When I decided to seriously devote my time and efforts to actively teaching my son Polish, at home, I discovered that 2 types of activities were particularly useful:
- projects (activities with a tangible result like crafts, cooking, etc.)
- scenarios (activities often based on social situations in which participants play specific roles)
- exercises (activities that support the development of certain language skills)
I find that all these activities are extremely useful in language learning/teaching. Used at school, they help developing different types of skills: like social or motor skills, but adopted for home use, they allow also to build a closer and stronger relationship between parents and children.
Outside the home country, parents are repositories of language, culture and tradition and they can become the best teachers because they can teach what they know, love and cherish. That’s how teaching the language and culture helps creating a special bond between parents and children.
Once the idea for a project is set, we talk about each step to introduce certain vocabulary and to clarify the whole process.
While doing this activity, it’s important to reinforce the usage of chosen vocabulary. We can do it by:
- asking our child what we are doing at the moment
- asking what we have to do next
- asking to repeat our own explanation
- encouraging our child to ask questions him/herself
I would always gently encourage my son to use specific words to describe, or to explain what he/we were doing.
It would also be wonderful if our child could retell someone who speaks only minority language what he/she had done (and how). Not only does it help with acquiring the new vocab, but it also extends the pleasure derived from the activity itself (specially if the praise from the third party follows 🙂 ).
These activities require only an idea, imagination and enthusiasm; sometimes stage props are also useful to diversify the play. They are often modeled after common social situations, as children love to imitate the adults in their everyday life.
Once we set our mind on playing, for example “a tea party”, we play along with our child helping him/her to develop the game. This can be done in advance by explaining what we would do next and preparing needed accessories, or it can evolve in more spontaneous way. The element of surprise is always welcome, my son loves unexpected twists of action 🙂 .
Very often children have great ideas, but don’t know how to build up on them. Then, the “tea party” doesn’t have to end when we pour and drink the tea from our real or imaginary cups. We can also ask for milk and additional sugar, we can spill the tea all over the table and ask to make the new one. We can pretend that we run out of biscuits and we need to go to a nearby store to get the stock, or we can call a few more guests who can join us at the tea table. The possibilities are endless 🙂 .
This category includes a variety of activities that aim to develop and/or practice specific language skills such as oral comprehension, speaking, pronunciation, and even writing or reading. It’s all about talking and listening then 🙂 . (And sometimes also about reading and writing, but that depends on the child’s age). All these exercises are usually short and they are to encourage children to actively use the language, the observation skills and their imagination.
Important: all these activities focus on teaching a specific vocabulary, linguistic structure, tradition or a cultural aspect. However, they meant to be mere inspirations not exact instructional guides, so feel free to add to them your own twist, or try out different variations. They should be enjoyable for both the parent and the child; otherwise they might not be used to their full potential.
Intended age for both types of activities: 2-7 yrs (but we have to remember that each activity should be tailored according to the age of the child, his/her linguistic competency and/or his/her interests).
Time: 10-90 minutes (it depends of course on each activity, but in many cases, it’s very easy to control the time we would like to spend doing these exercises).