Sharing the Love of Languages

Posts tagged ‘multiliteracy’

A Great Day

Yesterday was a great day. We hosted a baby shower for our dear Venezuelan friend, Sandy Siquier. It was so wonderful to celebrate with Sandy!

There were wonderful old friends, like Barb, from grad school, who planned and executed the fun and beautiful event. Also there was one “kindred spirit” who I didn’t know before. Her name is Cathy and she spoke to her children in her non-native language, with a monolingual husband in a monocultural home…just like me! Her language was Spanish and she was able to offer the children with play dates with native speakers. She said this was a huge help as they didn’t have all the technology available back then. She said that she spoke to the children in Spanish and read stories to them. Since they were living in a monocultural home, however, she said she couldn’t get them to speak Spanish back to her. The children saw her speaking to their father in English and so they obviously knew she spoke English.

This is only the second time in my life where I’ve met someone who raised their children like my husband and I have chosen to do with ours. Surely there are more of us out there, but this was a momentous occasion, especially since Cathy is local and really seems to be a wealth of knowledge!

Do you think it’s possible for our children to speak in French in an environment like our home? (Monolingual father, monocultural family, French is my non-native language) Well, it’s not easy, that’s for certain. For our family, it remains to be seen. We have seen some language production, but what will it look like in five or ten years? We have not been successful yet in finding other families who speak French in the area. We will continue to search! Luckily, we other positive things have happened to encourage them to speak! I will have to find the time to write about them soon! In the meantime, what are your thoughts? Any tips you can give us for our language adventure? We’d love to hear from you!


Chantons avec Boowa et Kwala


Boowa et Kwala have filled our lives with the joy of singing and dancing in our target language! Thanks to, the “Sunny Earth Kids,” Soleil and Géo, go around the house joyfully singing and dancing in French! I end up singing a lot of their songs and I often change the words to fit whatever is going on at that moment. I find that narrating our life, sometimes through singing, is one way I can keep the language input at a maximum without sounding like a narrator.

For anyone wanting fun, free resources for French or English, then UpToTen’s Boowa & Kwala may be for you. It is geared toward young children and is available in English by clicking on the little flag that is found between the “Chercher” and the “Parents” icons at the top of the page. Depending on where you are in the site, the option to change the language may vary:




You can purchase the premium version that offers an ad-free version. There is also a version for schools!

The children are really enjoying the games section. I will write a future blog post about the games. When the kids were too young to play the awesome games, we used to listen to “les chansons non-stop” which has over 90 adorable songs with fun animations. We listened to these songs so many times that I have memorized several of the tunes and some of the lyrics. These are the songs that I change the words to in order to narrate our daily life and to create some fun kinesthetic moments in French. Here’s an example of a favorite song that came to mind as we checked out our “new dance floor” which now is our living room:

Check out the adorable animation the above song came from. I can remember when the kids were younger, we used to play “La danse des bouées” and the children would follow the lead of Boowa et Kwala, falling dizzily to the floor at the end in hysterics! Sometimes they’d get me to join them. Writing this now is making me want to remind them of these times and see if they want to try it again! It is so perfect for language learning since they are actually acting out what they’re singing.

Every song in this section has a little “P” by the control buttons at the bottom left corner. The “P” stands for “paroles,” so by clicking the lyrics will pop up. I love this feature. Sometimes I needed that visual of the lyrics to be able to sing fast enough to keep up in French. I am not a native-speaker, after all, and I’ve been teaching Spanish for 15 years! I really appreciate this little “P”!!!!


Here are some examples of other songs that we listened to over and over that include something interactive and/or repetitious to boost  children’s language acquisition.

Les grenouilles: Song that teaches how to count up to six, and we always like to croak like frogs at the appropriate moment! CROA! As a lover of puns, I loved the play on the words “quoi” and “croa”! 🙂

Bisou, câlin et doudou: I have sung Boowa’s part as a lullaby for my little loves.

