There’s a lot of discussion lately in education circles about the need to teach creativity and entrepreneurship to children.
The prosperity of a country – the argument goes – is tied to its innovators, to the usually small pool of people who can look at old problems and think differently, who are not afraid of facing difficult challenges and uncertainty, who can dream big but also plan, test, and execute.
Who wouldn’t agree? We could all use more ingenuity to pursue lofty dreams. And yes, the way to shape our future pool of risk-takers, knowledge-seekers, and life-long learners is through an education that instills those values in them.
I am incredibly fortunate to be able to do just that: not only do I specialize in a fun niche with a lot of creative potential – parents learning languages with their children – but since I am an entrepreneur myself and work on my own, I am free to explore and try new ideas over trite old ways (think young children memorizing words on flashcards or watching passively a show in another language).
My approach to learning languages is anchored on the imagination because I am convinced that children learn best when all the above descriptors applied to entrepreneurs and innovators are put to good use in our kids’ education – children need to imagine, take risks, grow to challenges, learn to think differently… what a great opportunity to do just so by activating the imagination into learning a new language!
De pronto, un Conejo Blanco con ojos rosados pasó corriendo cerca de ella.
—¡Por mis orejas y bigotes! ¡Voy a llegar tan tarde! —dijo el conejo.
Suddenly a White Rabbit with pink eyes ran close to her.
“Oh, my ears and whiskers! I’ll be so late!” said the rabbit.
Traveling to Wonderland and other imaginary places, eating strange cookies that make us grow like giants or shrink like dwarfs, following crazily punctual rabbits, or pursuing other fantastic adventures is not just the fictional matter of fairytales; it is the nutritious, imagination-boosting substance that allows children to grow into creative and resourceful individuals.
Interestingly, what the characters experiment in their fictional adventures is very much like the initial ‘shock’ that learners experiment when exposed to a new language and culture. In turn, learning a new language develops greater cognitive skills as well as a wider perspective of the world around us.
Early languages + the imagination = keener cognition, creativity, flexibility, perspective. The result of this combination is a superb preparation for new adventures and opportunities.
During the last few years I have been writing curriculum that I license to language schools as well as other materials for use by parents and children at home or by teachers in schools. The latest story and accompanying learning unit I have been working on is Alice in Wonderland. I expect to publish the story later this year or in early 2011 (click here to see my currently available e-storybooks in Chinese, Spanish, French, and English).
High among the priorities when thinking about my language-learning units is how to expand and reinforce the language and main concepts of the stories in fun and practical ways. My goal is that children acquire conversational language that they can use right away in their everyday life while at the same time having lots of fun and developing their imagination.
En tournant au coin, Alice se retrouva dans une grande salle rectangulaire avec vingt portes.
When she turned the corner, Alice found herself in a big rectangular hall with twenty doors.
Here are some imaginative games related to the story of Alice in Wonderland that students at licensee’ language schools are doing right now. You could try these activities at home or in your schools as well:
- “El pase de la reina” (“The Queen’s Pass”). To get into the queen’s kingdom, children have to solve some fun math problems related to vocabulary contained in the story (e.g. measuring small things in inches and centimeters, weighing cookies and other stuff in ounces and grams, jotting these measurements on simple charts and comparing the results to other students’, etc). What child wouldn’t want to get a pass to Wonderland, even if that involves doing math?
- “Alicia en movimiento” (“Alice in Movement”). The teacher or parent reads or narrates a very brief segment of the story and the children have to act it out. Later on, the kids can practice saying some lines and acting short vignettes.
- “El juego de Alicia en el país de las maravillas” (“Alice in Wonderland Game”). I created a board game with thecharacters of the story. When the players land on the punctual rabbit, they move faster on the board. If they fall on Alice, they have to answer a question because she is very curious, etc. You can do a similar game using cards, floor mats, or a board as well.
I hope that you enjoy these activities!
Ana Lomba is changing the way people think about and interact with young children learning languages. Her Parents’ Choice award-winning books, lively songs, games, stories, and mobile applications are quickly becoming favorites with teachers and parents who want to nurture young children’ inborn language abilities. Key to the success of Ana’s break-through method is a focus on the family as the ideal environment for early language learning – even her signature curriculum for language programs is built with parents in mind. Ana has taught toddler, preschool, elementary school, and college-level Spanish courses, and held leadership positions with some of the most influential language organizations in the US, including ACTFL, NNELL and FLENJ. After graduating with a law degree from Spain, her native country, Ana pursued graduate studies at Binghamton University, Princeton University, and NYU.