Every child matters! or does it? When the mother of one of my year 7 students told me that her daughter was struggling to come to terms with the drop in her levels since primary school….

Such an awful yet typical story that those of us who work in pastoral systems in schools are aware of on a  daily basis. Every year our children struggle and yet as this article states quite clearly the system itself adds to the pressure on children. As I always say no matter what we agree our policies to be, every time we must remember there is a child at the end of it, and we have a duty to each individual child.

# mentalhealth


I’m a strong believer of having the kids maintain their first language “I witnessed [my children’s] learning curve and process.… I knew how their experience was with ESOL,” she said. “I think that I knew how to help the kids be successful.”

This is one parents view of how her children learnt English and the subsequent experiences of using these experiences to become an ESOL teacher.  Really interesting are her views that are not dissimilar to many parents but also her view of the types of bilingual education and that every teacher should be an ESOL teacher.

Find it at http://www.nationaljournal.com/thenextamerica/education/maryland-county-is-at-the-intersection-of-diversity-culture-and-language-20120727

When Yu-Ying Huang emigrated from Taiwan in 1989 with her two children, then 7 and 10, she saw firsthand what it was like for students from other lands to learn English, inspiring her career to teach English as a second language.

She’s been teaching ESOL at secondary schools for 12 years, currently at Northwest High School in Silver Spring, Md., part of the Montgomery County Public School system. MCPS arguably touts the most diverse student body in Maryland

“I witnessed [my children’s] learning curve and process.… I knew how their experience was with ESOL,” she said. “I think that I knew how to help the kids be successful.”.

An MCPS student has about a 7-in-10 chance of running into another student of a different race or ethnicity, according to data from the National Center for Education Statistics. Like other school districts across America, MCPS’s diversity is its best asset – but also its biggest challenge.

Resources are tight; budget shortfalls grow more limiting at the same time that diversity grows. Across the nation, educators are expected to shape the minds of more than 49 million kids in an environment where nearly one in five speaks another language at home.

“For us it’s always looking for creative ways to bridge the linguistic divide and to be able to serve students who speak so many different languages,” said Karen Woodson, director for the Division of ESOL/Bilingual Programs.

About a third of the student body identifies as non-Hispanic white; the other two-thirds identify as students of color. Of the more than 146,000 students, 13.1 percent are English speakers of another language. Together, the student body represents 160 countries and 130 languages.

For Huang, the biggest challenge has been to find ways to bridge the culture gap between herself and her students.

It can be a “daily struggle” to find the balance between allowing students to help one another in their native tongue while encouraging social interactions in English, she said. But seeing them making progress makes the effort worth it.

Huang, who speaks fluent Chinese and also Spanish and French, recalled a presentation by students in a Level 4 class, the second-most advanced ESOL tier. Some were students she had taught years before when they couldn’t speak a word of English.

“I was almost crying, because I could see how much progress they had made,” she said, later adding, “I just see that if a kid can put in effort … they can still be successful.”

While students with less English proficiency are taught in a separate class, Woodson emphasized the importance of collaboration between ESOL and mainstream teachers, recognizing that integration of language in classrooms is essential.

As America’s melting-pot tradition increasingly blends more languages and cultures, it’s easy for young students to begin embracing all things English–subsequently risking the loss of their native tongue.

According to a recent survey, two-thirds of Hispanics aged 18 to 29 say they prefer to speak only or mostly in English.

Most of the county’s ESOL students are U.S.-born Spanish speakers, Woodson said.

Huang said she supported her students’ efforts to keep their native language as they learn English.

“I’m a strong believer of having the kids maintain their first language,” she said. “When I teach my own two kids, I do not speak English to them even though they’re here and were learning English. We just keep speaking Chinese at home.”

Educators are quick to mention various studies, which in sum find that bilingual children have more cognition skills, including including logistical thinking and multitasking.

In the battle to preserve heritage, other schools of thought have emerged to teach English-language learners.

Dual-language schools were formed to help ESOL students preserve their native language while giving English-speaking students a chance to become fluent in a second tongue. Supporters maintain that learning in two languages boosts academic achievement, but schools across Maryland have been slow to adopt dual-language programs. Finding only two in the state, a 2009 state task force recommended 10 more programs be created by 2012.

In the MCPS system, Kemp Mill Elementary in Silver Spring is the only school that offers a dual-language program it. It is not part of the county’s ESOL division. Half of its students speak English, while the other half speak Spanish. Instruction is in both languages.

“A lot of people look at bilingual programs in general as being wonderful because they’re helping the student maintain their heritage language,” said Floyd Starnes, the school’s principal. “But what the general public doesn’t know … is that their English is better.”

