk about in a literature class and are a great way to get children to engage with language, stories and the meaning of the worlds they dive into through these books.  

Do you have any tips to share with us on reading with multilingual children? We would love to hear from you! Share in the comments.  


About the Author
Keli Garcia Allen is a certified Spanish teacher and currently works as a Preschool teacher in a bilingual classroom. She is the Head of Content for Learn Safari and is currently working on Spanish Safari,  a Spanish Learning game for children 4-10 years old. You can follow her and the rest of the team on FacebookInstagram, and Twitter.

Raising Bilingual Kids: 5 Resolutions for a Great Year

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I absolutely love the holiday season! For me, it all starts in October. The temperatures start to cool down (so it’s slightly less hot here in North Florida!) and the fall fun begins! It’s all fall festivals and corn mazes until Thanksgiving. Then, Christmas officially begins in my household! We start pulling out the decorations, decorate the trees, and begin planning the festivities with our friends and family. Life is just one big celebration until January 1st. Then, January 2nd hits and I find myself feeling a little bit empty! What do we have to look forward to next? 

 

I think this is where New Year’s Resolutions come in! The New Year gives us a sense of a new start, a fresh clean slate, if you will. It’s a way to get back on track and focus on the business of real life, which can be just as exciting! So, this year, I have decided to give our language learning journey a fresh new start! Most of my resolutions have to do with taking our bilingual journey to the next level and below are 5 resolutions I came up with to help me do exactly that: 

 

Read more (in Spanish) 
Reading is crucial for a child’s development. I have said it before, and I think it often needs to be emphasized. Because it definitely is easier said than done! With our busy lives, I have to admit that some days I fail to read to the kids. This was especially true during the holidays. And when read, it’s more often than not in English. So, I want to recommit  to reading in Spanish every day, which may mean reading more than one book. I have to set aside the time and energy every evening for that! (That’s gotta mean less cooking or cleaning, right?)

Play more (in Spanish) 
The business of children is to play! It’s how they learn and it’s crucial for their development. I give my children (and students) a lot of time for free-play. I love that they can spend hours playing indoors or out, using a few toys and a lot of imagination. However, I don’t often take the time to play with them! I want to take the time to play with them for at least 20 minutes every day where I can talk to them in Spanish and encourage them to carry out their play time conversations in Spanish as well. 

Dance more (in Spanish) 
We love music in this house. We like to cook, clean and do our chores while listening to music. More often than not, the music is in Spanish. I think this is a great way for children to absorb not only language, but culture. I want to make sure that we continue to spend time doing this as a family and take more time to simply hang out and dance when we have music on!  

Study more (in Spanish) 
All though the kids need to play a lot, they also need to study a little! The big girls are learning to read and they are also learning math. While I don’t give my students homework (Kindergarten is way too young for homework in my opinion) I do like to work at home with my kids! I think every parent should. That might mean reading a book, going to a museum and then drawing about what they saw, practicing their letters and numbers, etc. This year, I am going to use a popular reading tool to teach the girls how to read in Spanish and I am going to encourage more discussion of events and outings in Spanish.  

Use media more effectively (in Spanish)
I think that videos, games and apps are great tools for our children when used purposefully. My resolution, however, is to be more consistent about using them effectively. Spanish Safari was created with this purpose in mind and if I schedule it in for about 15 to 20 minutes every day, it will help the girls practice Spanish in a fun way. I can alternate this with a math program in Spanish (freckle - No affiliation, I just really like this program!) that I like to use with them once or twice a week.  

 

Letting Go

Photo by rawpixel.com from Pexels

Photo by rawpixel.com from Pexels


New Year’s Resolutions are notorious for being difficult to stick to! And I think that these are crucial for the continued language development of my family. Which got me thinking about the things I needed to do less of! After all, all this more will require time and energy. That means I will to let go of this cycle of busyness that so many of us have been living in. What does that list look like?

Less TV 
Less scrolling aimlessly through Facebook and Instagram 
Less time spent texting on my phone 
Less social commitments (it really is OK to say no sometimes!) 
Less staying up late (enough sleep is crucial in order to accomplish much) 
And my favorite…less chores (which means that my girls will have to help out more around the house right?)  

What do your New Year’s Resolutions look like? Share yours with us in the comments! 

 

About the Author
Keli Garcia Allen is a certified Spanish teacher and currently works as a Preschool teacher in a bilingual classroom. She is the Head of Content for Learn Safari and is currently working on Spanish Safari,  a Spanish Learning game for children 4-10 years old. You can follow her and the rest of the team on FacebookInstagram, and Twitter.

