Raising a Bilingual Child
Teaching Tip: Constant Questioning
I learned a lot working as a kindergarten teacher for five years. I closely observed my students and I watched their parents carefully as well. I asked students about their interactions with their parents. Do they read stories to you? Do you sit together as a family and eat meals together? When you get home from school do you mostly watch television or play with your parents? When your parents take you to the park, do they play with you or sit and watch you?
I learned a lot about what to do as a parent and most importantly, what not to do!
Simply put, many parents don’t talk to their children. They may bark commands at them from time to time or even talk to them as if they were babies, but many don’t engage them.
At one school I worked at, teachers would take their classes to a large public park each morning and play at a playground. I often saw parents who would take their child there, let the child play by themselves while he/she just sat on a bench with a coffee and stared at their smart phone. Other times, a group of mothers would take their children to the park and then ignore them. They saw it as “social time for Mommy” as opposed to playtime and learning time for their child.
On a Summer insect hunt with my son.
All parents are guilty of letting their kids watch a little too much television (especially when you’re trying to cook dinner or clean the house). I’m guilty of that as well. I also find myself at time not engaging my kids as much as I probably should. Luckily, I tend to “snap out of it” and realize that I need to interact more.
Constantly questioning your child is a great way to engage them. Constantly asking them a mixture of closed and open-ended questions about what they are doing and the world around them helps them develop critical thinking skills as well as their language.
When I go for a walk with my son I often find myself asking him a wide variety of questions about everything around us.
Here’s an example:
Me: “Hey Kai, what’s that? (pointing to a leaf on he ground).
My son: “It’s a leaf.”
Me: “What color is it?”
My son: “It’s brown.”
Me: “Why is it brown?”
My son: “It’s dirty.”
Me: “No. It’s brown because it’s old and dry. Why is it on the sidewalk?”
My son: “Cause the tree is broken and the leaf jumped.”
Me: “Ha ha! The leaf didn’t jump off the tree. It fell off. Can you say, ‘It fell off the tree’?”
My son: “It fell of the tree.”
In that exchange I asked him a variety of questions. I also corrected his logic and language when he said the leaf jumped off the tree. Of course, I always correct him in a nice way. Correcting children’s grammar and vocabulary usage is something some parents don’t do enough of. That can definitely lead to fossilization of speaking errors (that’s for another post).
So, remember, if you’re a parent of kids who are in the developmental stages of language acquisition, question them a lot. If you are a teacher, do the same. Even if children are older and their language is developed, by constantly questioning them, you are encouraging them to think and always acting as a teacher.
That’s a good thing!
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