Tuesday, 17 January 2017

How Bilingual Are Bilingual Schools in Spain?

I live in a fairly small city in Castilla-La Mancha and where I live the majority of "bilingual" schools are concertados, a concertado school is neither completely a state school,nor a completely private school but  something in between, almost like a private school which receives funding from the government,and I think there are only two state schools which have a bilingual programme, a primary school and a secondary school.I was adamant that I was going to send my children to a bilingual school so that they had even more imput in their minority language and also to compensate for the fact that I work in the afternoons/evenings as a TEFL teacher so their exposure to the minority language would be more limited once they started school due to my job and when completing the form, I included almost all the schools which had a bilingual programme.In the end we were lucky enough to get into the school which was our first choice and on the whole we are very happy with it but unfortunately my recurring question is: just how bilingual are bilingual schools in Spain?

Many schools in Spain,especially the concertados, which tend to be more religious schools, often follow the BEDA, which stands for Bilingual Education and Development & Assessment, programme.In my daughter´s school this means that the amount of English is increased to 180 minutes per week with 3 30minute sessions of a Non Linguistic Discipline (Disciplina no Linguestica) and 2 weekly 45 minute sessions of English.This is implemented right from when they first start school at 3,which I think is great.The teachers, as far as I know are Spanish but I think the lessons are given completely in English but they have little or no exposure to any native English speaking teachers.However,no subjects are taught completely in English until they reach Primaría(age 6 going on 7), where they have 2 weekly sessions of music and 1 weekly session of Arts & Crafts in English. Again as far as I know there is no exposure to a native English speaking teacher(at least in my daughter´s school),which I´m a little disappointed about as I was previously under the impression that there was a bilingual native assistant who visited all the classes at least once a week. I´ll be able to tell you more about this next year when my daughter starts Primaría!!

At the moment the bilingual programme uses the Amco(click on the link for more information)methodology which has evolved in Mexico and therefore teaches American English. I have no problems with this methodology or the fact that it is teaching them American English as I think it is important for them to learn all types of English although it doesn´t seem to be in keeping with the fact that they are a Cambridge examining centre and offer the Cambridge exams,which are largely geared towards British English although you can use American English in the Cambridge exams too if you use it consistently.The books used by this method is a workbook & students book called Gear Up Levels 1-3 as shown in the photo and I think this is supported with lots of songs and games.                                                                                          
      One of my main worries when it comes to my children´s bilingualism is the literacy side of things so I was quite relieved when I flicked through last term´s English workbook and found that they have started writing words above the pictures.Here is an example in which my daughter had to draw things that she can see in school and above the drawings,she´s written the words :door,window and clock.However,I know that in other bilingual schools they do extra reading in English although maybe not when the children are still in Infantíl or the Infants and have exposure to native teachers at least once a week from 3 yrs and up.
Extracurricular English classes are also offered with the aim of obtaining the Cambridge exams from Starters up to First Certificate and in these classes students are offered exposure to native English speaking teachers but these classes are not free and parents have to pay for their children to take part in these extracurricular classes.

Nowadays the Government has toughened up and English teachers or teachers who are participating in bilingual programmes have to have an English level of at least B1/B2 but I think that they should have a C1 or even C2 if they are teaching a bilingual programme and teach English classes 100% in English in order for these bilingual programmes to work properly because there are many doubts about how effective and beneficial these bilingual programmes really are. Many students who attend "bilingual" schools often end up going to extracurricular classes in academies to further improve their English. I also believe that to be fully bilingual 50% of the classes should be given in English and 50% of the classes should be given in Spanish,starting from when they first start school at the age of 3.

These are just my experiences and opinions of bilingual schools in Spain and I can´t really compare it to all bilingual schools in Spain.I am neither completely satisfied with the bilingual education nor am I completely dissatisfied but rather sit somewhere in the middle.I often think that my daughter must find it boring in English class as she knows a lot of the vocabulary that they are learning...for example the colours, the numbers 1-10, clothes etc but she says she isn´t bored. I´ll just have to see how her bilingual education pans out and I´ll be updating you on the changes. Next year should be exciting with the introduction of classes in English! I´d love to hear about your experiences and opinions of bilingual schools and education in Spain or other countries.


