Monday, December 7, 2015

Keeping Up English At Home - 1st Grade

One of the ongoing discussion in nearly every international parents group that I'm a part of includes the question of 

"How do I keep up my child's English?"

There are many families like our which are raising bilingual/multilingual children in a place where English is a minority language. This means it is not the community or school language. During the baby/toddler/preschool years language is mostly something you hear and repeat, which makes it easy to reach "native level" or "fluent level". However, as the child gets older, the challenge increases exponentially.  In this series of posts I'll share what had worked for us with the hope of inspiring others to give it a go.


First grade is a time of many changes and challenges. New school, new schedule, new responsibilities...  One of the things that helped provide stability for Zilla during the transition was our English homework time. Since he was used to having this time it was something comfortable and expected.

As the year went on we did have less and less time for English study so I had to adjust the plan to fit with the amount of time and energy that Zilla had.

We started the year with a goal of doing 3 things each day - a writing activity, a reading activity and a math activity.

The reading activity focused mainly on phonics.  We found the Bob Book series to be perfect as it is graded readers. Each book is small so I could slip a couple in my purse to read together on the train to/from school.

The motivation for the math activity was twofold. The first was to continue the math Zilla had been doing previously (montessori based with some Kumon mixed in). The second was to give him the English vocabulary needed for math along with the English/American style of math.  In the end we only did math about half the year, until he finished the Star Wars 2nd Grade Math book was completed because he needed more time for the school math and he had a good grasp on the vocabulary.

The area Zilla dislikes the most and incidentally struggles with the most is writing.  Perhaps this is because it requires so much practice? Or because he was studying 3 other writing systems at school? When a child is really not interested it becomes part of the teacher's job to create interest. The thing that caught his attention and held it to the point that he was able to get over the wall that he had been up against was the Star Wars Writing Skills book. After that we could move on to other writing exercises.

There are many great books and activities to choose from. Each child's area of interest will differ as will the area which needs a little more attention. It is ok to slow down, speed up or change courses as needed. We have gone through times where it was fun to work on English together, and times where it was very frustrating. It is all part of the process.

So, if you're headed down the same path and want some more ideas click on over to the store for links to other books and activities we've enjoyed and found useful!