monolingual parents bilingual children

Best Ways to Assess Student Performance in Immersion Programs

Parents enroll their children in language immersion programs in order to give them the gift of knowing another language. They also expect that their children will do as well or better in learning the regular curriculum in the immersion language as will children who are learning that content in English. As a result, there are two fundamental strands of student assessment in elementary immersion programs: assessment of student learning in various subjects taught in the language, (e.g., math and reading); and assessment of the student’s proficiency in the immersion language. Both are used to evaluate individual student progress, to report to parents and the general community, and to support continual program improvement.

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6 Things Your Child Should Know Before Kindergarten

Although your child attends a language immersion school you should still be aware of basic milestones. While there are some lags in learning that researchers have identified take place until third grade it doesn’t hurt to continue to expose your child with opportunities to learn these skills.

My youngest daughter is entering Kindergarten in the fall and I found these tips from a seasoned educator in Michigan, Lois Hoekstra,  to be very helpful.

1. Encourage a child’s curiosity and eagerness to learn. It’s important for children to start kindergarten with a sense that learning is fun. “They’re going to be like little sponges” in kindergarten, Hoekstra said.

2. Know how to write his or her own name. “As a teacher, I loved it when a child could write his or her name, even if it was all in capital letters,” Hoekstra said. Other experts suggest a child should also know his or her parents’ names and the family address and phone number.

3. Know how to count, at least to 10. “Even 20 or 30,” Hoekstra said. Other experts also suggest that incoming kindergartners should have a sense of the order of the numbers — for instance, realize that the number 5 is after 4 and before 6.

4. Know the alphabet. 
While many, if not most kindergartners, know the alphabet song, it also helps if they recognize the letters in isolation — for instance, they can pick out that letter “s” in a word — and if they know the sounds that letters make. Hoekstra said this is a skill that parents can practice with their children in the car by reading signs.

5. Know how to use scissors.
 “Children who don’t know how to use scissors can get so frustrated” in the first weeks of kindergarten, Hoekstra said. Incoming kindergartners who have never used scissors should be given a pair now and a chance to practice, she said — an activity that also can serve to occupy a bored or restless child. Hoekstra also suggests giving Play Doh to preschoolers to develop their fine motor skills.

6. Know how to care for his or her own physical needs.  “If you really want to make a kindergarten teacher happy, teach your child how to tie his shoes,” Hoekstra saidLikewise, other experts say it can help a kindergarten teacher immensely if a child can use a restroom without assistance, including putting clothes back in order; can zip up or button their coats on their own; take on and off boots and other outerwear, and know how to use a tissue and to cover their mouth when they cough.

Neither of our daughter’s know how to tie their shoe or spell mommy and daddy’s names. That is something we will begin to work on. I don’t add these as goals because I need my children to be the best. I add these as goals because I love learning to parent and working with my children to learn new skills. I have no idea how to teach them to tie their shoes so look forward to future posts about our adventures in this area. We’ve gotten by with slip on shoes up to this point but it looks like a pair of lace up sneakers are in our near future.

Original Article


5 Ways to Speak Chinese outside the Classroom.

As a monolingual parent raising bilingual children I am a strong advocate of supplementing their language learning experiences.

Create the Space:

It is not necessary that parents learn Chinese but it is very helpful if you continue to expose yourself to the language and share that experience with your child. One parent jokingly informed me that she mandated that her child only speak Chinese at home. To most all of her daughter’s responses she replied with a thoughtful “Dui” which means yes in Chinese. She laughed that she had no idea what her daughter was saying but that she learned to read her daughter’s body language and was easily able to interpret her general needs while encouraging her second language learning in the home.

I have been using the Pimsleur Approach and downloaded the files into my dropbox. I listen to the lessons during road trips and long commutes. The girls enjoy correcting my tones and reviewing the sentences I have learned. They enjoy teaching me and when native speakers overhear our exchanges they are more apt to engage the girls in conversation which is the perfect supplement to their language learning.

Flash Cards:

Last year I purchased the Tuttle Chinese For Kids Flash Cards. Right off the bat the girls knew almost 25% of the words and required only minimal prompting on a few. I cannot read Chinese and actually even struggle in reading pinyin but I have the Pleco app on my android phone. With Pleco I am able to type in the pinyin word, match it with the correct Chinese character and play an audio of the word for the girls. It’s amazing how smart they think I am even though I don’t speak Chinese. They are excited with the opportunities that I provide for us to speak the language with one another even if I am doing much more listening than speaking.

Enlist the Support of Native Speakers:

When it comes to learning site words it is not required to hire an overpriced tutor to review index cards, play matching / rhyming games with your child and identify or sound out words while taking walks or playing scavenger hunt games in the yard/home. The same can be true of learning non-native words with an experienced speaker. There are fun matching games that can be purchased on-line (,,, If you are unable to read Chinese stories to your children purchase Chinese books with accompanying CDs. Reading Chinese to your child provides the same benefits as reading English. Reading to your child in Chinese (with a CD) increases your child’s exposure to the language, characters, improves comfort with the written language and supports what they are learning in the classroom.

Connect with the Teacher:

Develop a relationship with your child’s teacher so that you are provided with a weekly or monthly list of key vocabulary words. If the teacher emails these words to you print them out and create your own flashcards, encourage your child to read the words to you throughout the week or before your weekend starts. Your teacher is always the best resource to help you identify ways to support your child’s language learning.

For many Chinese language teachers English is not their native language. Make multiple attempts to engage the teacher. Their may be a few stumbling blocks during the first interaction but as you constantly work on developing a relationship with the teacher the language barriers and cultural differences will become less obvious. The teacher is your best aid in helping your child to succeed make every effort to develop this relationship.

Play Dates:

There is so much that happens for your child in the classroom. In addition to reading, writing and arithmetic there are so many other things that are happening in the classroom. Play dates have been a great resource for my girls. My oldest can have an emotional response to her peers minor disagreements and there are some ways in which this disrupts her learning process. Play dates provide increased opportunities to enhance her social relationships in the classroom which allow for better learning opportunities.

Play dates do not have to take place in Chinese but we have really benefited from relationships with bilingual parents. Bilingual parents have been key in helping me to understand the Chinese culture, increase my exposure to the Chinese language and in providing me with great feedback regarding my daughter’s expressive and receptive Chinese language. On Chinese New Year our daughter played Pai Gow poker with her classmates grandparents and several other children. While I never thought my child would learn to gamble at such an early age we all enjoyed ourselves and viewed it as a great cultural experience.

If you find it difficult to incorporate the second language into your daily routine then rest assured that you are supporting your child by Reading to Them Every Night. Rest assured that the best gift you can provide your child is a strong grasp of their First Language (English). Read to your child every night. Support them in their phonetic and sight reading. The stronger your child is in their first language the better opportunities that they have to excel in their second language.