This blog post will focus on the main aspects of elementary bilingual education.
Reasoning Mind – After the absorbent mind that is typically seen in children ages 0-6 comes the reasoning mind (ages 6-12). This is typically what’s called the intellectual period and children are more social during this time. Children can distinguish between fact and fiction and often have a huge thirst for knowledge at this time.
While children often ask “Why?” multiple times during ages 0-6, once they get older, they start asking “Why?” for different reasons. Younger children start to get parents to talk for comfort, vocabulary and language skills. Those ages 6-12 actually want to know why. 6 through 12-year-olds like to research until they feel satisfied with an answer.
Brave – Children should learn to fail, learn from it and try again (aka resilience) in all aspects of their lives during this period. Due to the importance of honing social skills during this stage of development and being accepted by peers, it takes bravery to use a new language (much like adults). That practice in resilience for children ages 6-12 is great for learning a new language - and a valuable life skill.
Learn Vocabulary – In the first six years of life, vocabulary words were just added to "buckets" of accessible words to use to communicate needs and such. Therefore, sometimes a door is a puerta and sometimes a gate. It was just the first word produced to mean the plank of wood that opens and closes. At this age, students add new words to their vocabulary, and those words are defined. Similarly, second language words are defined with mother language words, or translated. A child comfortably learns within a range of 25 vocab words each week.
The trick to learning the second language is to actually use the target language words. Children need to feel the words in their mouths, throats, lungs, etc. and to hear the words rattle in their eardrums and echo and bounce around their brain. Similar to learning to eat exciting new foods.
Reading and Writing – For reading, it’s important to get the correct level of books where a child knows about 97 percent of the words on the page, so they’re not frustrated. This is important because children often become frustrated and discouraged if they don’t know as little of a rate of three words per page. Alternatively, you can use a translated version of their favorite books or read out loud together until the child feels comfortable.
When it comes to writing, start with simple three-word sentences and then progress as the child feels comfortable.
PRO TIP: Take advantage of a child’s sense of humor! Use their sense of fun to help learn with games, jokes, and tongue twisters, as well as videos and music in the target language. Happy learning!
Links to Resources:
Here are some links to Spanish videos to get you started on creating the language-rich environment.