Creating a bilingual preschool room is a great way to teach preschoolers a new language. Whether you include languages all year round or just for topics and themes that include other countries, the children are likely to build up a foreign vocabulary, which is a great basis for becoming bilingual. It is also a good way to make children who speak English as a second language feel much more at home. This article contains ideas on how to create a bilingual preschool room, including introducing the new languages and activities to increase interest and awareness.
First, look at all the signs currently in your preschool classroom. Usually, there will be a sign to the toilet, to the clothes pegs, signs identifying themes and play areas…translate all of these signs into the foreign languages you wish to teach. Two is an optimum number, as it will allow the child to develop a favorite without overloading them. French and Spanish is a good choice, or French or German. Color-code the signs to help children identify the language they belong too. For example, all English signs could be in black, all French in blue, and all Spanish in red.
Start a discussion on languages by asking the children if they have ever visited France or Spain. Ask them to tell you the differences between America and France, or America and Spain. Make a list of everything they mention. If no one mentions language, ask if they speak English in France. Ask the children if they know any French or Spanish words, and write these down.
As a class, sing “Freres Jacque”. Tell the children that this is a French lullaby.
Frere Jacque Frere Jacque,
Sonnez les matines, sonnez les matines,
Ding Dang Dong, Ding Dang Dong
This translates to:
Are you sleeping, are you sleeping?
Brother John, Brother John,
Morning bells are ringing, Morning bells are ringing,
Ding Dang Dong, Ding Dang Dong.
You could also read some French stories together. “Une, Deux, Trois” by Opal Dunn and Patrice Aggs is a fantastic introduction to French, and comes with a CD to listen too as well. You could also buy “Goldilocks and the Three Bears/ Boucle D’or et les troise Ours”, by Ana Lomba.
Quiet Reflection Area
Adding vocabulary books such as ‘The Usborne First Thousand Words in French’ by Heather Amery and story books such as ‘Heironymus Betts and His Unusual Pets’ by M.P Robertson that is written in both English and French allows the children to look up their own French words, and gain an understanding of how French looks written down. You could also play a CD of French nursery rhymes or storybooks, which will expose the children to how the language sounds when spoken and give them something to repeat.
Making or buying French snap cards is a popular activity. The best types involve matching a picture to the French word, such as matching a picture of a cat to the word ‘Chat’. This gives the child more visual stimulation then simply matching the word ‘Cat’ to ‘Chat’.
You could also use these cards when teaching a theme in English. Create a snap card for each of the main ideas, such as making cards for fish, whale, and water when doing a sea theme. Add these to the snap pack.
One day a week, conduct preschool in French. Have French themed snacks, and include French language whenever possible. Have a French story, sing a French nursery rhyme and say “Oui/Non” rather then “yes/no”. Print coloring sheets that have a picture and the word in French, and greet each child in simple French “Bonjour”.
Add some French items for the class to explore, such as a beret, and a French magazine. You could even include a toy version of the Eiffel Tower.
During the day, play rounds of ‘Simon Says’ using French words the children know. You could use colors, asking the children to pick up something of that color, or if the children know their body parts you could ask them to touch their toes/head etc.
Take pictures of the children throughout the day, doing different French-themed things. Upload these onto a computer, and ask each child what they are doing in the picture. Write what they say in both English and French, and print the page. Stapled or bound, this makes a great book that children and parents will love. It also shows a reflection on how to create a bilingual preschool room.