This year, my eldest has begun attending a Wednesday Spanish School. I am extremely happy about it as it has been a long-term dream coming true. It is an overall very positive experience, nevertheless it has had an impact on the organisation of our homework routine for both our minority languages (ml). This has led me to rethink our ml homework organisation, and I thought I would share my thoughts about this, should it help you in your personal organisation.
Why structuring ml homework?
Following Adam Beck’s advice in “Maximize your Child’s Bilingual Ability” to start early to create a habit in the child, I have instated a minority language homework routine many years ago now (for ideas read “Minority Language Homework Ideas”). But as my eldest grew, and with the fear that time might grow shorter, I decided to structure the work content to be more efficient. So far, the experience has proved:
- It becomes a habit, an automatism that does not require much thinking or planning,
- It helps keeping sight of your goals,
- It helps keeping a balance between the languages but also the different language aspects (grammar, writing, conjugation…)
- It helps to take things step by step and not feel overwhelmed by the biliteracy challenge,
- It can help plan a little revision session.
How to go about structuring?
Structuring an ml homework sessions routine is 2-fold:
- Balancing the languages out – When you want to raise balanced bilinguals, the more languages you have, the more you need to even their use out. Two suggestions:
- Set certain days for ml homework – if possible try to spread it over several days. Children have a short attention span, it might hence be easier to get them to work in a focused way in several short time slots (eg. 20-30 minutes depending on their age) than a long 90-minute lesson. In our case, we spread it out on our daughters’ 3 days off: Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays.
- When you handle several minority languages, you can either decide to work a set weekday for each, or define a set time for each language on the same day; for instance English in the morning and Spanish in the afternoon as we do.
- Balancing the topics out – languages are not just vocabulary. They involve many more topics that need to be worked on: phonics, grammar, conjugation, sentence construction, spelling, etc… In order to cover these various aspects, you might find it helpful to dedicate a specific homework slot to them on a regular basis. In our case, we do:
- creative writing on Wednesdays to work on English as a whole,
- Saturday we do some grammar using our CGP activity books and occasionally I slip in some more hands-on activities such as ThisReadingMama.com games or cutting and pasting resources.
- Sundays we work on spelling and phonics doing a dictation. It is the opportunity to get my daughter to revise her phonics (I take the time to go over the ones she needs) and work a bit on homophones.
You might also want or be able to slip a little revision during the week. For instance:
- Copying once the words misspelt during ml homework time throughout the week using this table. It takes very little time to copy the word once every day, yet it can have a profound impact on the integration of the correct spelling in the child’s memory.
- Slipping some little revision quizzes on a captive reading whiteboard.
- Going through revision flashcards on a daily basis or several times a week. This is something we have just begun in our home but has proved effective. Remember that children learn best through repetition.
This post is obviously very much based on our experience, but there is no one way to doing this. So please share your experience of structuring your ml homework time in the Comment section to help other bilingual parents explore the range of possibilities available to them. 😉
- For a young child, if you spread the ml homework over various slots, you can vary the kind of activity. For instance, one day you work on fine motor skills, and the other the alphabet or phonics.