7 Tips for Helping Your Resistant Child Speak The Target Language

She’s a bilingual child, but often resists speaking the target language

She’s a bilingual child, but often resists speaking the target language

When I first begun this journey of raising bilingual children, I thought I had it all figured out. I figured it would be extremely easy to have my children speak multiple languages! I just couldn’t understand why parents who spoke multiple languages had children who didn’t speak those same language. Must be laziness, right? Boy, I just didn’t know how hard this journey would be! 

  

If you’ve read any of my blog posts before, then you know I am a mother of 3 girls (YAS! 3! My poor husband) and we speak English and Spanish at home. The baby is just 1 and she responds and emulates words in both English and Spanish. My oldest daughter, who is now 5 and a half, is quite fluent in both languages and is considered to be bilingual. She was an early talker and has always had a lot to say in both English and Spanish! My second child just turned 4 and she is most definitely my wild card. She has been quite difficult in every sort of way, yet she somehow has the entire family charmed! She is also the one who absolutely refuses to “talk in spañol.” 

  

We all know that raising multilingual children is hard work. It takes a lot of concentrated effort. You have to create a parallel world in which your child has a need to speak a language other than the community language. Some communities are more amenable to this; living in Florida means that making sure my children speak Spanish is a lot easier than living in say, the Midwest. But I honestly never expected for my biggest battle to come from my own child’s unwillingness to participate in our bilingual journey! 

  

My story, however, doesn’t seem to be a unique story. There are several people I have heard from who have experienced this situation with their children or were even themselves like this as a child! (check out this blog post to read about one such story). I have read about many more such situations in some of the groups and people I encounter on social media.  

So, with my experiences and the experiences of other in mind, I have made a list of tips and tricks that I have used successfully to help me daughter want to speak ESPAÑOL! 

    

Acknowledge the dislike and try to get to the bottom of it.  

Busy hands can help children relax and be more open to having honest conversations.

Busy hands can help children relax and be more open to having honest conversations.


I think it’s always important to acknowledge and validate your child’s feelings. They need to know from an early age that they do have a voice and they need to learn how to properly express it. Therefore, finding out why your child doesn’t want to speak the language is extremely important. Only after you get to the bottom of it, can you help resolve those feelings. 

In the case of my daughter, she’s resistant to speaking the target language (Spanish) simply because it’s hard. She must put in effort, and who wouldn’t rather do something easy? But I am trying to teach her to be persistent, so we talk about how even though it’s hard, we can’t just give up on something that is so important. And I let her know that I am going to help her, that it’s ok to make mistakes, and that as she continues to work on her Spanish she will have more success with it.  

  

Keep using the target language 

Even when she hates it, I continue to use Spanish. I must admit that it’s hard for me, because when I am surrounded by so much English, it’s just natural for English to flow. So, I make a concerted effort to use Spanish. And I can honestly say that she understands everything I say to her!  

  

Help your child say what he or she wants to say 

Understanding language is the first step (receptive language) but it takes a little bit more to actually use language (productive language). Which is why I often help her say what she needs to say. I will ask her to tell me in Spanish, and she may come up with a couple of the words, but not the whole sentence. So, I simply model the sentence for her and have her repeat it.  

I let her know it’s ok to make mistakes and that if she needs help, she can ask me for it. I try not to correct her by telling her that she did something wrong, that will make her shut down. Instead, I model the correct way to say it and she will usually repeat it.  

  

Use media and games to your advantage 

Using games and apps wisely can open up a world of possibilities for learning

Using games and apps wisely can open up a world of possibilities for learning

Children have access to so much information, media, technology and games. I try to limit how much they use and try to get them to vary the ways in which they spend their time. But I am ok with them using media moderately and responsibly and I always try to use their love of it to my advantage!  

I always put their cartoons on in Spanish (Yay Netflix!) and have a couple of apps they use as well. And of course, they have been faithful testers for Spanish Safari. After all, I have been writing it with them in mind! 

I think it’s important for them to have other sources of authentic language and having the shows and games that they enjoy let them know that Spanish is fun and that there is a whole world out there of people who use the language.  

  

Use music 

Music is an amazing way to share not only a language, but a culture. We are a music-loving family and listen to a lot of music in Spanish. Everything from pop, to rancheras, vallenato, joropo, salsa and more. Their lives are filled with music and dance and they are unknowingly being educated. My little rebel may not like to “talk in spañol,” but she sure likes to sing in it! 

