Experience is the best teacher. The more children hear, see and do; the more they will learn. One of the best ways to teach language is to create engaging and fun experiences in which children can use all of their five senses.
When preparing activities for my young students, I love working with themes! They are a great guide for the activities and books you choose. It's also very fun when you can change the learning environment to go along with the theme.
Since Learn Safari's first project is focused on learning Spanish, all the activities are prepared in English and Spanish. However, these activities can be easily prepared to work with your target language.
Let's face it. Kids love bugs! They are interesting, readily available for observation (just step outside), and they provide so many opportunities for learning.
There are a lot of wonderful books about bugs! Two of our favorites are The hungry Caterpillar (La OrugamuyHambrienta) and the Grouchy Ladybug (La MariquitaGruñona), both by Eric Carle.
I have these books in both English and Spanish. For language learners, it is important to read the same book several times. Children love repetition and they love knowing what is going to happen next in the story. Feel free to read the book of your choosing every day for a few days.
You can actually find these books read out loud on Youtube. Although nothing beats having children hold and page through the physical book, it is very fun if they can also see it on video! It also provides a change of pace for them (and a break for your tired voice). This is very convenient for parents trying to use OPOL (one parent, one language) or those who are introducing children to a language that they do not yet master.
Reading non-fiction books is also very important for learning. Many children have no exposure to non-fiction books prior to kindergarten and I have consulted with Teachers who say this is a problem. I always try to include them into my lessons and I find that children really start getting into them. La Vida de Una Mariposa, by Dona Rice is a great non-fiction reader on the life cycle of a butterfly.
Memory is a great vocabulary building game! You can make two copies of this printable in order to play the game. The vocabulary includes Oruga(caterpillar), Mariposa (butterflies), colors, and sizes.
Use the caterpillar printable to compare and contrast the caterpillars. The vocabulary used includes larga(long), corta (short) grande (big), pequeña (small), gorda (fat), and flaca (skinny). Remember, the word for caterpillar, orguga, is femenine, which is why all of the adjectives end in 'a', but if you were to talk about masculine nouns, you would change the words to an 'o'. E.g. Un pájarogordo (a fat bird).
After you have talked about the caterpillars, find other things in your environment that you can describe using the same adjectives and compare and contrast them to the caterpillars.
Use the butterfly printable we talked about above to practice colors in Spanish. The colors are written right on the cards. Ask children to find other items in the same color or ask them to draw their own butterflies using the colors you call out.
Basically, this is a game of I spy. You are supposed to say "Veo veo un...(fill in blank with a color, or noun." The The Pleasantest Thing is a website that actually has a great The Very Hungry Caterpillar I Spy Activity that you can use. We have a list of the vocabulary in Spanish that you can pair with it in order to turn it into a fun Spanish language activity.
Bug Scavenger Hunt
Make a list of different bugs and go outside with magnifying glasses in order to search for them. This is a great time for exploration! Nature and language are two things that kids need to discover through experience and this activity is sure to bring on a lot of opportunities for conversation.
For those children who are a bit older and have greater grasp of language, Venn Diagrams are a great activity in which you can draw out rich language and scaffold new vocabulary. Compare and contrast two different types of bugs (For example, mariquitas(ladybugs) and hormigas (ants). You can do this activity one on one with children or you can do it with a group of children on a big dry-erase board or sheet of paper. It's great to see how they can brainstorm collectively.
Remember, learning language is about communication and the best way to get children (and people of all ages) communicating is to provide them with reasons and opportunities.
Do you have any fun bug-related (or not) activities to help with language development? Share them with us in the comments below!