Wednesday, April 16, 2014

bilingual? trilingual? try triliterate! and throw in some trying behaviors.

Friends near and far, in person and online, have asked me how Griffin is doing at Escuela Bilingue Pioneer, his English/Spanish dual language immersion school, and what that means for his French.  I'll tell you (and it might sound like we're showing off--but then you'll see that I'm not).

a trilingual letter for me in February 2014: "I love you a lot mom thank you for leving me notes in my lunch box.  gracias  Love, Griffin  P.S. Hope you have a graete day.  je teme mamon."  I think I'll leave this on the fridge until he graduates from high school!
Two-thirds of the way through his kindergarten year, he communicates clearly in Spanish, both orally and in writing.  He reads at nearly the second grade level--in his third language, mind you!--and understands his teachers and classmates as well as he reads, maybe better, although I'm not sure how he would handle, say, watching cartoons in Spanish, or conversing with people he doesn't know.

He can also communicate in writing in Spanish:

"I like to play with my friends at recess.  I like to watch Broncos games.  I like to read with my family."
This school year, Griffin has read 95 books in Spanish at home (easy readers at the G, H, I levels, plus some picture books) and written one, two, or three sentences about them using prompts from the teacher (mostly "what this book reminds me of") in his reading journal.

(Griffin goes to a first grade class for literacy instruction each day--the school doesn't actually expect kindergarteners to do reading and writing homework!)

90% of his instruction is in Spanish--the school teaches the kids to read and write in Spanish first, English later--so I don't actually know what his English reading level is.  But he devours books, both fiction and nonfiction, with the Magic Treehouse series being his hands-down favorite.

Griffin's first chapter book!  He picked it out as a prize at the library last summer and then started reading it to himself.
He also has started participating in my Reading Buddies program at the public library and meeting monthly for a parent-led book club!  (Both in English.)

Brainstorming at book club before acting out a readers' theatre version of The Stinky Cheese Man
His teacher has been giving him one-on-one math instruction in multiplication and division in Spanish, but he does the problems in English.  He and I play math games in French on my iPad, and he talks about these in English, too.  His numbers in French are weaker than his numbers in the other two languages, especially above 60.

In fact, it is fair to say that all his skills, except perhaps listening comprehension, are stronger in Spanish than in French at this point (and strongest in English, obviously).  However, he does read in French too, and he has even attempted to write in French:

a thank-you note to a francophone friend, February 2014
"Emile meci pur le livre de magic tree house jeme bucues les lir ton amis Griffin."  ("Merci pour le livre.  J'aime beaucoup les lire.  Ton ami Griffin.")

English is where he excels, though:

apology letter to a classmate, March 2014
"Dear Jorge, Sorry I hit you in the library.  I was trying to get to the palitos.  I should have waited for you to get out of the way.  And I am not supposd to run in the library or inside.  And David [the librarian] should pick who takes the palitos.  I am also sorry for when I tagged you too hard in china [a recess game] and the other times I hit you.  I wont do that again.  From Griffin."

"All the other times I hit you"???!!!

This is why I haven't written much about his schooling this year; we have been too busy dealing with his unexpected behavior challenges.  And this is why I can promise you that this post is not intended to brag about Griffin's school skills--because if he can't share markers with his classmates, chat with them in the lunch line, or ask to join their games at recess, it doesn't matter how many languages my son speaks.


  1. I actually started working on this post about five weeks ago, and I am relieved to report that some of the steps we have taken to address his inappropriate behaviors are finally paying off. Today was the first day he hit another kid all month!

    (Pre-kids, I never would have believed that I could consider something like that a cause for celebration.)

  2. pretty nice blog, following :)

  3. Wow - kindergarten and he can write that well, in three languages. And, oh, those behavior challenges! You're doing an amazing job, Sarah!

  4. Wow, it is so great to see this update. I love watching multilingualism develop in kids around the world. Griffin is a little charmer, isn't he?

    Your kids are adorable, you are doing a really great job. Good luck with the long term maintenance of French.

    PS. In Griffins Spanish "I like to" I believe it says I like to RUN with my friends at recess..."
    Correr is run. Jugar is play.

    1. Thank you! You're absolutely right--they're adorable, Griffin has a career in diplomacy ahead of him, and I used the wrong verb in my Spanish translation!

  5. Great post. Where do you find Spanish easy reader books by level, any in particular that you recommend?

    1. Gracias, Viv! Since Griffin attends a bilingual school, both the school library and his teachers' classroom libraries have a lot of easy readers. Our public library also has a decent collection of Spanish books for kids (though mostly picture books and chapter books rather than easy readers).

      We also access children's books in Spanish through a database available through the library: it's called Tumblebooks and it's a fantastic resource. The books are animated very simply, narrated with the text on the screen, and are frequently accompanied by little games. You can sort all the books by difficulty level--a nice feature. Most of their books are in English, but there's quite a few in Spanish and French.

      It is a paid site, but perhaps you can find a nearby library or school that subscribes? (I'd refer you to ours, but you have to enter your library card number to enter it.)

      Here's their site, though, for more info:

      And some of Griffin's teachers also print out easy readers in Spanish from (printable translations of easy readers in English with black-line illustrations; you can then cut and staple the little book and have the child color it). While the subscription runs $100/year (intended for classroom use), there are also free samples and a free trial period.

    2. Oh, and I've gathered a lot of resources for free online books here:

  6. Muchisimas gracias!! You are awesome!!