  

Look for peers and social groups 

This may not be easy depending on your target language and where you may be located in the world, but finding groups and friends where the target language is spoken is huge! Knowing that it’s not just mommy or daddy that speak a language can encourage children to attempt a language for social reasons. It’s a positive form of peer pressure and we should take advantage of it when we can.  

  

Read Books 

Children love reading stories over and over again and when they know a story well, they can retell it themselves!

Children love reading stories over and over again and when they know a story well, they can retell it themselves!

If you have read my blogs before, then I may sound like a broken record to you. But there really is nothing better you can do for your child than to spend time reading together! And of course, reading in the target language is tantamount to success! It introduces hundreds of new vocabulary words, helps you actively model grammar, and gets you spending time together while using the target language.  

When I am consistent about using the tips above, my little rebel becomes much more enthusiastic about using Spanish. She puts more effort and has fun when experiencing these activities. If I slip a little, however, we go back to not wanting to speak in Spanish. Just like with anything else, we have to get back on the horse, so to speak. But the consistency really is key when raising multilingual children, especially with the more reluctant Speakers.  

  

This battle is by no means over for me! So, I would love to hear from you. What tips do you have for helping your child speak the target language? Please let us know in the comments!

About the Author

Keli Garcia Allen is a certified Spanish teacher and currently works as a Preschool teacher in a bilingual classroom. She is the Head of Content for Learn Safari and is currently working on Spanish Safari,  a Spanish Learning game for children 4-10 years old. You can follow her and the rest of the team on FacebookInstagram, and Twitter.

Turkey, Gator Tail and Arepas: A Real Thanksgiving Feast

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Keli:

Thanksgiving is one of our most important holidays. Families all over the country come together to celebrate, give thanks, eat and more than likely watch football. People of all kinds of races, religions and ethnic backgrounds participate. Even first generation immigrants get behind this most (North) American tradition. The history of thanksgiving can get a little murky and even a little ugly, but the truth about thanksgiving is much more than simply turkey and pumpkin pie.

The Popular History of Thanksgiving

Most of us know the traditional story behind thanksgiving in the U.S. It was 1620 and Pilgrim settlers in Plymouth Rock shared a feast of thankfulness with the natives who had helped them survive a very bitter winter. In 1795, George Washington declared the first official Thanksgiving to be held on February 19th. Abraham Lincoln moved it to October 3 and finally, in 1941 Theodore Roosevelt moved it to the fourth Thursday in November.

Now, this history was always nice and dandy to me. I did understand the deeper implications and history of the treatment of Native Americans in this nation (but that is a whole other topic that requires serious thought). It wasn’t until I was in college, however, that I even questioned this notion of a very protestant and English-centric thanksgiving.

 

A Florida Thanksgiving

My first professor at the University of Florida was Michael Gannon, AKA “The Grinch who stole thanksgiving.” It’s hard to reconcile the image of a “grinch” with such a distinguished professor who delighted his classes with his amazing ability to bring history to life, but the story of the nickname is actually a very cute one. He received it in 1985, when he told a newspaper reporter who was looking for a new angle on thanksgiving that “by the time the settlers in Plymouth sat down for their first thanksgiving feast, St. Augustine was up for urban renewal.”

In his book The Cross in the Sand Professor Gannon describes the Thanksgiving feast that took place on Sept. 8, 1565. A full 55 years earlier!   At the time, Don Pedro Menendez de Aviles came ashore on to St. Augustine and held the first mass of thanksgiving, which was followed by a feast in which 800 Catholic colonists and the Timucua (the natives living in Florida at the time) attended together.

The feast probably consisted of a cocido which was a stew made of garbanzos and salted pork, along with wine and bread from the ships. The Timucua would have contributed grains, corn, beans, squash, pumpkin, local game, fish, and even a gator or two!

Since I live only 45 minutes away from St. Augustine, this history of thanksgiving is one I absolutely love! But, come to find out, there was an even earlier feast held even closer to Jacksonville, atop the St. Johns Bluff in Fort Caroline. It was held on June 30th, 1564 when Rene Goulane de Laudonniére called for a feast of thanksgiving to be held. French colonists and members of the Timucua tribe both joined in.  

But, this had me thinking.  Surely there were even earlier arrivals and prayers and celebrations of thanksgiving held all over the Americas during this period of time. Given that the European settlers would have arrived with very little in the way of provisions, they had to rely on the goodwill of the natives, along with their food.

Some of these include Juan ponce de Leon’s arrival in 1513 and the settlement of Cumaná 1515. It was one of the first establishments in Venezuela and it was formed due to a group of Franciscan friars who wanted to evangelize the natives without the violence or intervention of soldiers and traders.