Critics of the program say that bilingual schools encourage students to rely on their native tongue rather than becoming fluent in English. Some others also say it’s an unnecessary drain from struggling education budgets.

Montgomery County, however, has a unique position as one of the wealthiest counties in the state. Nationally, it slides into 12th place with a median household income of $89,155, according to a D.C. radio station’s breakdown of Census data. (WTOP.)

In contrast, Allegany County in western Maryland has a median household income of $37,083, and to the east, Baltimore City is at $38,186, according to census data.

This past year, MCPS spent $44.5 million, or 2 percent of its budget, on ESOL. It expects to spend about $48.7 million next year, according to the state Office of Management, Budget and Planning.

The combination of a racially diverse population and the county’s affluence is slowly changing the landscape of the suburban county. Woodson says that the ESOL department has noticed, and it’s been making changes in anticipation of growing foreign-born populations and their children.

“They used to say that every teacher is a reading teacher,” Woodson said. “But it’s getting clearer that … every teacher is an ESOL teacher.”

Paula wins again – UK

It was great to read that Paula from Priory Lower School has received more recognition for her wonderful work with German in her classroom and school. When I met her to give her the prize as winner of the Primary Language Awards German category she was teaching in the classroom, and the children were enjoying going to the shop to buy their goods in German.

She and the school were awarded this at the time because the judges said:

Priory school has developed an integrated approach to the teaching and learning of German. Using German in everyday class lessons and encouraging a wider knowledge of the language than normal methods. Activities include mental maths, this offers practical terminology that promotes real knowledge and understanding whilst helping the learners to be conversant at a higher level.


The involvement of the community through links with mother tongue speakers at other local schools helps the learners understand sentence structure and pronunciation plus a practical knowledge of intonation and word sounds. The children take part in external activities such as fairs with singing and games and they look forward to continuing with their language learning. It was interesting to read that the school has links with a German Partner school as it helps the learners participate in conversational German in both written and spoken form.


The judges felt that the school has embraced language learning through integration and the children have a mix of practical sessions and academic work combined with access to German speakers.  The school offers German to its learners who already have other languages to their repertoire, giving everyone a second common language for reference and conversation.

It is great to know that this has continued and developed further to ensure winning the Goethe-Institut’s Peter Boaks Award. Well Done.

To enter next years awards register your interest via the website www.languageawards.com or look out for it at the end half of next term.


To read more about Paula’s recent award http://www.teachingpersonnel.com/news/2012/7/9/teachers-recognised-for-german-contribution/



Picture Books for Child Development

This article gives sound advice on the importance of picture books for cognitive development and has 10 top reasons why they are good from:

The illustrations of a picture book help children understand what they are reading and allow young readers to analyze the story


Picture books help develop story sense

and finally

Picture books are fun

We all want children to see reading and developing their literacy as fun rather than work which becomes a bore and as the children then say ‘its boring miss’.

Read the full article here:


Maori Language Week is 23-29 July 2012 – New Zealand

A date for your diaries Maori Language Week is 23-29 July 2012.

For more information see below. If you have a language week or bilingual day, or even a language day please share the information with us here.

He Whakapapa Reo Māori – Short History of Māori language

Māori is the foundation language of Aotearoa, the ancestral language of tangata whenua (indigenous people) and a taonga guaranteed protection under the Treaty of Waitangi.

During the 19th and early 20th century Māori language was the main language of communication. However, the establishment of schools saw Māori children being taught almost entirely in English. An English language only policy was often strictly enforced through physical punishment.

Urban migration

During the 1940s-1970s Māori migrated from rural communities to urban centres. English language was seen by many Māori as the key to wealth, increased social standing and better standards of living.

Many Māori parents stopped speaking Māori to their children. This, together with policies which favoured English as the dominant language, resulted in a massive language loss within the Māori population who moved from speaking Māori to English.

Language initiatives

By the 1970s, it was predicted that Māori would soon be a language without native speakers. This caused grave concern among Māori, resulting in initiatives to revitalise the language including Te Ātaarangi (a language learning system), kōhanga reo (Māori language pre-schools), kura kaupapa Māori (Māori language schools) and Māori broadcasting.

Māori Language Act

In 1987, the Māori Language Act declared Māori to be an official language of New Zealand and established the Māori Language Commission – Te Taura Whiri i te Reo Māori to promote the growth of Māori language.