Dodo Boowa et Kwala: Another lullaby that we just love.

Moi je t’aime et toi tu m’aimes: A sweet song about friendship.

Dans ma potion: It doesn’t have to be October for us to still seek this silly song out. The children are both really good about saying “Non merci” and I believe I have this song to thank! One of their all time favorite games actually goes along with this song. It’s called “La potion de Boowa” and it’s one of the games they still need my help with. I think they will keep at it until they don’t need me anymore, though, since they think it’s hilarious.

Quelle couleur avons-nous?: Love the art lesson included in this song.

L’expérience donne l’expérience: I love the message this song provides!

Peux-tu marcher comme un canard: This is another great song that packs a punch of language learning! We just followed Boowa’s lead by copying Kwala and voilà! The kids internalized the meaning of the verbs “marcher,” “nager,” “voler,” and “parler.”

Il pleut, ça mouille: This is a very popular song…especially since we live where it rains quite a bit! It may be grey and rainy out when we sing it, but for some reason this song always makes us smile!

Noël est déjà là: Another pleasantly repetitious ditty. I am certain that Soleil and Géo understand the future tense and the verb “gâter” thanks to this song!

Même pas peur: This is another popular song in our household. The words have been changed up for the appropriate situation, but the “même pas peur” part is always the same. The children enjoy this song as it makes them feel brave in a painful situation.

J’aime te câlins: We sing the “câlins tout doux” part of this all the time.

Souris, fais cheese: Love the silly rhymes and especially “Truc qui finit en ise” that Boowa sings! LOL

Picnic: I don’t know why, but this little tune is probably my all time favorite from Boowa et Kwala. It’s really hard to choose just one, but I’d have to say this is it. Maybe it’s because of the pure joy that dear little Kwala exudes by singing this song and doing her little happy dance. We do the happy dance with her as she sings! Sometimes I find myself singing this song, but most of the time we’re not going on a picnic, so I’ll change up the words to fit the fun occasion.

I could keep going on and on about the adorable songs and animations! Why don’t you check them out for yourself! Here’s a handy spot to choose by monthly themes. It’s called “Events” and is one of our favorite go-to spots for some interactive fun with Boowa et Kwala.


Finally, another great thing about this website is that they seem to have something for many of the holidays we celebrate. For instance, check out this cute musical gift a child can create for their mom on Mother’s Day! Fun stuff like this can be found on the Events page I just mentioned above.

We are so grateful to the creators of It is all around good, clean, engaging fun! The website states that it’s geared towards 0-10 year olds, but I am definitely out of that range by a few decades and sometimes I find myself taking my own turn after the kids! The music fills our heads and we use it in our daily life. Being the only person my children hear French from, and a non-native speaker at that, websites like this are so appreciated! They are helping us provide fun with French to our children and that is the best gift we could ask for! So we’d like to say MERCI BEAUCOUP, Up To Ten!!! You rock our Sunny Earth!


Our Future Multiliterate

Geo is speech delayed. He has verbal apraxia that makes speech difficult for him. We were told to repeat back to him in English what he is trying to say so we can best prepare him for Kindergarten where he will have to speak English. In this video you will see when I work with Geo on the word “off.” I provided him with the touch cue for the “f” sound in “off.” For the “f” touch cue, you place your pointer finger across your bottom lip to show where your teeth have to touch to create the “f” sound. You can see Geo copy my cue when he correctly articulates the “f” sound in “off.” With the cue, his brain gains control over the muscles and movement his mouth needs to produce proper speech. (Or at least, this is what I have come to understand about Geo’s apraxia over the last few months.)

Geo’s speech team said I could still speak to him in French as much as possible. When Geo is in “listen” mode with his mother around (yours truly), he is mainly hearing French. When he is speaking, he mainly chooses English and the English words are the ones we focus on getting him to say. We provide him the touch cues for the English sounds and he puts the sounds together to produce the word. The touch cue helps his brain tell his mouth what to say. All the touch cues touch near the part of the face and throat where the sound is produced (more or less). Seems that no matter how you slice and dice it, gestures and touch cues are a dynamite vehicle for language learning!