So, given the multicultural history of Thanksgiving, I see that it’s only fit to continue this approach in our celebration of this holiday. And this year, I don’t have to do it alone! Instead, I have the help of someone who has a lifetime of experience with a multicultural approach to thanksgiving. 

Thankful Turkey Hands. They got to tell us everything they were thankful for!

Thankful Turkey Hands. They got to tell us everything they were thankful for!

 

Thanksgiving When Cultures Meet

Becky:

In a blog post I wrote last year I describe how my bicultural family celebrated Thanksgiving in Venezuela> I talked about how back in the day, before the advent of boxed, frozen and pre-made meals, my grandmother had to adapt her recipes to what was fresh and available at the time and how the menu became richer and more diverse as the family grew.

This year I am very thankful for many things, including the arrival of two beautiful babies who are only 1 week apart. This year I get to share the wonderful dishes that I grew up with, and my own children have the opportunity to share this holiday with new (to them) family and friends.

 

A Family Affair

Family is where the heart is and right now my heart is in Florida.  where I get to celebrate Thanksgiving “the American Way”, but as you may infer ”truly American Thanksgiving” is a very fluid concept. So we decided to own it and share our cultural heritage and show off our culinary skills preparing a feast fit for a king.

We’ll be enjoying the company of parents, siblings, cousins, spouses, many (many) children and our dear friends. We all have different backgrounds, upbringings and Thanksgiving traditions. And this year, I’m in charge! I will try to take into account a whole bunch of taste buds, customs and traditions, including my own, and I will prepare a feast fit for a king! But first, I need a plan.  

 

Thanks to Lena Hernandez for sharing this photo (and cute activity) with us! We will be working on these all week with the kiddos!

Thanks to Lena Hernandez for sharing this photo (and cute activity) with us! We will be working on these all week with the kiddos!

 

Nourishment for Body and Soul

As for the menu itself, we want to please as many guests as we can, but some compromise has to be made. As for the soul part, the camaraderie, sharing our favorite dishes and helping each other out will do us a lot of good. 

We agreed on Turkey with cornbread stuffing, as this is a dish that takes us back to our grandma’s kitchen back in Maracaibo, when our moms and our tias helped Abuela Nena with the Christmas turkey (our Venezuelan part of the family does not celebrate Thanksgiving). We’ll also bring the taste of home to this holiday with quesillo, tequeños, arepitas mango juice and some ponche de crema.  

The rest of the menu will be easily recognizable as it will include pecan pie, sweet potato casserole, mashed potatoes and even some dairy free options (we even have some of those in the house y’all!).

Becky gathering pinecones for our crafts!

Becky gathering pinecones for our crafts!

 

A Learning Experience (Mainly for us Mommas)

A Thanksgiving feast takes planning, preparation and execution, but with 5 kids it gets a bit more challenging than that.  The first thing is making lists; one for the menu, one for the ingredients to prepare the menu, one for household items, one for activities, and so on. We must have written 10 lists and it’s not turkey time yet!

The lists are super important because we’re outnumbered by our children, and where we go, they go.  Period. So forgetting something from the list (like lemonade for one of the girls) could turn into a tragedy. But we got this! We’re teachers, we’re moms, we can handle almost anything.

We went to the first store to get dry goods and other essentials, like hair ties and pumpkin spice coffee creamer (like I said, essentials!). This little run turned into a 2-hour adventure, but we got most of the items on the list, no children were lost, and no permanent damage was reported. We should go to the next store in 2 days, after we recover.

So far we have learned how to go potty in tandem, to make lists and stick to them, to be patient, to watch out for each other and to help each other around the house. The girls have been amazing picking out the right items, entertaining the babies and helping with the cooking and cleaning.

In the days prior we will be baking cookies, pies and cakes; brining the turkey, and preparing some adorable crafts to keep the kiddos entertained. We have been talking about the history of thanksgiving, reading some great stories and discussing what it is to be thankful. We are talking about our culture, learning to appreciate other cultures and traditions and counting our blessings.

We know it’s going to be a long day, but spending the day sharing our heritage in the form of food with our loved ones is great thing to be thankful for.

To find out how our Thanksgiving feast went check out our Instagram and Facebook posts and if you happen to have a gator tail recipe you’d like to share, please drop us a line, because we’re dying to try it out! (Well, Keli says she’d just like to buy it, because she’s not cooking that!).

What about you? Would you share your thanksgiving traditions with us? We’d love to hear from you in the comments! 