Recent research suggests that the number of Māori speakers has stabilised with approximately 130,000 Māori indicating some ability to speak Māori. This represents about 25% of the Māori population. However, the number of fluent speakers is significantly less and the situation requires concentrated efforts to ensure that the language survives. It is hoped that the establishment of the Māori Television Service along with other initiatives in recent years will bear further fruits for the revitalisation of Māori language.

read more here http://community.scoop.co.nz/2012/06/bilingual-and-reo-maori-booklets-available-at-countdown/  or

Bilingual and reo Māori booklets produced for Māori Language Week and available at Countdown supermarkets Te Taura Whiri i te Reo Māori has released two new phrase booklets to help promote the theme of Arohatia te Reo for this year’s Māori Language Week taking place from 23-29 July. “Typically we produce just the one bilingual booklet for Māori Language Week, but given a key message for language revitalisation is language use, we would be remiss in not providing something aimed at intermediate level speakers and above, hence the two booklets”, says Chief Executive, Glenis Philip-Barbara.

“The bilingual booklet has three main themes aimed at helping people to support the Arohatia te Reo theme – Learn it, live it, love it.  The Learn it section covers pronunciation and other basics of the language; phrases for around the home, coupled with photographic lay outs of various home settings with Māori language labels form the main content in the Live it section; while the Love it section contains an A-Z of fun Māori language activities” says Glenis Philip-Barbara.

“The reo Māori booklet, is for intermediate speakers, and provides tips and hints about how speakers can improve their language skills through correct and informed use of whakataukī; kīwaha and kupu whakarite, but also has a key message of keeping the language simple, and aligned with Māori thought.  The booklet also contains dialogue scenarios based on travelling in the car to illustrate how this can be achieved in everyday communications” says Glenis Philip-Barbara. “Our partners – Te Puni Kōkiri and the Human Rights Commission, have been working with us to promote and celebrate the week throughout the country.  We have produced additional resources also that support whānau and organisations using Māori language in their everyday activities,” says Glenis Philip-Barbara.

Resources for Māori Language Week 2012 include bilingual and reo Māori full colour booklets Arohatia te Reo, with helpful phrases, words and activities for a range of settings in the community; posters; stickers; wristbands; balloons; iron-on tee shirt transfers and more.

“We also have a range of resources that can be downloaded from the website.  These include the photographic lay-outs of the home settings with labels from the bilingual booklet; a word-find; and a template for listing your tribal connections in both English and Māori” says Glenis Philip-Barbara. For any organisations wanting bulk orders, a high resolution print file can be provided upon request for you to print your own quantities. You can also have your own logo on the outside back cover. An order form can be downloaded from the Kōrero Māori website: http://www.korero.maori.nz/resources/shop.html Please note that resources are being provided for free again this year but at limited quantities.  Those quantities are indicated on the order form.  Orders will be processed on a first in, first served basis. However if you’re only after a singular bilingual booklet for yourself, you can pick up a free copy from your local Countdown supermarket.  These will be available at Countdown throughout Māori Language Week. “It’s great to have Countdown supermarkets on board again this year helping to support Māori Language Week.  Accessibility to the phrase booklet, a core item for Māori Language Week promotions, has now greatly improved thanks to their participation and we hope this will also lead to increased language use in our communities” says Glenis Philip-Barbara. For more information visit: http://www.korero.maori.nz/news/media2012.html

Parents eye view of Bilingualism in reality – Sweden

Often as teachers we have little contact with parents, or even if we do they do not tell us how they feel about bilingualism and I wonder if sometimes they feel that they have no one to talk to either, and actually worry that they are doing ‘it’ wrong.  This is why I thought I would share this with you from Sweden where a mother explains how she notices her child becoming a confident bilingual speaker and expresses a little about how she feels.

http://www.thelocal.se/41118/20120529/ is the direct link to it or read it below. It is a great insight into the reality of bilingualism from the parenst perspective and the fact that she writes : ‘Interestingly, my two friends that were the most satisfied with their kids’ development were those who grew up with more than one language in their lives themselves. With the benefit of perspective that I lack on this issue, they seem able to embrace their kids’ language as a skilled yet imperfect work in progress.’ shows the teacher at work even as a mum.

The other day, I noticed a new dynamic in our family. Actually, if I look back, the change has been gradual, but I never really thought too much about it until last week when the kids came home from school.

