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Tips/tricks/strategies for 2nd lang teaching??


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I have been asked to do a workshop at our local homeschool conference about integrating second language instruction into our homeschool.  I thought this would be a great place to ask for successful strategies you have used in your family.  I'm looking for approaches, strategies and resources.

1. Suggestions if introducing the language to young students/beginning readers, and how you progress over the years

2. Suggestions if introducing the language with upper elementary/middle school students and how you progress from there

4. Strategies particular to living in a community where the target language is spoken (how take full advantage of immersion opportunities, to integrate your kids into activities when they don't speak the language well yet, etc.)

3. Specific recommendations for teaching French (curriculum, resources, etc.)

I'd appreciate any ideas you can share! 


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I find it simpler to teach reading in the easier language and spelling in the more difficult one. Our language arts is bilingual so I pick curriculum that allows for a lot of leeway including IEW and brave writer. I teach grammar in Spanish but review in English. Just trust me, it works well.

We use vintage math that's very straightforward so I'm able to open it up to our next page and translate as I read the sentence so our English math curriculum is a Spanish math curriculum. I did the same thing with geography.

I reach for out target language as often as possible when using materials. I will always pick a Spanish text over an English one unless the text "deserves" English. Kipling, Nesbit, Suess. Go for the beauty of the original, not the target language just because you can.

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Copied from an old post of mine:

I teach Spanish and English vocabulary simultaneously. We use ANKI here. Examples:

Side 1: Spring

Side 2: Primavera, March 20th to June 21st

Side 1: Coral Reef

Side 2: Arrecife de Coral, a ridge of rock in the sea formed by the growth and deposit of coral



Our math fact drills are bicolored. Black is English, red is Spanish. If it says 5 - 3 in red I say cinco menos tres. Every language has a color. English is black, Spanish is red, Japanese is Green, Greek is blue.

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Slache has some good ideas, similar to what we do.  

I think it's important to specify that 2nd language learning is different from born bilingual learning.  I can speak to the latter.  

- One parent, one language.  If this is at all possible, stick to it.  The parent in the minority language may find the child responds to them in the majority language.  That's ok, just keep encouraging the 2nd language.  This method also works for a nanny, babysitter, child care service, school, etc, in a second language.  Encourage the child's carers to speak in the target language at all times, no matter which language the child responds in.  

- Read, read, read.  Like Slache, I would never have my kids read Tom Sawyer in French.  But The Lighting Thief?  Absolutely.  I push my kids to read pop-fiction in French, but English classics should be read in English.  By the same token, my kids read the French classics in French, not English.  

- Also like Slache, our grammar is a mishmash.  I teach the more complicated French grammar as our main grammar, but regularly explain the English parallel example when there is one.  Same with spelling.  I teach French spelling because the kids are tested in French.  English spelling seems to be improving on its own, probably from reading and because many of the complicated bits of English spelling are related to French-root words.  ?  

- We start reading in the "harder" language about 6 months after the easier language.  From then on, the child has two reading lessons a day, one in each language.

- For the youngest kids, I do every math lesson in both languages.  For the older kids, about once a week or so I have them read their answers to me in French (we use English curriculum) so I can be sure they are maintaining fluency.  When new concepts come up, I give them the French names for the operations.  

- For integration into target language groups, this seems to come pretty easily to younger kids.  For older kids, you could start by looking into groups where language is less important (sports, art, music) then moving into groups where language is very important (theater, book clubs...).  Although I have several ex-pat friends here who have simply thrown their kids into the deep end (theater) and had great success.   

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We homeschool in France. Both parents are bilingual. We mostly speak English at home, French with other people or when having lessons in French.

For math: we use the French edition of the Singapore workbooks for daily drill, occasionally referring to the lessons in the corresponding (French) textbook, and discuss those problems in French. In English, we use several "living math"-style series like Life of Fred and Beast Academy and work the problems together. 

For reading: I teach them to read in the "easier" (more fluent) language first, which is English in our case, then about 6 months in we start a French phonics method and have daily lessons in each language. 

For my oldest two I used the French public school curriculum for math and language arts through a distance learning center for the first two years of elementary to make sure we were covering everything in French but found it too constraining and time-consuming. I wanted a better balance between our two languages, more time for English. 

Main curriculum for history and science are in English, and I add in background reading and documentaries in French. 

Weekly piano lessons with a local (French) teacher, daily practice with me in English so they know note names, technical terms etc. in both. 

My oldest two had a very hard time getting started in French because they were mostly home with me in an English bubble as babies/toddlers. Starting some local sports classes in French (dance, tumbling, judo...) helped them gain confidence and get started speaking. If they didn't understand the oral instructions, it helped a lot to be able to watch the physical demonstration of what they were supposed to do and it reinforced new vocabulary in a relatively low-stress environment. They had gone to a half a year of preschool in French with very little understanding of the language and found it incredibly stressful and traumatic... which is why we quickly switched to homeschool, to give them more time to gain fluency French and to maintain their completely native English. As wonderful as sink-or-swim total immersion in a target-language school can be for some children, I would hesitate to send any kid into this situation again without at least a basic grasp of the language, unless they were incredibly outgoing and unafraid of making mistakes and relaxed about not understanding anything at first. 

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