Language Acquisition: Do Young children Need a Second Language?

Language Books

For years, people have been researching the acquisition of languages. One aspect mentioned in some of this research is the distinction between Primary (“mother tongue”) and Secondary language. I believe this distinction is essential for maximizing the power of learning another language.

Primary and secondary languages are stored in different places in the brain and through a different process. First, second and third primary languages are learned by creating patterns from a load of seemingly random information, while secondary languages are learned by using the primary languages as reference and building a “translation net” to map the secondary language back to them.

Experts still argue about the critical age for forming primary languages, but they all estimate it to end between the ages of 7 and 12. This leaves the early childhood educators to deal with this important channel of education in the most critical age – the early years.

Doing No More Than the Average in Education

Most people put in 25%, great people put in 50% and the few amazing people put in 100%

Last week, my kids were guests at a primary school assembly at a school which was not their own school (Tsoof is in his fourth year at university and Noff is in Grade 9). At dinner, they shared their experience with us.

“The deputy principal”, Noff said in shock, “Told the kids they would be getting report cards soon and that if they got a ‘C’ they should be very happy, because ‘C’ meant they were at the average level expected for their grade”. Tsoof joined Noff in her surprise, not believing they had heard this coming from a deputy principal. I was proud of them for rejecting the idea that getting a ‘C’ or the average score expected of them was something to be happy about.

Tsoof said, “How can you expect kids to aim higher if you tell them that a ‘C’ is what they should aim for?”

Noff said, “They think they’re helping their students feel better about getting a ‘C’, but it only makes them give up on doing better” (she is just 13 years old).

Gal and I sat in front of them feeling very proud of our kids for saying that the average is never a good enough aim.

To Work or Not to Work? A Mother’s Dilemma

Child playing peek-a-boo

To work or not to work? Every mother faces this dilemma with every newborn baby. I had three kids, each born in a different place in the world and each in different circumstances, and I had the same dilemma each time.

When Eden, my 25 year old, was born, I could not really choose. I was still studying for my degree and working for a living. I had to go back to college and work a month after I had given birth to her. Fortunately for me, I could leave Eden with Gal, who was juggling his studies and his work to care for Eden. It ended up being the most wonderful experience both for Eden and for Gal.

When Tsoof, my 18 year old, was born, we lived in California, USA. This was far away from our families, after we had lost two kids. When he was 4 months old, we moved to Thailand. When he was about 10 months old, I felt like I was going nuts staying at home and we got a nanny. This allowed me to go to work, have adult conversations and keep my sanity.

When Noff, my 13 year old, was born, we lived in Melbourne, Australia. I started a business and she went to a family day care twice a week. This allowed me to fulfill my obligations to my clients.

How to Be a Great Teacher (U to Z)

An apple and a bookworm

I love teaching. I think teaching is my calling and I know that many teachers feel the same. Over the years, I have collected effective philosophy and teaching tips and am happy to share some with you. In this last post in How to Be a Great Teacher, here are the tips from U to Z.

Use your space creatively rather than in the old fashioned way. A classroom needs to feel cozy and fun so that kids do not wait impatiently for the bell to ring so they can run away. Even if your classroom is small, be creative. You can make palaces out of any sized class. The students can feel like they are kings, queens, knights and princesses. You can tell whether you classroom decoration is good by the reaction of the kids from other rooms, by the fact that your students make sure their parents come to see it and by noticing that you need to encourage your students to go outside and play with their friends.

This post is part 5 of 6 in the series A-to-Z Guides

How to Be a Great Teacher (L to T)

Apple on a stack of books

Establishing a good teaching philosophy and adopting useful tips from experienced teachers are essential tools for effective teaching. In this post, we continued with the letters L through T of How to Be a Great Teacher.

Love of learning is the ultimate teachers’ goals. Use any (positive) way you can think of to promote, advertise and support your students’ love of learning. If they love learning, regardless of what mark they get, you get an A in teaching. To evaluate yourself, ask the kids at the end of every year how much they enjoyed and loved learning with you.