Wednesday, 4 January 2017

The 2 R´s-teaching reading & writing in the minority language

As a self-confessed bookworm myself,I have always been keen to install a love of reading in my children and looked forward to teaching my daughter to read in the minority language, English. One of my aims in our bilingual journey is that my children end up as near to "balanced bilingualism" as possible,which means also teaching them to read and write in their minority language. However, this has been more of a struggle than I first anticipated!

In the Spanish education system most children don´t start learning to read until they reach 5 years old whereas my daughter´s peers back in the UK start learning to read when they start school at 4 yrs old. In an attempt to try and start teaching my daughter on a par with the UK I bought the Jolly Phonics workbooks and also the Oxford Reading Tree(Level 1&2), which are used in the majority of primary schools in the UK but with a newborn baby to look after and a tired and not so enthusiastic daughter, didn´t get very far!

Now she has started learning to read & write in Spanish so I´ve renewed my efforts but still finding it a bit of an uphill struggle, finding the time to sit down and practice reading and writing and also motivating her. I   don´t know whether it´s because she has to process both languages so it is taking her longer to grasp reading  and that this is normal in bilingual children or whether it´s because she doesn´t appear to be very interested in learning to read, despite all my hard efforts.We have started again with the Oxford Reading Tree and are working our way through Level 1 and have almost started Level Two plus I have copied the words from the stories in Level 1 onto card to make flashcards,which we try to go through every other day.My husband is working with her on her Spanish reading & writing and she is working through her first"cartilla". I find the Spanish way of learning to read more boring and not as motivating as the Oxford Reading Tree.

I have both letter magnets and the National Literacy Strategy Magnetic Words for Reception on the fridge and  I form words such as the days of the week, the months or other words and also sentences on the fridge so my daughter can read them or make her own words or sentences or even just play with them. I have also looked at the website :www.oxfordowl.co.uk, which has many free resources including games and tips about how to encourage literacy and if you subscribe to it, you can access many ebooks. I´ve found a couple of fantastic pages on Facebook of blogs/websites about encouraging reading including Growing Book By Book and Reading Is Fundamental, both of which give good advice and have free resources.The Reading is Fundamental site has activity calenders for each month and for different ages, which you can print out in Spanish or English and do the activities each day...my only problem is that I don´t have access to some of the books that are reccommended but we try to do what activities we can.

For now we are not doing much writing either as anything that looks like a worksheet or schoolwork is a distinct no-no...so I´m trying to come up with fun ways for us to practice both reading & writing. I´m hoping the Junior Scrabble boardgame will help with writing/spelling and also with reading. So all in all it´s a slow process but we are getting there gradually. I have more ideas of how to help her with her 2 R´s but my main big hurdle is finding out how to motivate her.I also printed out a reading chart and after each book she finishes, she gets a sticker and when the chart is full she can get a treat,which seems to help a little with motivation.  At least she enjoys being read to and I´m going to try to do it every night as some nights we just don´t get round to it for one reason or another. Another thing I want to try is audiobooks as at least they will help her vocabulary and listening skills...while hopefully encouraging her to learn to read too(I hope!)She also watches SuperWhy occasionally, an American cartoon which focuses on literacy and reading skills,shown on Canal Panda in Spain, which she enjoys and I want to buy the set of Alphablocks, which has very good reviews on Amazon and is all about phonics. I´d love to hear your ideas and thoughts or experiences about teaching the two R´s in the minority language.

Saturday, 17 December 2016

Gift ideas for bilingual children

Hey. I´m doing great...not one but two blog posts within a few days of each other!!!I´m on a role! I just wanted to get this posted as if you are still struggling for ideas of what to buy your bilingual children this year(like me, I´ve been wracking my brains despite my daughter having a large list of things she wants!)while there´s still time for you to buy them(hopefully! ); )

1. Books, books and more books: I really want to instill a love of reading in my kids so I always buy them lots of books, particularly those in the minority language but sometimes in the majority language too. Bilingual books are also a great option. Some of the books I´ve bought this year for my children are ABC Zoo by Rod Campbell and The Orchard Book of Nursery Rhymes for my 1yr old and I Can Read!Oxford Poetry for 5 year olds and The Puffin Book of Stories for 5yr olds for my 5yr old...will have to let you know our opinion of them after Christmas but they have mainly good reviews on Amazon!!!