When we are not working Geo’s speech, we have gaming and singing time in French in addition to story time. During these times, Geo does say some words in French. At this point, I don’t spend much time teaching him how to pronounce each French word he is not articulating properly. Usually when we are playing, we focus on having fun…don’t you? Learning to speak is hard work for our little guy…if we pushed it on him all the time, he would rebel as he did the first week we began therapy when we made him work to articulate too often.

All in all, we are thrilled with the progress that Geo has made over the past few months in speech therapy. We are equally thrilled with the amount of “franglais”  he is using…articulation aside! (Franglais is what we call English with French words mixed in.) We have a long road ahead to get Geo’s speech up to par with other kids his age, but we are understanding him more and more each day and he is making steady progress.

Hopefully we will be able to provide enough second language exposure to Geo now so that once he has his English articulation down to a science and starts his formal school-based language learning, he will breeze through it saying “Au revoir” to speech delay and “Bonjour” to multiliteracy!

What do you think? Do you think by mixing the language together as seen in this video, Geo will confuse the languages? Is there any advice you could share with us?

Have You Ever Listened in the Wrong Language?

Have you ever listened in the wrong language? If you are like me, it has happened to you many times.

Today my daughter, Soleil, experienced the other side of this type of miscommunication. We were at a French Honor Society fundraiser for Haiti. Along with the delicious breakfast, silent auction and live music by French students, was face painting. While Geo danced along to some holiday classics, Soleil was being painted with a Rudolph nose and a beautiful flower. She came to show me her artwork and said she’d also like to have a “papillon.” For those who don’t know French, this is the word for “butterfly” and it’s pronounced somewhat like the word “puppy” with a “yo” sound at the end. I told Soleil in French that she could go ask for “un papillon,” thinking it was a great opportunity for her to practice her French with members of the French Honor Society. The artist was listening in the wrong language, though. I don’t know how else to explain the fact that she came back with a puppy on her cheek! Soleil and I got a good laugh about how silly this was. She agreed that it was “très drôle” (very funny) and that “ça nous fait rire” (it makes us laugh) to think about it.

Do you have any silly stories to share about listening in the wrong language? I’d love to hear them! I’ll bet there are some really interesting ones out there!

The Accelerative Integrative Methodology Promotes Multiliteracy

I am committed to life-long learning and hope to continue learning and growing my entire life. I am so grateful to have found the langchat hash tag on twitter. The educators who share ideas and resources using #langchat have sparked me to critique and tweak my teaching techniques and have helped me bring new, exciting lessons to my students. From engaging, interactive videos to fun songs and dances, my professional learning network offers it all with free professional development topping the list. The feedback from students and parents alike has been phenomenal. Students are taking what we learn in class and sharing it around school and in their homes. Just today, a parent shared with me that she had a houseful of 7th grade girls singing songs in Spanish and French all night long during a sleepover.

Never before have I been able to connect with innovative teachers outside my district like I have since following #langchat. Just last month, I was invited by Sylvia Duckworth (@sylviaduckworth) to visit her classroom and to attend a two-day AIM Language workshop. Through twitter, Sylvia had also helped me connect with another French teacher, Mardi Michels (@eatlivtravwrite) at the NYSAFLT conference. Mardi gave a presentation “Haiti on a Plate,” which was the best presentation I attended. Mardi graciously invited me into her classroom as well.

I found out about the Accelerative Integrative Methodology (AIM) for language learning via the langchat hash tag. I came across a video of Stephen Lai’s (@sly111) AIM classroom learning the emotions in French. Stephen teaches elementary French in Richmond, British Columbia. When my two children saw the video, they couldn’t get enough and by the third viewing, they were acting out the emotions along with the student actor. The engagement and excitement of my four and two-year-old was what ignited my desire to learn more about the program. If it could keep their attention and encourage them to interact with French, then what could it do for my students’ language acquisition?