 

About the Authors

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Keli Garcia Allen is a certified Spanish teacher and currently works as a Preschool teacher in a bilingual classroom. She is the Head of Content for Learn Safari and is currently working on English Safari, Spanish Safari and Reading Safari  a game for children 4-10 years old who speak Spanish and want to learn English. You can follow her and the rest of the team on FacebookInstagram, and Twitter

 

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Becky Garcia-Muir is a Southern belle from way South, a Bilingual teacher and mom, and Community Manager for Learn Safari.

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Ten Amazing Schools Using Technology to Innovate Education 

By B.C. [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], from Wikimedia Commons

By B.C. [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], from Wikimedia Commons

If you read my last post, then you know I’ve been thinking a lot about how to bring innovation to the classroom. All of us at Learn Safari have! After all, this is what we’re all about; democratizing education so that everyone in the world has access to learning. When we think of innovation, technology always come to mind. However, it’s not enough to introduce tech to a classroom. Just adding computers, tablets and electronic boards is not enough to engage students and prepare them for a changing world. Our children need to use technology in a practical way to solve real world problems.  

Here are ten schools that are using technology to do exactly that, with some amazing results! 

Khan Lab School 

Khan Academy is probably the world’s largest educational non-profit. They produce a lot of independent learning courses that people can take at no-cost. At Khan Lab School, they focus on testing and developing innovation in the classroom to bring about the latest in learning. They also have an interdisciplinary, project-based approach to learning.  

Their day is divided into individualized learning time, small group seminars, and project time. A great deal of their individualized learning time is technology based. For the Lower School Language Arts they use programs such as Quill, Lexia, and Newsela. They use  Khan Academy for Math and Computer programing,  Labster for science, and Growfit for Physical education.  

High Tech High 

By Wendy Ward [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], from Wikimedia Commons

By Wendy Ward [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], from Wikimedia Commons

When you start looking into high tech schools, it’s impossible to not come across High Tech High. High Tech High opened in San Diego, C.A. in the year 2000 as a small charter school that planned on serving 450 students. Since then, it has grown into a series of 14 interconnected schools.  

The curriculum is project based and the students develop their skills and knowledge through their participation in projects with real world (and often community focused) implications.  


According to Larry Rosenstock, CEO of High Tech High, “the purpose of ‘tech in High Tech High is not for consumption. It’s for production.” They use computers to do everything from research, to building projects and making presentations with programs such as After Effects.  


Some of the projects that the students have worked on include developing a DNA Barcoding sequence to assist African officials in the apprehension and conviction of poachers; designing, prototyping and building an urban agricultural system, and a Breaking Bread project where they shared stories of culture and tradition and reverse engineered bread machines.  

Rocketship Public Schools

Rocketship’s blended-learning model involves 75 percent of classroom and 25 percent of online instruction. They have specific times when students go to a separate room where they work on computers to focus on individual learning needs and general skills practice, allowing classroom teachers to focus on student interactions, concept extension and critical thinking skill development. 

Rocketship uses a variety of online content programs in reading and math during the Learning Lab time. For reading, these include Headsprout, Accelerated Reader, and Rosetta Stone. For math they use DreamBox, Reasoning Mind, and ALEKS. 

The school is currently working with SRI International on a study to measure the effectiveness of its online instruction. 

Altschool 

Unlike traditional schools that focus on testing and a basic curriculum, AltSchool is a school that focuses on improving tech skills and helping students become flexible thinkers that can adapt to our changing world. According to CEO Max Ventilla "We should be educating children from a whole-child lens where they learn to problem solve, social-emotional learning is prioritized, students should be part of the goal-setting process, and so on."  

They focused on personalized learning, in which students work to reach milestones. They have created curriculum and products to help children digitally record, analyzed and plan their progress. The school, which serves students ages 4 to 14, began in San Francisco in 2013 and now has lab schools and partners in New York, California and Florida.  

Crooms Academy of Information Technology

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This tech magnet in Sanford Florida was named the “most connected classroom in America” by U.S. News & World Report. All the students are given laptops and each classroom has at least two desktops and SMARTboards.  They can also boast of ten computer labs and an in-house repair center known as Laptop Central.  

The school is a member of National Academy Foundation and has been recognized as a Distinguished Academy for eight consecutive years, which is the NAF’s highest honor.  Crooms offers students numerous opportunities of job shadowing, internships, and even participation in their showcase event, the Seminole County TechFest.  The school is recognized as a Merit School of Excellence and has the highest rating from Magnet Schools of America. 

