Monday, October 25, 2010

panel discussion, workshop, or presentation? help!

Please help me plan a conference session! I'll be attending the Colorado Congress of Foreign Language Teachers conference in February and would like to propose a session about raising children bilingually or teaching toddlers a second language. Typically the attendees are middle, high school, and university instructors, with a handful of K-5 teachers, but there's always a National Network for Early Language Learning swapshop too.

However, I suspect that among the language teacher attendees there are bound to be parents raising their children with more than one language (or considering it), and that's the audience I want to tap into. Here are my ideas so far:
  • A panel discussion with several other parents to talk about what works for us and why
  • An unstructured discussion with whomever shows up
  • A presentation of the research about raising children bilingually
  • A "case study" presentation about what I've done with Carl and Griffin
  • A presentation of French language learning activities for child (similar to the articles I'm writing for Multilingual Living)
  • A presentation about organizing storytimes for young children in other languages
  • A workshop about organizing storytimes for young children in the other languages
Please help! Which of the above (or combination thereof) would make a good hour-long conference session? What would you present about if it were you? What would be most useful if you were a parent or teacher attending this conference?


  1. I would do a session something like "Teaching languages to children under 5" and in the description of the session, say something like, "Ideas for the classroom, small group situations, or even your own children at home." Then have suggestions of activities, or your French plans as a model, talk about running a storygroup, etc. I think that covers everything. I think some of your suggestions might be too specific (could you really talk for an hour or so on organizing a storygroup?). Then depending on who shows up, you could tailor it a bit more in one direction or another. HTH!

  2. Hi Sarah,

    I like your case study idea. Make it no more than 10 minutes as an intro. Then have a panel discussion with other parents- with a few questions from the floor. Be careful as you need a good facilitator for this. Then finish up with a workshop on a story time for littlies. Because teachers are always looking for assignment and project ideas- and what better assignment than having their students give one of the storytimes. So it familiarizes the teachers with a possible stucture they can pass on to their students and gets their students enjoying a quintessentially French xperience with real books that real French kids read (and not textbooks!) With that you are killing many birds with one stone and everybody wins!
    (Ok- you might need a little more than an hour for all of this.)

    I reckon you could put the research on a handout for the teachers to take away. They can follow up on the research if they're interested. And a list of activities to take home would be very practical and helpful to the teachers up the back who are catching up with their friends instead of listening!
    Have fun


  3. Hello Sarah,

    I have a daughter. And I am trying to teach my child norwegian and spanish. I am at a loss. I don't know how to speak, read, or write norwegian or spanish. I am wanting to learn how to do it with my child but am unable to find anything for norwegian. Do you have any suggestions? I want to do something where I feel like I am learning with her. Right now everything I find had inappropriate content for a toddler or I don't feel I learn at a pace that motivates me so my toddler is motivated to learn with me.


    Erin Nickelson

  4. Hi Erin,

    It's good to hear from you again. You have set quite a challenge for yourself! I would recommend finding some Norwegian-speaking families to interact with. You could offer to do a language exchange, where you help them with their English and then they teach you and your daughter some Norwegian. Perhaps a nearby university might have some Norwegian exchange students? You could try to hire one as a babysitter and ask that she only speak Norwegian with your daughter. Or host a foreign exchange student in your home for a summer or a school year!

    Have you looked for Norwegian video clips on YouTube? You might find Sesame Street or cartoons translated, if not shows from Norway. Check also for songs.

    You may need to do this in two parts: you do what you can to learn Norwegian as an adult (using books, language exchanges, CDs, Rosetta Stone, LiveMocha, etc.), and then you teach your daughter what you've learned in ways appropriate to a toddler.

    Try some of the sites listed in this post for books in NOrwegian:

    Good luck to you!

  5. Here's what my friend Mira Canion, a past president of CCFLT, suggested, similar to Lalou's comments above: since teachers at shindigs like this tend to want to learn about techniques and games they can implement in their classrooms on Monday morning after the conference, try to increase the number of attendees by doing a session along the lines of "language activities I've learned about by raising my son bilingually."

    She pointed out that a lot of what I do with Griffin is applicable in class with older students; for example, what I do when reading with him is very TPRS.

    But I don't care so much about attracting large numbers of people, and since I'm not working as a classroom teacher any more, I don't feel compelled to do another session like that right now. Mostly I just want to bounce ideas off other teacher/parents like myself, brainstorm, share what I've learned, help refine what I know and believe and want on this journey to bilingualism.

    It sounds like Jeanne and Lalou agree that citing specific examples of activities would work well. And I agree with Jeanne that I couldn't do an hour-long session on a storytime at this point. (Maybe ever.)

    I like Lalou's idea of encouraging teachers to have their students plan a storytime. One of my former colleagues, Frederique Grim, has actually been doing that with her college students for several years! She trains the students to go to local preschools and present stuff in French; the students receive service learning credit. Very cool.

    Yes, the research could go on a handout. (I'd have to do more in the meantime. Or maybe just direct people to someone else's comprehensive summaries and annotated lists!)

    Thanks for the ideas and encouragement, Mira, Jeanne, and Lalou--this helps a lot!