After two years here in Sweden, Swedish is now our kids’ dominant language. This is how I found out.
Erik and Gabrielle were in the backyard, taking advantage of the year’s first streak of warm weather to jump themselves silly on our trampoline. And since it’s just the three of us, we’re all speaking English.
Then, Gabrielle says she’s thirsty, so I go inside and get a pitcher and some glasses. As I return to the back door, I pause and listen. They are speaking Swedish.
I walk back out with the water and call them over. They switch back to English. I’m curious, so I decide to test it: will they switch if I leave again? I walk inside again but stay by the door listening to the conversation.
I wish I could report that they meandered off into deep thoughts or were showering each other with compliments.  Actually, they started arguing.
“I want the tupp glas,” whined Gabrielle. She couldn’t come up with the English word rooster immediately, so she switched over to Swedish; tupp glas,” instead of rooster glass”. And Erik followed her.
I tested my theory a few times over the week, and the conversations followed the same pattern. And it never happened the opposite way; not once during a Swedish conversation did they spontaneously switch over to English.
I don’t mind this change at all. I want our kids to feel at home here in Sweden, and that feeling of connection is related, in part, to strong Swedish skills.
But this new development in our kids’ language raised a question that I hadn’t considered in a long time: what are my goals for our kids’ language growth?
As an idealist new parent, my goal was lofty and vague: they should be bilingual. I should have known better. Personal experience as well as education research suggests that bilingualism exists on a continuum.
It’s a practice that must constantly be maintained, and it can vary greatly among individuals. Bilingualism was a good starting point, but as an achievable goal, it ranked somewhere near my (broken) New Year’s resolutions like “eat healthier” and “write a novel”: good intentions, mediocre results… at best.
When we moved to Sweden, my goal was to keep the kids on par with grade-level Americans in speech, reading and writing… in case we decide to move back at some point.
Actually, I didn’t articulate this goal so clearly to myself, but now I can see this was my underlying expectation. But now I wasn’t sure if this was realistic.
Everything I had read in and out of education classes emphasized that successful bilingualism should be a conscious process, constantly reevaluated and fine-tuned.
Taking a page out of the guidelines for successful New Year’s resolutions, I set out to create some goals that were process-based (as opposed to result-based) and measurable.
But where to start?
While pondering, I realized there’s also some outside pressure related to this goal: home language classes.
Recently, I was told that, starting in 6th grade, my son’s home language teacher was going to give him his English grade, and it would be based on native, grade-level assessment. Now, my son has a very nice home language teacher, but how is this man expected to teach him the nuances of grade level English during one 45-minute class per week?
And as the primary English influence in their lives, the task of getting Erik and Gabrielle on par with their American counterparts would mostly be mine.
Was I up to this daily task? Just the thought of getting Erik’s hilariously phonetical spelling, governed by Swedish letter sounds, up to speed was enough to steer me in another direction. “Hapj brfdaj”? Where do I even start with that?
I had already done my reading, so I decided to do some research of a different kind: I asked my friends, two of which are managing three languages at home.
And despite the fact that I only have five native English-speaking friends here, their answers reached all ends of the spectrum.
Three had goals for their kids; two did not. A different two were satisfied with their kids’ progress in English—interestingly, friends’ satisfaction levels were not correlated to their kids’ skill levels.
Despite the range, I could identify with them all. Here are a few, insightful observations:
“It’s the little details that get fuzzy,” said one friend, “like saying ‘I’ll hop over it’ instead of ‘I’ll skip it.’ My kids don’t hear it’s wrong, and after a while, I don’t either.”
As my friend says this, I wonder if it is even possible for me to give my kids the native ear for the language. Surrounded by Swedish-influenced English mistakes, this seemed to be an uphill battle.
After being here for a few years, another friend had relaxed her expectations.
“I don’t want language to be a source of anxiety for the kids,” she said.
“Now, my goal is to help them develop a base so that, given a transition period, they could adapt to their next English situation.”
One friend found her kids’ difficulties with English was a source of frustration.
“It’s like the communication between me and my kids comes through a filter. When I hear other kids their age back home speaking English, I feel like I’m missing something of my own kids’ true personalities.”
But my goal-free friend who keeps up three languages in her home was much more sanguine:
“They’ll be fine,” she says.
And she should know: she grew up in a Spanish-speaking country, but spoke English around the house with her American mom. Then, she went to college in the US, directly into classes with the other native speakers.
“I won’t lie—my first semester was really difficult. All I did was study, but by the next semester, I was fine.”
Now, she supports both Spanish and English here in Sweden.
“For a long time, my son answered me in Swedish. But a few weeks ago, we spent some time with a Spanish exchange student. Now, he’s switched back to Spanish with me.”
In other words, relax. Don’t worry too much about the future. Det löser sig.
Interestingly, my two friends that were the most satisfied with their kids’ development were those who grew up with more than one language in their lives themselves.
With the benefit of perspective that I lack on this issue, they seem able to embrace their kids’ language as a skilled yet imperfect work in progress.
With all this in mind, I made some process-oriented, measurable goals—things that we’ll do every day to work on English. Because, regardless of any larger goals I decide on, the reality is that I have little control over the end result; that’s up to the kids. It’s the process that’s in my hands.
Research and personal experience suggest that there is no one correct approach; in the end, we are all experimenting, and we have a lot to learn from each other.