2.Board games in the minority language: These are great to play as a family and encourage children with their speaking and vocabulary and other skills,such as literacy,numeracy, problem solving etc above all in the minority language. I love Orchard Toys games and this year I´ve bought my 5yr old Junior Scrabble,as I´m trying to encourage and improve her literacy skills in the minority language and I´m going to try and buy seperate Spanish tiles if it is possible.

3. DVD´s: These are great because you can buy your children´s favourite cartoons or TV series in the minority language but they often have many other language audio options and subtitle options too. Films are also or TV programmes   from the minority language country that aren´t shown in your country of residence are also good options.This year we haven´t bought any but previous years my daughter received Charlotte´s Web, The Waterbabies & Rainbow DVD´s.

4.Audiobooks: This is great for improving listening skills and encouraging literacy in the minority language. I have been meaning to buy my daughter an audiobook for the last couple of years but have yet to do so, so I can´t really reccommend any although I have heard that the James Herriot Treasury for Children audiobook is very enjoyable. Here´s an excerpt.

5.Music CD´s: Again this is a fantastic way to improve listening skills,vocabulary, pronunciation etc and also to bring bilingual children closer to the culture of the minority language culture. From albums of groups or bands to soundtracks from films or even typical children´s songs,I´m sure you will find something that you child will enjoy listening to and even singing along. We like the CD If You´re Happy & You Know it Clap Your Hands which is a collection of traditional children´s song but is also a CD-Rom, from which you can dowload worksheets and there´s also a video of Row Row Row The Boat.

6. Other monolingual/bilingual toys: There are many toys that are bilingual or even trilingual or you can buy monolingual versions too. Some of my favourites have been Chicco´s Bilingual Talking Cube, Vtech´s My Pal Violet (monolingual) and a more recent addition, a trilingual toy remote control.Puzzles are also great too.Lil´ollo has a lovely range of bilingual products which would make a lovely gift for bilingual children.

7. Magazine subscription: You could subscribe to your child´s favourite monolingual magazine especially if it focuses one that focuses on their interests for example if they love horseriding, a magazine about horses and ponies etc or aomething more general. This would enhace their literacy skills and vocabulary especially if the magazine is about a specific subject as they would learn subject specific vocabulary which they might otherwise never be exposed to. Also if it is a more general magazine it can also engage them more with the culture of the minority language culture too. I have bought my daughter CBeebies Weekly to encourage her with her reading and as the magazine features many of the characters from Children´s BBC, which she desn´t get to see unfortunately, hopefully it will engage her in this side of British culture.If my daughter enjoys this magazine I might take out a subscription.

8. Theatre/cinema etc trip: If this is possible in your city, then you could give them a trip to see a play, pantomime or musical at the theatre or to the cinema to see a film in English. In our case it would mean travelling to the capital  so would make it more of a gift!

Monday, 12 December 2016

Long overdue update...5 years old!!

Wow! It has been a really long time since my last post!!! I have two unfinished blog posts that I´ve abandoned and just decided to start a new one from scratch!! The truth is life is very hectic and I just don´t have the time(or the energy!!) for blogging. Any free time I have, I prefer to just relax and read a book or watch TV!!!!

Anyway, my daughter is 5 now and both her Spanish & English language skills have really blossomed .She understands 100% of what we say in both Spanish and English, speaks both languages with fully formed sentences and her vocabulary is expanding and improving day by day.She is also starting to pick up the grammar rules of each language and sometimes she applies these rules but in the wrong context, for example, she has realised that to form a noun  in Spanish you add -ando and she applied this rule to Cola Cao and invented a made-up word "Cola Caoando". She also sometimes mixes languages if she doesn´t know a word in one of the languages or has forgotten it so you can get Spanglish sentences,such as the following one. She was talking about stepping on the ants and either had forgotten or didn´t know the word "step on" so she said something along the lines of: " You have to pis it", taking the Spanish word "pisar" to mean step/stand on but it can sound a little bit funny in English!!!