This post is part 3 of 6 in the series A-to-Z Guides

How to Be a Great Teacher (A to K)

Love teaching written on a blackboard

As teachers, our teaching ability is an art form that we keep developing throughout our careers. One of the best parts of any professional development courses I run for teachers, is the discussion about our philosophy and tips we can share with others about teaching. Establishing a good teaching philosophy and adopting useful tips from experienced teachers are essential tools for effective teaching.

Here is a guide that has informed my teaching over the years. I hope the teachers reading this blog will find it useful.

Affirmations are very important in education. Things you repeat over and over again become the thoughts and beliefs of your students. Make sure to plant good affirmations in their minds, ones that they will be able to use long after you are not there. “I can do it!” for example, is a great affirmation that will benefit them more in life than an A in math. Watch what you are repeating.

This post is part 2 of 6 in the series A-to-Z Guides

Teacher Power

World

Today is the first school day in Australia and my 12-year-old daughter Noff is starting high school. That’s it, my little girl is in high school and I am very emotional.

Every year, on the first day of school, we get up very early. Most years, the kids could not sleep from too much excitement. If school starts at 8:45, but they were ready to go at 7:00. It is funny how many years you can drop kids off at school (my eldest is 25 years old now) and still have the same feeling every first day of the year. It is one of those things that time and practice do not change. I drop them off at school and feel I give the most precious thing for me to a group of teachers who will spend more time with him or her than I will. It is not a feeling of neglect, more like a bond we have between us, parents and teachers, that will last for as long as my child goes to that school.

Teachers’ Award

Blue first place ribbon

It is the end of the school year here in Australia and like every year, my kids say goodbye to some wonderful teachers and I get sentimental. Noff (my youngest) is finishing primary school and will be going into high school next year, so we had to say goodbye to quite a few teachers.

As we were making up the end of year gifts, we made a list of all the teachers Noff has had in the last 8 years, and examined their contributions to her life and to ours, her family. Noff had about six teachers she said she really liked. Of those six, two made a significant impact on her life and one was such a fantastic teacher, Noff will remember her forever. She is what you might call a “forever teacher”.

Even just one teacher like that is enough to set your kid up for life. Noff was lucky enough to have this teacher for a whole year and then continued to stay in contact with her in one way or another for the next 4 years.

We, the Baras Family, would like to bestow the 2013 Best Teacher in the Entire World Award to Ms. Kellie Scrogings! Kellie (or Ms. Scrogings, as the kids must call her) was Noff’s Year 3 teachers. She then directed the school musicals when Noff was in Years 6 and 7.

Choice Theory: Happy Classrooms

Feelings and behaviors

Teachers can make the classroom a happy environment for children by addressing the basic needs based on the choice theory and making sure kids have a choice.

In previous blog posts on choice theory, I explained William Glasser’s theory that everything we do in our life is a result of our choice. It is applicable to parenting, business, management, and relationships. It is very applicable to education and the way classrooms are designed.

Unfortunately, most classrooms are not places where one can be free to follow the basic needs based on the choice theory.

This post is part 5 of 6 in the series Choice Theory

Kids Learn Through Play

Little boy in a straw hat

For children, life is a playground. They love to play. From tiny babies who hold toys and manipulate them clumsily, to school children, who play sophisticated games that require thinking, planning and manipulating, kids just love games. In fact, games are a source of calm and comfort for most. They stimulates the mind and body using a “fun incentive”.

Education in early childhood is very important in building the foundation for happy learning. The early impression children have of learning determines their attitude towards acquiring new knowledge later on in life. Researchers discovered that pre-teen children who called their learning activities “play” were more successful, happier in school and more socially content at the end of adolescence than those who considered their learning activities “work”.

Children play games for many purposes. For example, games can be used to improve social skills. During games, kids must negotiate, share, relate and connect with others. This helps develop understanding, compassion, empathy, acceptance and trust. Later on, this allows healthy intimacy.