For the Parents

In my 13 years of teaching experience, nothing has made quite a difference in the learning curve of my students as when the parents are involved in their children’s education. It’s pretty interesting, because many parents are very hands-on with all their children’s school subjects with the exception of language, art and music. (I don’t teach art or music, but I do think they are also crucial to a child’s personal and creative development. In this post, I will only touch on language, but it is not my intention to imply that art or music are any less important.)

Nobody should expect their children, themselves or their students for that matter to be fluent in a language if their only exposure is that weekly 60 minute lesson. Most kids spend much more time than that playing video games or updating their FaceBook pages, yet we are still surprised when students can’t speak after 2 years of classes.

Parents and other family members should take an active interest in their children’s language learning as well. Even a couple minutes a day can make a huge difference in a student’s language growth. For example, when you’re sitting down at dinner time, ask your child “what is this” in that language. If your child is learning Spanish, point to the dinner plate, glass, table or rice and ask “que es esto?”

Family having lunch at restaurant
Photo by Tetra Pak

So many of my younger students’ parents ask me if they should try to speak with their children when their accents are heavy or they don’t have perfect grammar themselves. I always say that a little practice with some mistakes is better than no practice at all. The main goal is to communicate with others in that language. If you can do that at home, chances are, you’ll feel a lot more confident to try speaking with a native speaker. I normally find that people hesitate to speak with native speakers, not because they can’t speak, but because they’re scared.

So what happens when your child is learning a language that you have never studied? You should take this opportunity to study the language from scratch right along with your child. Try some of the following techniques to learn even the basics of the language with your child.

  • Hire a private tutor to come work with you and your child
  • Check out the many language learning websites for helpful tips, vocabulary lists and pronunciation guides
  • Check your community to see if there are language groups you can join
  • Make a weekly foreign film movie night
  • Label different things around your house and make it a family affair to try to learn more vocabulary
  • Celebrate holidays and festivals from that country
  • Try a new recipe from that country
  • Subscribe to online or paper magazines/newspapers in that language
  • Start listening to music from that country and try to sing along
  • Write your shopping lists in that language
  • Do some research to see if there is a popular game from that country you can play with your family
  • Play I Spy in the car (of course in that language)
  • Have fun – Everybody’s idea of fun is a little different, so be creative and do something with your family to include your child’s own personal interests, while speaking in that language

Let me know how these techniques work for your family and if you have any other ideas to share!


Free Spanish Resources

Learning Spanish can be a really fun experience! There are many different cultures and countries that speak this beautiful language, so the lesson topics are really never-ending! It won’t always be easy, but it doesn’t have to be expensive to study at home.

Of course, it’s a great idea to enroll in a class or hire a private tutor, but during the week, here are some sites you should check out in between classes. Whether you’re an adult learning Spanish or you are a parent of a child learning Spanish, these sites are very helpful.

Maya & Miguel

The good folks at PBS have put together a really cool website for kids who enjoy the TV show Maya & Miguel. The site can be in English or in Spanish and offers many different activities like Mundo de los Deportes (World of Sports) and Cocina con Abuela (Cooking with Grandma,) in addition to many videos.


Georgia Public Broadcasting has put together a series of Spanish learning videos, as well as some games and activities. The program is available for purchase, but you can also play the games online or watch many different episodes on their website. The videos are for children up to the 3rd grade.

CNN en Espanol

CNN has a site in Spanish where you can get your daily news and practice your Spanish in one fell swoop! You can read the articles in addition to watching videos, enabling you to practice your reading, listening and pronunciation. Even if the level is too difficult for you now, keep revisiting the site to practice with different levels of difficulty.

National Geographic

It is no surprise that I love National Geographic. I can easily say that I love them even more because they have translated their entire site to Spanish. There are so many different articles to choose from. Now, you can learn about the world around you while you practice your Spanish! I encourage you to read an article aloud each day and try to explain what you read to someone in Spanish. If you don’t know any Spanish speakers yet, talk to yourself in the bathroom mirror. You’ll feel silly, but it’s good practice!

coffee talk Photo by AnyaLogic


Meetup is a great way to meet other people like yourself who are learning a language, or you could meet someone for a language exchange. Meetups can be in coffee shops, restaurants, peoples homes, etc. It’s very simple to register and you can join other Meetups or create your own. Meetups range widely in frequency, so you can pick the groups that work best for your schedule. Now you really have no excuse to have nobody to talk to in Spanish!