North Liverpool Academy   

This high school in Liverpool, England is a high school that emphasizes math, business, computing and enterprise. This  school stands out for its architecture and is considered to be a “memorable landmark.” It has  labs, art studios, a motorcycle-engineering center, recording studios, and a theater. It has even been ranked as the 25th school in the entire United Kingdom. 

The school offers various enrichment options, including a Digital Entrepreneurship Network, conversational Spanish, and Teaching English as a Foreign Language. They assist students in applying for jobs and college and connect them with partners in the community.  

Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology  

https://www.flickr.com/photos/sparkfun/7171740114

https://www.flickr.com/photos/sparkfun/7171740114

This is a STEM magnet school in Alexandria, Va. USA. The academic disciplines are integrated. Freshmen take a technology survey course as a foundation. They have courses in math, science and tech (integrated with humanities), world languages, fine arts and more. Seniors complete a major research project, either on campus or at a government or university research lab the school partners with, in categories such as astronomy, energy systems, optics and modern physics and more.  

They offer a wide array of tech resources, discount tech for purchase, school wide WIFI, an online Student Information System, and they also make use of Blackboard.  


The school even boasts of its own research, such as the chemical analysis lab with chemical nanotechnology equipment and the neuroscience lab with the electroencephalographic system! 

 

Steve Jobs School 

Founded in 2013 in Amsterdam, this is an extremely innovative school model. Students begin with an Individual Development Plan (IDP), which is evaluated and readjusted regularly by the child, coach, and parents. Students are then offered personalized learning challenges they can choose from.  

There are no classes, no daily schedule, simply ample space where students can learn at their own pace and in environments of their choosing.  

Students receive fully loaded iPads once they reach 4th grade. They use a program called sCoolProjects, where they can work with a mentor in order to develop a project. They also use sCoolSpace, where they can access the school's virtual community center to interact with classmates and tutors from anywhere in the world. They also have a tool to store all of their work for monitoring and the creation of their IDP.   

 

Innova Schools 

Founded in Peru in 2011 by Carlos Rodriguez-Pastor , the school uses several different forms of instruction — tech-heavy online learning, guided lessons, group work — in a setting that was designed to be modular and adaptable to the location.  

The pedagogical approach of Innova Schools encompasses three concepts: autonomy, collaborative learning and integrated technology. The focus is on students building their own knowledge. Students spend half their time immersed in guided online education and the other half receiving more traditional and collaborative instruction.  

The tech-heavy school, which is open to kids in Kindergarten through 11th grade. In 2013, 61% percent of Innova second-graders reached proficiency in federal math exams, in comparison to the national average which was just 17%. 

 

Boston Pioneers Free School Academy 

Located in Lincolnshire, England, this school was dubbed as Britain’s “most high-tech” school! What makes it so? It’s the room that the students call “the magic room.” A 4D theater that transports children to any number of settings so that they can truly experience what they are studying.  

The 4D room uses video that is projected onto screens that are floor-to-ceiling, lighting, sound, and an interactive floor space to create an experience that is truly "immersive". 

The school focuses on children 5 to 11 years old and both teachers and students love the use of their 4D room and believe that this technology is fun, inspirational and goes well beyond simply having computers and iPads in the classroom.  

 

It’s not just about using technology. What’s important is how it’s used. We need to rethink how we teach and we need to have parents and teachers equipped with the knowledge of what can be done! We shouldn’t just try to entertain students with gadgets. We should be purposeful and think about how we can harness the power of tech to further our goals and solve real world problems! 
 

Do you agree? How can we use technology to innovate our classrooms? Do you know of any schools that should be on this list? Let us know your thoughts in the comments!  

About the Author

Keli Garcia Allen is a certified Spanish teacher and currently works as a Preschool teacher in a bilingual classroom. She is the Head of Content for Learn Safari and is currently working on Spanish Safari,  a Spanish Learning game for children 4-10 years old. You can follow her and the rest of the team on FacebookInstagram, and Twitter.

Introducing the Class of 2031: Are You Ready for the Future?

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I may be a little late, but, happy new school year! I am finally getting into the swing of things. I know both parents and teachers can relate! This year, I am very excited because I am teaching a combined VPK (voluntary Pre K) and Kindergarten class. It’s great to be able to grow with my students and the gains that I see them making inspire me to no end.  

  

This school year, however, has helped crystalize some thoughts I’ve had for some time. It’s all about who these kindergarteners and preschoolers will one day become. What kind of future are we preparing them for? And what kind of future should we ACTUALLY prepare them for? 