The four-day learning adventure started at Royal St. George’s College with Mardi and her 4th-6th grade classes. The next day I spent at Crescent School with Sylvia’s 3rd-6th grade classes. Lastly, I attended a two-day workshop where I had the opportunity to learn more formally about AIM from Sylvia, Renée Villeneuve (@ReneeVil) and Dan Bart. I will share here the two days spent in the classrooms. I will not attempt to share much from the two-day workshop. No amount of words could properly portray the learning. I highly recommend attending one, and hope to get back to Ontario in July for the summer institute! (You can visit here for offerings.)

After the observations, it was clear to me that when used properly, AIM was a very effective program that stood true to its claim to create astounding results. The fact that the teachers and students were conversing entirely in French was astounding, humbling and thrilling. The level of excitement and engagement of the students was exhilarating. I will now outline some of what I witnessed during the two days of observations.

-Class is conducted entirely in the target language (French, in this case, however, AIM offers programs in Spanish and English as well)

-Students are interacting with the language throughout the class time

-Students are engaged and excited about class

-Students not only passively understand the teacher, they also produce speech in the target language (and in complete sentences)

-Students were invited to ask me questions. Here are some of the questions they asked: Quel est ton nom? Est-ce que tu as des frères et sœurs? Combien de jours est-ce que tu restes ici? D’ou viens tu? Est-ce que tu as des animaux? Pourquoi tu es ici?

-Students created the following Phrases bizarres : Je fais du ski dans la maison. Je suis une banane/un ananas. Je suis un ananas qui joue au base-ball. Ananas danse et chante pendant le concert. Ananas joue au hockey avec les Maple Leaves. Une banane fait du patinage à la maison de Laurence. Une banane et une pomme jouent à la chasse avec Ananas! Un champignon mange 55 personnes sur une pizza. Ananas lance un œil et l’œil frappe Ananas sur la tête. Un hippopotame fait de la peinture dans le bayou.

-Gestures were used to help students understand the proper use of verb tenses. In one case, the imperfect tense was used to tell what they were for halloween: J’étais un squelette. J’étais un œuf. J’étais nourriture de chien. J’étais un jedi. J’étais un iPhone. J’étais un voleur. J’étais un iPad

-Students write in French independently: Students had written descriptions about themselves the day before. When asked what they did in class the day before, a student answered: « On a écrit des descriptions.» The desciptions were read aloud and the students had to guess who wrote it. The boys adored this activity and were extremely eager to be the person who guessed the correct classmate. Here is a couple examples of what the boys had written to describe themselves : 1. J’ai les cheveux blonds et raids. Je suis très grand. J’ai les yeux noisette. J’adore les sports de hockey et basket-ball. 2. Je suis de taille moyenne. J’ai les cheveux noirs. J’ai la peau olive. Je suis mince.

-The use of daily routines ensures language acquisition of key topics. Routines I saw include the outside-the-classroom rap to prepare students to enter the French-only space, hangman agenda (students play hangman to learn what they will be doing in class that day) and the following :

1. As students enter class, they are asked: Quel est la date aujourd’hui? Together, teacher and students state : Le jour, c’est vendredi. Le date, c’est le vingt-huit. Le mois, c’est octobre. L’année, c’est deux mille onze. La saison, c’est automne. Then they sing a little song : « Quel temps fait-il? » Then : Est-ce que le soleil brille ? Ou est-ce que le soleil ne brille pas ? Class continues to properly describe the weather as seen out the window. (« Oui » and « Non » were not acceptable answers. All responses were formulated into complete phrases)

2. Next was the time : « Quel heure est-il? » Il est neuf heures trente-huit

3. Another routine combined math with rewards : « Est-ce que tout le monde a les agendas? » OUI, madame! « Maintenant je peux donner les points aux groups » Groups must then add the numbers in French: Groups state their new number. Ex : « On a deux cent et dix points maintenant. » « On a cent quatre-vingt dix points maintenant. »