Of course this is just a small list of resources you can use to improve your Spanish, but it’s a good start. Do you have any sites you like to use? Please comment and share. I’d love to hear from you. Adios!!

Free ESL/EFL Resources

Learning a language can be a long, difficult process, but it doesn’t have to break the bank. I’m not saying it won’t cost you anything, but there are a plethora of free sites and services that can help you along the way. Here is a list of just a few of my favorite sites. Even if you are an adult, some of the kids sites are pretty helpful as well, so don’t hesitate to check them out too!

Learn Boost

Learn Boost is a wonderful site for teachers, parents and students. It’s a place where you can aggregate all your classroom information and keep your grade book, homework assignments, rosters and lesson plans. It can be used as a forum to enhance communication between teachers, parents and students, as well as integrate different social platforms. I cannot recommend this site enough.

VOA Learning English

Voices of America does a very nice job of delivering the news in a clear, concise manner that is easy to understand and that is not intimidating for non-native speakers. I encourage my students to listen to them first, without reading the text to give themselves a little listening comprehension practice. The second time around they can listen and read along silently. The third time, the student should try to read along with the speaker, which will assist with pronunciation and intonation. The site also offers short grammar lessons, games and blogs.

BBC Learning English

BBC also does a really great job of reaching out to non native speakers. Similar to VOA, learners can listen to each article, which is extremely helpful when studying at home. They also have Quizzes, General and Business English, Words in the News (which I love) and 6 Minute English, which is another great feature. Of course this is a British site, so the speakers all have British accents. I always recommend listening to as many people with as many different accents as possible. It’s just good practice.

National Geographic 

National Geographic, National Geographic Kids and National Geographic Little Kids are extremely informative and educational. Each of the sites offer age appropriate activities, quizzes and games, in addition to long and short articles, which can be helpful for a wide variety of classroom settings and activities. I use these sites in private classes as well as group classes, which gives the students the freedom to learn about and talk about topics that are of interest to them. It’s a bonus for me too, because I always learn something new!

Have Fun Teaching

Have Fun Teaching is another good site with many free printable worksheets. They have fun videos and songs, flash cards and activities. Their reading comprehension worksheets go up to the 8th grade, but the lower grades have a wider selection to choose from. The songs are kind of silly, but catchy, which I do believe really helps students to memorize vocabulary more effectively.

The internet is very big. There is a LOT of information to be found, and this is just a small list of places to go for information and help. If you have some favorite sites of your own, please feel free to comment and share.

Have a great weekend, everyone!


Use Your Senses

Have you ever smelled something and it made you recall a certain memory? Do you ever see a building or a person and it reminds you of a place your person you used to know? Have you ever heard a song that reminded you of a specific time in your life?

Smell(Photo by Dennis Wong)

I’m a firm believer that our senses heighten our memories and enable us to recall facts and information more effectively. Whether you’re a native English speaker learning a new language or you are learning English as a Foreign Language, using more senses during your studies can really help you memorize information and vocabulary better.

The next time you study, why not try some of these ideas?

  • Read a magazine article aloud
  • Sing along with the radio
  • Use subtitles on the television and try to say the words with the actors
  • While cooking, taste different ingredients as you say their names
  • Close your eyes and smell different flowers or foods and describe them
  • Go outside and speak with a native speaker
  • Write down words you hear on the radio or television
  • Eat a meal from that country and describe it orally or on paper… or both!
  • Touch different things in your house and say their names or describe the textures

Using your senses as you learn (or teach) a language encourages you to have fun and add creativity to your learning experience. Don’t be afraid to try new things. I encourage you to try to use all five of your senses this week during one activity. I’d love to hear how it goes!

Have a great week!