  

So, please let me introduce you to the Graduating Class of 2031! 

  

Automation is becoming ubiquitous; cars are driving themselves; 3D printing is used for everything from space technology, construction and even food; telemedicine makes up about 70% of all medicine, and AI is on track to dramatically disrupt the work force.  

  

What will our homes and cars look like? What will our phones and computers be capable of doing? What kind of job do you think these kiddos will have and what will the booming industries be? 

  

We might be thinking that not much will change in 12 years; but think back upon the last 12 years and about how much has already changed! Just look at how much our phones have evolved! I definitely remember going through college with my tiny “Juke,” before upgrading to a Razer! I certainly couldn’t stream all the episodes of Fuller House on that! (Hey, if you’re going to go on a Netflix binge, might as well indulge your guilty pleasure!) 

  

So, while you may think that things won’t change that much before your children graduate, just take a moment to look back at some extremely disruptive companies and technologies that did not exist 12 years ago, including: Airbnb (2008), GPS on your smartphone (2008), Uber (2009), Venmo (2009) and Whatsapp (2009). iPads (2010), Instagram (2010), and Square (2010) to name just a few. What new technologies will be running our lives by the time these kids graduate in 2031? 

  

Are we preparing children for this future? 

  

Our schools today look astonishingly similar to what they looked like 100 years ago. It seems we are still preparing children for the industrial revolution! Although I see some teachers doing amazing work, the educational system as a whole, is not setting children up for the future that is fast-approaching.  

  

We know that technology is important, but it seems ALL of our focus is on tech and hard sciences. The emphasis on STEM at the expense of “soft” skills such as communication, arts, psychology, intrapersonal skills, and language skills is extremely detrimental in the very near future.  

  

The advances in automation and AI are going to cause many jobs that we know today to virtually disappear. The first jobs to go will be those that require repetitive tasks that are easily automated. Drivers (taxi, truck, bus, delivery, etc.), retail workers, cashiers, accountants, many jobs in the finance industry are some of the jobs that will be gone in the very near future. 

  

Furthermore, there are those that believe that with evolving machine intelligence, many careers that we think are immune to automation, such as nurses, teachers, and even preschool-teachers, could eventually become obsolete as well.  

  

Several studies have been conducted on the effects that technology will have on the future of jobs. Studies such as the 2013 Oxford Study predict that about 47% of US jobs are at high risk of becoming computerized, while a study done by the International Federation of Robotics in 2013 predicted that 2 million jobs would be created by robots in the following 8 years. More recently, a 2017 report by the McKinsey Global Institute found that 39 million to 73 million US jobs could be obsolete by 2030. The only thing that we can say with certainty, however, is that things are going to change dramatically!  

  

Researchers have blamed computers for the jobless growth in recent times. We can see that computerization has caused a decline in middle-income routine jobs in areas such as manufacturing. 3D printers, for example, have the capacity to greatly change the manufacturing industry. Manufacturing has decreased in the U.S. (It’s about 50% below what it was at its peak in 1979) and gone abroad, where it has become more efficient and cost effective. We could however, see a turn-around with new technologies and start-ups developing in the U.S. that will require high-skilled, knowledgeable and creative labor to maximize its use and potential.  

  

However, displacement could occur in “upstream” manufacturing, the factories in which products are made. These could be replaced by individuals and stores that 3D print their items and sell them on location. Manufacturing in the U.S. consists of about 15.4 million jobs so this impact could be huge! In fact, 3D printing could seriously disrupt food, military, electronics, toys, and automotive industries.  

  

So, what do you we do? 

 

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How can we possibly prepare our children for such a future that seems beyond human productivity? I don’t claim to have the answers. But to me, it seems that we need to disrupt the educational system. We need to help children break outside of the box of this system we have thus far created and rarely updated.  

  

The same McKinsey study mentioned above indicated that about 20 million displaced workers could shift easily into related occupations. About one third, or 16 to 54 million workers, will have to be retrained into completely new occupations. We are talking about a shift as significant as when we turned from an agrarian to an industrial society!  

  

We need our children to become better creative thinkers, to have better communication skills and interpersonal skills. They of course need to learn the latest technology (coding is an invaluable skill that ALL children should be learning), but they also need to be learning art, writing, interpersonal skills, and multiple languages.  

  

Businesses all over are looking for people who can think differently, innovate, communicate and collaborate. Students should be allowed to explore, tinker, and create. They should be given real world problems to tackle on a regular basis. They should be posing problems themselves and then finding ways to solve them. They should be given the opportunity to invent, launch businesses, and learn with real-world experiences from a very young age. They shouldn’t just be absorbing knowledge; they should be creating knowledge.  

