Author: Bri Rodriguez-Cancio
Take a moment to review, in a non-judgmental fashion, how involved you have been this school year at your child's school. If you can swing it, I urge you to consider volunteering for a half hour in your child's classroom.
For Young Children
For youngsters, you can read the class a story. Perhaps a story about friendship near Valentine's Day or a Dr. Seuss story* for National Dr. Seuss Day on March 2nd.
This is a wonderful time to actually get inside the classroom, see the student dynamic, and see how much of the "Target Language" (or "TL") your child is willing to speak... on that day. Don't speak the TL? Read the story in English, and ask another parent to stand with you to serve as “interpreter” if the teacher is having difficulty translating the story on the spot. Or have each of the two parents read a page, in an animated fashion, to keep the children engaged.
Watch out for the quality of some of the translations of the Dr. Seuss books; a few have caught my eye over the years as linguistically...awkward. But Seuss is surely a challenge to translate!
For Older Children
Is your child older? Dust off your talents and areas of expertise and ask the teacher if you can do a simple presentation on your favorite topic (in English or the TL) for ~15 minutes with Q&A afterward. (It would be wise to email the presentation to the teacher ahead of time for time management, etc.)
- Law & Order
I once did a slide show with fun "clip art" on the legal profession for preschoolers, and then had them take a stand on a position ("More Recess Time") and had two teams argue each side. A plastic hammer or a gavel was a resounding close to the "oral arguments." I was the advisor/cheerleader; the teacher played the Judge.
- Pick a Country
Another visit, I spotlighted some key facts about Cuba--music, food, notable animals, etc. Again, I used the "clip art" to signal key words to the Cuban song, "Guantanamera." This really helped the children learn the first two verses.
- Culture Cooking
Or, if you like to cook and the teacher approves it, bring in a typical dish (bought at a deli or home-made) to discuss. From my Latin roots, how about empanadas (pasties or turnovers), arepas (a corn meal savory thick "bread") or black beans and rice? This will definitively score as a conversation topic at the dinner table that night!