Setting a homework routine from an early age is a source of extra minority language (ml) exposure, and will foster literacy in the ml too. However, creating this routine can be a bit daunting for the challenge of finding ideas and material that might sufficiently grab the child’s attention so as not to make it too boring for them, and feel like being bilingual means twice as much work compared with they monolingual peers.
Many websites offer educational material that you might want to use or adapt in your ml for your homework sessions. You can also plan a homework session around a set topic and build on it with several different kinds of activities and even include a short video. For instance, a fantastic American student we once had to support my eldest daughter’s English skills, worked round a topic I had set: asking questions (in English, the sentence structure of question is very different from our other 2 languages, French and Spanish). She showed a Toys Story trailer with the scene where the toys ask questions about what Buzz is, then played a Disney princess version of the classic “Guess who?” game and an exercise about reading the time. This class had a lot of success with my daughter and helped her a lot with phrasing her questions.
For inspiration as to the topic, you might want to build on what they will have already learnt at their Majority Language school, as this is an opportunity to expose the child to the minority language vocabulary of their schooling curriculum.
Here is a non-exhaustive list of ml homework ideas based on the child’s age.
Children who do not read yet:
- Learning the alphabet – using props such as magnetic letters, and ABC nursery rhymes.
- Learning the phonics – using props such as magnetic letters, and ABC nursery rhymes.
- Phonics kits such as My Reading and Writing Kit
- Tracing letters – a good excuse to revise the ml alphabet and phonics
- Learning blending – use props, exercises from educational websites.
- Learning to read the time – using exercises from educational websites, activity books or simply using a clock as a prop.
- Learning seasons, months and weekdays – for this you can use colouring in activities, flashcards and nursery rhymes.
- Learning the lyrics of nursery rhyme – songs about concepts such as colours, weekdays, numbers, ABC, etc.. will allow you to kill 2 birds with 1 stone: concepts and vocabulary.
- Learning to count.
- Looking at a picture book together- letting your child tell the story or describe what they see. The same can also be done with word books and your child pointing the words they know.
- Flashcards – to develop vocabulary
- Drawing shapes – to learn basic shapes such as squares, circles, triangles…
- Puzzles about numbers, colours, opposites…
- Counting – literally or objects (e.g sweets, beads, small toys, marbles…) or singing a numbers nursery rhyme.
- Activity books.
- Colouring in activities – to learn the colours and the vocabulary linked to their picture.
- Number-coded colouring in activities – to learn the colours and numbers.
- Dot-to-dots – a good way to have them learn to count in the ml!
- Sorting objects according to their size.
- Linking pictures to their shadows.
- Finding the difference – a good way to get chatting by describing the picture and finding where the differences lie.
- Memory games – some memory games focus on prepositions , little words that vary a lot from one language to another and often need to be worked on by many language-learners.
Children who read:
Building on the above list, you can add the following kind of activities:
- Reading – for older children, you can ask them to pick a book of their choice and ask them to write a short summary (half a page to a page). Multilingual Library Scotland kindly suggested, in their retweet of this post, to ask your local library for stories in your language. It is an excellent idea to add spice and fun to your child’s homework. See what your local library has in store and what it can recommend. It adds a touch of discovery to your child’s homework and broadens his/her mind by trying books s/he might not have otherwise read.
- Crosswords – my daughter loves them! So much so I have come to make our own! But rummaging through the internet, you can also find lots of different sorts.
- Learning to use a ml dictionary – google search for “fun exercices to learn to use dictionary” and see all the fun ideas available, for instance in 8 fun dictionary activities or on fun games and activities to learn how to use a dictionary
- Writing poems/rhymes – let their imagination run wild.
- Dictations – for older children, this might be a chore, but a couple of dictations a week will work wonders for their dual literacy. As a child, my mum insisted on dictations and they felt like a bore, however with hindsight I am grateful to her as I am now biliterate in my mother-tongue and this has proved tremendously useful in my life.
- Card games – a bilingual mum once suggested on this blog a card game she called “Numeritos” (also called War) whereby the players say the numbers out loud as they flipped from their decks, and when a “war” of equal numbers arrived, they’d both yell, “Numeritos!”. This card game (and certainly others you may know) are a great way to revise number and numeracy skills in a very fun way.
- Quizzes about the ml, country and culture – quizzes can be found online, home-designed or using board games for instance Conocer España if your ml is Spanish or BrainBox British History or if your ml country is Britain.
- Puzzle maps – for instance if Spain is your ml country.
- Listening comprehension – have your child listen to an audiobook and ask them to answer a list of related questions you will have previously prepared.
Where to get ideas from?
- Education websites such as education.com, themeasuredmum.com, twinkle.co.uk, thisreadingmama.com
- Your child’s school curriculum
- Activity books
What do you include in your homework routine? Please share it in the comment section for other bilingual parents to benefit from your experience on the matter.