  

We are going to require people to come up with new ways of working with machines and new ways of organizing our society. There is a revolution coming and these little minds that we are trying to mold today, need to be given the freedom to mold our future.  

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About the Author

Keli Garcia Allen is a certified Spanish teacher and currently works as a Preschool teacher in a bilingual classroom. She is the Head of Content for Learn Safari and is currently working on Spanish Safari,  a Spanish Learning game for children 4-10 years old. You can follow her and the rest of the team on FacebookInstagram, and Twitter.

Freebies and Fun

Hello Everyone!

This is a space where you can come and download all of our free content. We will be building and constantly curating this list, so that it can be a great source of fun games, worksheets, and more that you can use at home or in your classroom. 

Enjoy!

 

Fútbol Mania - In celebration of the 2018 World Cup, we have a set of vocabulary words that you can simply print, laminate and cut to make a fun puzzle for the little ones to play with. (Eng/Sp)

Great Activities for Children Learning Spanish

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Raising Bilingual Children: Not for the Faint of Heart

I have committed to raising my children bilingually. I knew I would do so before my children were ever born, because I myself was raised bilingually. I didn’t think much of it and honestly, I figured it would be simple.

In the same way I assumed my children would learn sports, music and dance. In my mind, it would be super easy! Just like I assumed they would never complain about vegetables, bathed regularly, and helped me keep an impeccable house!

You see, before having kids, I knew exactly how I was going to be in order to be the perfect mom! ESPECIALLY when it came to speaking two languages. I mean, not only am I fully bilingual, but I am a Spanish teacher for goodness' sake!

Little did I know that my parents WORKED to make sure I spoke two languages. They took the time, made the effort, and made sure I had all of the opportunities and experiences that would drive me to be bilingual.

If you are on a journey to raise your children bilingually, then you know how much work it actually entails. And if you’re just beginning, I am by no means trying to dissuade you or trying to bring you down! The work and effort is totally worth it and fortunately, there are high-quality programs, books, games and ideas that will help you on this journey.

 

A Little About Me

If you have read my previous blogs, then you know about my story. But for those of you who don’t, I’ll give you the condensed version. I am Venezuelan-American and have spoken Spanish and English my whole life. I live in the U.S. and have three daughters (all under the age of 5) who I am raising to speak English and Spanish. I am a former High School Spanish teacher and currently teach Voluntary Pre-K in a bilingual classroom. I am also the Head of Development for Learn Safari and am currently working on two projects: Spanish Safari and English Safari, which aim to teach the aforementioned languages to children 4 to 9 years old.

As you may imagine, I began working on these two projects because I wanted to help my kids learn and practice their language skills. It’s been a great journey and my kids LOVE the games. However, since much of my creativity is spent on writing lessons for Learn Safari, I am often scrounging for good ideas to put into practice in my classroom or with my own kiddos.

That’s why I spend so much time in the community forums and language blogs that (thankfully) abound. Recently, however, Minerva Ortega of Reto Bilingue sent me a copy of a book she co-authored and it seriously gave me life! So, I wanted to share a little about it in a mini-review below.*

 

Spanish at Home

Written by Minerva Ortega, Erica Mirochnik and Elizabeth Garcia, Spanish at Home is a wonderful resource for parents and teachers who are working on teaching children Spanish. Although it is geared towards non-native adults who have at least a mid-level proficiency, it actually is a great resource for native speakers and professional teachers as well.

The book is jam-packed with ideas and activities that anyone can use to reinforce language with children. With each activity, you will also find a set of vocabulary and phrases that can be used in order to reinforce language.

The book has suggestions for music, books, apps, bogs, websites, holidays, and recipes. They have compiled some of the best resources for anyone to use in order to further enhance language acquisition and practice in Spanish.

The book is written in friendly and easy language so that it’s interesting, inspiring and a super quick read. But more than that, you can tell it was done by women who love language and who were inspired to do this work by their own children, students and their own language-learning journeys.

It’s a resource you won’t want to miss. I recommend that you put it on your shelf because I know you’ll keep going back to it over and over again. If you’ve been feeling a little overwhelmed (or maybe underwhelmed by the activities you have come up with), or just want to infuse new energy into your language learning journey, then this is a great book to check out.  It’s available in hard copy and Kindle version.

What is your favorite go to resource for language-learning? We would love to hear about your experiences so leave us a comment below!