A developmental leap
I've noticed a developmental change in him as he moves from small child' to young boy in the way he thinks and behaves. The typical change from 6-8 years old. For example, he has serious doubts about Santa Claus and the other Spanish / Catalan Christmas characters. This means that you have to find more challenging tasks and activities for them. He's now starting to understand plays on words and jokes. Following up on a Knock Knock joke in an English Book, we found many more on internet which he found funny and likes repeating:
|Knock Knock jokes on an internet site|
As mentioned before, he sounds native and his level of English shows all the features of a bilingual native speaker. I add 'bilingual' because there will always be an influence from the languages in both directions, sometimes voluntary and sometimes not. Sometimes a word will come to your head in one language and not the the other. These lapses are normal. I get them sometimes in either language!
This has happened in restaurants where he didn't have a word he wanted in Catalan or Spanish. "Daddy, how do you say 'dessert' in Spanish?" The amount of exposure to English from myself as well as Cartoon Network and related children's video and YouTube videos on Minecraft means that he speaks English naturally adding American words and phrases due to a lot of exposure through the above.
Inevitably, swear words appear and that's something he picked up in England last summer and from me! Phrases like "Flipping hell, it was freezing in painting class tonight!" appear.
We also try and find words that rhyme when we are speaking in a playful way which enriches his language. For example. Me: "Marc, I sold something on eBay and I thought .... no way" Marc: " No way but you sold it today .... far away... Me: You say! etc... it's spontaneous and something you'll either do or you won't, a bit like singing! If you do it, you'll really boost their level, if you don't, then that's a pity.
To get children to speak fluently give them as much exposure and practice as possible which means getting involved with their activities and playing with them!! There's no secret. The more the better. And gently correct through reformulating their phrases (repeating back what they said in the correct way).
You can also hear your own phrase and accent coming back to them (although without enough exposure, the children will not pick up the native parent's accent.
In the my case I've relaxed my pronunciation and "allowed" southern English features to enter my speech which I hear Marc using, such as missing of the 'h' between words. Daddy, come' rer (here). I can't find i' (it). He actually pointed this out to me this morning. He seems to have an above average ability to mimic people and imitate sounds, and this is one of the reasons he speaks with an English accent and children with similar language exposure don't.
I was reminded of this in a company I teach in. The receptionist (with an English mum) was born and brought up here, yet speaks with a perfect English accent. She pointed out that her brother speaks English with a Spanish accent. Individual differences can account for this.
In this next video you see me interacting with him as he plays on the minecraft game. Some of the above 'relaxed' features are present. Can you hear them? In one case I overcompensate with a strong iT. !!!
Next I speak about another VERY important learning area.
MORE ABOUT THE IMPORTANCE OF READING
We had finished the Oxford Reading Tree series up to Level 8. This is VERY RECOMMENDED.
It gives parents an easy to follow course, and you can see the progress as the child advances through the levels. Once they finish level 8 they are ready to read other types of simple children's books on their own. I decided to reread the Mister Men series. I had read them to him when he was younger and from September he started to read them back to me!! It was a good from a psychological point of view, and I pointed out what he was doing. We read "Space and Planets" from the Jackdaws Anthologies pack (stage 8-9), and he's found that quite easy.
To try something different we're now reading a Minecraft Novel especially written for children as he's a big fan of the internet game. The idea is to find books that are motivating as well as educational.
We may try more from the Oxford series at a higher level. He's on track for his age level but not above. At the same time he's also studying Catalan and Spanish, so slower progress in English is to be expected. This is why you absolutely must make an effort and get children to read as often as you can.
According to the Oxford Reading tree scale, he should be reading Stages 10-11. Check out this useful site for further information.
It's also good to read to them, for example at bedtime and get into that habit. We've just finished Willy Wonker and the Chocolate Factory and The Glass Elevator. In the end, they'll read these books themselves.
FURTHER ENGLISH - SPELLING AND GRAMMAR
I've also learned about having to be flexible and change the plan. I really like the Carol Vorderman series of books - Also VERY RECOMMENDED for the same reasons as the Oxford Reading Tree.
I started using ENGLISH MADE EASY for 7-8 year olds (he completed the previous book level) but he found it hard and it was demotivating. I also think some of the exercises are for older children, e.g. homphones, homographs, editing and proof-reading. This is also because he finds writing hard and it's the area I'm finding the most challenging to get him to improve.
So, I went back to SPELLING MADE EASY for ages 6-7 which he finished quickly and we're now doing SPELLING MADE EASY for 7-8 year olds which he also finds quite easy, and he's feeling motivated again. The books have stars to stick into columns. When he completes a column I get him a reward like a ten pin bowling game or a toy he wants. It's important to actually keep your promise!
After we've finished these books we'll try the ENGLISH MADE EASY 7-8 again, . I get him to write as much as possible when the exercise asks for it, but it's a struggle sometimes, often because he's tired after school.
In a later blog entry, I'll talk about using other Carol Vorderman series books: Science and Maths.
In the video you can hear a short clip of him reading in the restaurant.
|Minecraft novel and English |
Spelling Made Easy
|An Oxford Reading Tree and The Mr Men and Little Miss series that he has read|
|The books from the Carol Vorderman series we've been using. |