......another year has passed since I first started writing this update. My little girl is now a big sister and has a little brother (now a year old) so between two night owls and a teething, clingy toddler, plus housework and all the other daily chores, there is little time or energy for blogging although I´m going to make it my New Year´s Resolution to get back into the blogging swing again!! Unfortunately our bilingual baby playgroup has folded a bit as everyone is busy at the weekends and also the fact that now everyone has two kids, we are quite a large group so it can get pretty cramped in our flats/houses....we could do to rent a place!!!We are attempting to meet up at least once a month if possible.

Sunday, 21 July 2013

English Resources for Native and Non-Native Parents

I have been fairly quiet recently and my lack of posts and comments is due not only to a lack of time but also largely to a lack in subject matter or topics to write about...I seem to have got a bit of writer´s block perhaps!However, I´m hoping that this summer, I´ll get back on track and find some inspiration and time to write about it!

As the mother of a bilingual child, I´m always on the lookout for plenty of English resources to support what she is hearing from me and to provide extra English imput, and although some English resources can be found ,there is not a great variety or selection where I live.Last summer, when I was in the UK, I found a great CD for only about a fiver, from WHSmith, called If You´re Happy and You Know It Clap Your Hands, a compilation of 25 favourite children´s nursery rhymes and songs...there were a few that I didn´t know or hadn´t heard before too!Also, a bonus about this CD is that it also contains 50 printouts which include the song lyrics and activity sheets,such as spot the differences, join the dots etc and also has a animated version of Row,Row,Row Your Boat. This is great to listen to on a long car journey or at home to dance along to and join in with the actions.

Another great English resource which I bought recently is the Rainbow Songs, Rhymes,Stories and Tales DVD. Rainbow was a popular children´s TV programme when I was a little girl and I enjoyed watching it. It stars Geoffrey, Rod,Jane and Freddie as the presenters and puppets, Zippy,Bungle and George. However, my daughter hasn´t shown much interest in watching this DVD yet...I can´t seem to tear her away from Peppa Pig but I do think it will be a great English resource,particularly as I want her to know her cultural heritage not only the English language and hopefully enjoy programmes I enjoyed as a child (even if they may be a little dated now!) It contains the story of Rumplestiltskin, The Ugly Duckling and The Hare and The Tortoise and there is also a sing-a-long to favourite nursery rhymes such as Incy,Wincy Spider and Humpty Dumpty. You can buy it on Amazon.co.uk for around 5 pounds and the Super Saver Delivery is an available option so again it is fairly inexpensive.

The VTec Rhyme and Discover book  is also a fantastic way to expose your children to more English as it contains 7 popular nursery rhymes, such as Mary Had A Little Lamb,Ring a Ring a Roses and 3 Little Kittens, which babies and toddlers can sing along to and join in with and also encourages children to learn and think. It also contains various phrases such as "It´s time for a rhyme", "Turn the page" and "the end". I originally bought this when I was in the USA for my monolingual nieces and now it has been passed on to my daughter,who loves it. I don´t know if my nieces played with it very often or how many times the batteries have been changed but it´s still going strong!As I bought this in the US, it has an American accent and some of the nursery rhyme words are slightly different to the versions I learnt and usually sing.I can´t remember how much it cost me but again I don´t think it was so expensive.

Finally, although I don´t have an Iphone, I do have a Smartphone and I was searching for free bilingual apps one day and came across the app: Pocoyo: Las Mil Puertas, which I downloaded. This app is great for young children to listen to while you are in the waiting room at the doctor´s or dentist´s or something. You can choose between Spanish or English and as it is a story, you also have the choice of listening to it being read or reading it yourself. It is also interactive as if the child touches the door for example, the door will open.

Thursday, 30 May 2013

Bilingual Tots: 22-24 months

I haven´t blogged on here for awhile for two reasons: Firstly, I´m finding it hard to find time to blog anything these days especially as I have two blogs and now my new project, a Facebook page, and as I hardly have time for anything,then it´s been falling a bit by the wayside and secondly, I haven´t had much inspiration about posts and what I could write about!!!A case of writer´s block,you could say!!