-Students paraphrased the plays they were learning for me so that’d I’d understand the plot of the play

-Students rewrote scenes of the play

-Students broke up into groups and practiced performing the plays

Wendy Maxwell, creator of the AIM program, made gestures to portray grammatical structures such as verb tenses, singular vs. plural and gender. The grammar of the language is ingrained in the gesturing and is taught within context. AIM takes the effectiveness of integrating gestures into language learning and ingeniously incorporates a multimodal, differentiated approach that draws all students into learning. Dan Bart stated that with AIM, even students with academic difficulties have access to learning and are successful where in other classes they may not be. I can definitely see how his statement would be true. I know spending two days in AIM classrooms does not make me an expert, however, the amount of student engagement and levels of teacher support I witnessed support Dan’s statement.

The gestures are only one of five key elements of the AIM program:

1. The Gesture Approach

2. Pared Down Language

3. Stories/Plays/Music/Dance

4. Language Manipulation Activities (written and oral)

5. Transfer to Spontaneous Speech and Creative Storytelling

Through the integration of all five key elements, Maxwell perfected her ingenious system which, when properly used, produces outstanding levels of fluency. When students speak and write in the target language, AIM teachers are trained to provide students with varying levels of support, flexible enough to meet the needs of all learners.

Last year I started integrating American Sign Language (ASL) into my teaching. I taught some of the basic phrases of greeting and expressions of courtesy (which I had remembered from first grade). I found that if the students forgot a phrase, all I had to do was provide them with the sign, and that would spark their memory and they would then be able to say the phrase. I planned to learn and incorporate more ASL into lessons but then, I joined twitter, found #langchat and subsequently discovered AIM Language (#aimlang), and as I’ve heard other AIM teachers say: I’ll never look back! To me, it seems as if Wendy Maxwell fashioned a program that recreates the natural way one acquires language as a young child. As we grow up, we learn through the repetition of hearing words and phrases as we, or as our parents, are performing the actions. In AIM, the stories, music and plays give the opportunity for children to learn the language while performing the language. AIM thus exemplifies the Ancient Chinese Proverb: Tell me and I will forget; teach me and I will remember; involve me and I will learn. AIM involves students in such a way that keeps the affective filter low and the engagement high. AIM also makes learning fun, and I think we all learn better when we feel good about what we’re learning.

I am so excited to have had this learning adventure…and the adventure has only just begun!

Our Digital Natives

Our digital natives inspire us.

Our children, Soleil (4) and Geo (2), love to use our iPod and iPhone to play instrument apps. They also both ask to play Super Why which teaches basic English literacy. Soleil plays games that have taught her the alphabet in French and she can sing along to several children’s songs in French from YouTube.

We are wondering if there’s any other parents, aunts, uncles, grandparents, teachers, etc., out there who are inspired as we are, by the digital natives in their lives…and if so, how? What are you doing with your inspiration? We’d love to hear!

As teachers and as parents we want to keep learning about the new amazing apps that hand-held devices are providing for our digital natives in the classroom and at home. Sometimes it’s hard to sift through all the possibilities! There are so many!! If you have found any must-have apps or other online resources for learning Math, French, Spanish or English, please share! Thank you!

Hi World! Salut Monde! Hola Mundo!

We are on an educational adventure. Our goal is to create a non-profit organization that promotes multiliteracy, multicultural awareness and peace. We believe that literacy has multiple forms and we are especially passionate about technology literacy, math literacy and literacy in multiple languages.We’d like to share top-notch educational resources in our fields of expertise: Math, French, Spanish and English. We believe that through the use of technology, we can create our own engaging videos and share them with the world. Our hope is that others will be willing to share in our efforts to help us create the Sunny Earth Academy: Where Learners Become Global Teachers!