Anyway, I´m back with an update about my daughter´s language progress and I am increasingly amazed at how quickly she seems to be acquiring language,processing and assimilating language now. It´s like a little language explosion has taken place! She appears to pick up at least one new word in both languages per day  (this is a rough guesstimate and maybe I´m exaggarating but that´s what it seems like!). She constantly repeats or tries to repeat what we say, sometimes with amusing and cute-sounding results, and is quite a little parrot.She can say her name now more or less although the pronunciation is a little off but it´s sooooo cute. She has also learnt to say "Abuelo", "Abuela" and "Granny"....she even managed a "Grandad" a couple of times but then reverted back to "Abuelo". She is also starting to mix languages a little as a couple of times,she  called my Mum "Abuela" but then self-corrected or later referred to her once again as "Ganny"(she can´t quite pronounce Granny clearly yet!)

She is also starting to string words and phrases together to make short sentences such as "Sientaté" (although she can´t pronounce it properly), ".....a la calle" "...a comer".(sounds more like "a mamer") "It´s cold"etc. She seems to say more short phrases in Spanish than in English at the moment. She also says "a co" for "cogerme"...pick me up! As I mentioned she also likes singing and will often join in or initiate songs and does the actions,especially "Hokey Cokey"-she particularly likes the in-out-in-out line!, The Wheels On the Bus-she is quite good at the last line: "All day long",Head, Shoulders Knees and Toes and Ring-A Ring a Roses. The other day she was singing something and we eventually made out that it was Happy Birthday to you.It was so cute and on the final line of the song she flung her arms out as if she were on stage!!

One of her favourite games to play is Hide and Seek.We all take turns to count while the others go and hide and she has even started joining in with the counting, at least up to 3. It sounds more like she is counting in Spanish as opposed to English. We are continuing to read in both languages and she likes to take the book off you and "read" it herself!

As for the Bilingual Playgroup despite my worries...it has taken off again and we also have a new member, which makes 5 adults and 5 children,not counting the two babies,who I´m sure will be participating more actively in the Playgroup when they are a bit older so it´s going well!

Tuesday, 5 March 2013

Bilingual Tots:20-21 months

I´m a little worried about the bilingual playgroup I started up as it seems to slowly be fizzling out due to us all being busy with other things and a variety of reasons. However,we are still trying to struggle on and meet most weeks so we‘ll see how it goes.
My daughter is talking loads more and is a little parrot as she is repeating many words and phrases. I think she is going to be a chatterbox! I was a bit worried recently because it seemed that she was saying more words and phrases in Spanish than in English.
Although this past week,it appears to be the other way around, possibly because my mum was visiting.
She can now say Granny and has starting saying something resembling Mummy and Daddy too.She is learning at least one new word a day or more I think! The other day it snowed for the first time and she could say "snow"...I think seeing one of the Peppa Pig episodes about snow has helped her learn this word too!!! Other new words are baby or bebe(it sounds more like the Spanish word!),cupcake,garlic (I think she´s going to have my love of food and cooking!!)frio, co(for coger"pick me up!"), it´s cold, milk(although she can´t say it properly!)mel( short for Actimel), yogur for yoghurt, pipi,caca,poo poo and probably more that I can´t think of right now!She has also learnt the word "mío" (mine) which she´s probably picked up from nursery.We aren´t too happy about this as she is using it a lot and we want to teach her to share her things even though is maybe a bit young to understand this concept at the moment.

She is also saying "a mi" as in "give it to me" and starting to use pronouns although she is a little confused as she says "tu,tu" when she means you but also to mean "me" when she wants to do something herself although I have managed to teach her the English equivalent "me". She is also starting to pick up other children´s names and joins in when counting but mainly in Spanish.She is also starting to repeat colours in both Spanish and English,such as blue, purple,azul,green and says "colour" when she wants to colour.When we sing certain songs such as "The Hokey Cokey", The Wheels on the Bus, or Ring a Ring of Roses or she hears them on BabyTV she likes to sing along and sometimes initiates the song herself and she loves doing the actions.It´s all very exciting,seeing how her talking and bilingualism is developing and so far I´m pleased with how it´s going! She´s been calling my mum "Granny" but the other day she said something that sounded very much like "abuela" to my mother-in-law so maybe she is starting to distinguish who speaks which language? Then again it could have just been a coincidence or it could have just been repetition!