Saturday, March 18, 2017

My child wants to learn Norwegian, but I don't speak it! What can I do?

Learning a language is easiest when you are a child.  The brain is more elastic, there aren't as many preconceived stereotypes about different cultures or words, and children are eager to learn.  But what if your child wants to learn a language that you yourself don't speak?  How do you teach them or find someone to teach them?

I was fortunate to grow up bilingual Norwegian-English, even though it was my grandparents' grandparents who were the immigrants to America.  My grandma grew up around Sioux Falls, SD, in a community that spoke both languages.  However, the language skipped half a generation, and it was only in college and after that my dad discovered he could quickly pick it back up, despite not being taught it officially as a child.  He and my mom became fully trilingual (German being the other language) and decided to bring me up bilingually.

Living in America, it's hard to keep up a minority language background.  The majority language, English, often takes over.  Signs are written in English, most books readily available are in English, schools are taught in English (although there are many language immersion programs as well), and many conversations are in English.  How, then, do you teach a child another language, when he or she is surrounded by all of this?  You become the one responsible for surrounding them with the other language in addition to it.

In two-parent households where at least one parent speaks the other language, a child hears the minority language before he or she is even born and picks it up along with the majority language, reaching many language milestones at or about the same time in both languages.  The child is exposed to the minority language through play, songs, stories, conversation, listening, body language, media (TV, radio, and music), and other interactions.  This day-to-day involvement surrounds the child not only with the majority language but with the minority one as well.  As the child gets older and starts going to school, he or she will be surrounded by other influences outside of a parent's control, in various language and cultural settings.

How, then, can a parent teach a child another language if the parent doesn't speak the language?  Language isn't learned in only one way.  Language (and culture, for that matter) are learned through reading, writing, speaking, listening, and experiencing.  Each of these is important in the development of the language learner, so it is vital to nurture them all.

Learning through reading (print):

Most often, we think of print resources as a way to learn spelling and phonics.  While that is absolutely correct, there is more to it than that.  Print resources teach how words are made, how sentences are put together, the "correct" flow of the language, and what a culture values.  By reading a book, even silently, the reader learns to internalize the pattern of the language.  The pictures teach one-to-one correspondence, foster connections between the topic and the reader, and give clues as to the meaning of unfamiliar words.  Reading aloud combines all this learning with hearing the language spoken and practice putting the sounds together, whether the learner is the one being read to or reading aloud to him- or herself.

Gather reading material in many forms for the child to experience.  Think outside "normal" books to comic books, websites, games, and even garbage.  Yes, garbage!  Wrappers, containers, jars, cereal boxes, and more have educational value as well.  Remember reading the back of your cereal box as a child?  Remember asking about unfamiliar words (ingredients, mostly) and concepts?  Your child can do the same thing with wrappers brought home from trips to the other country or mailed to them by relatives.  Have a distant cousin in the other country send a box full of unfolded, flattened boxes from various products (food, personal care, toys).  Include other containers if possible, such as jars with labels that can be nested inside one another to save packing space.  Use newspapers or magazines as "stuffing" in the shipment, because this can count as another print source.  The package should be addressed to the child to increase interest.

When the package comes, make sure to allow plenty of time and "reconstruction" space, along with ample supplies to reconstruct the containers.  Packing tape is very handy for making up cardboard containers, but make sure that whatever you use is clear so the print shows.  As you reconstruct the materials with your child, talk about what the child sees on each package:  pictures, print, words, drawings, charts, etc.  It's ok if you don't know what the words are.  You can learn along with your child!  As he or she sees you using strategies to learn, he or she will become a more confident learner.

Use the new materials with your child during play and "down" time, just the same as other reading material.  You can sit down with a picture book and try to guess what the words mean, telling the story using the pictures.  Study the alphabet of the other language, listen to letters being pronounced, and try to repeat them.  Use these skills to decipher words that you come across, even if you don't know what they mean yet.  If you mispronounce words, you can correct yourself later on when you learn the correct pronunciation.  Find YouTube videos of people reading the materials in the language, then read along with the video.  Ask others who know the language to read to your child, whether in person, via phone or Skype, or via recording themselves and sending the recording to your child.  Follow along with the words being read.

Learning through writing:

This is often the easiest way initially to teach a child if you don't know the language.  Look online for resources from the other country, such as educational websites, that have printable materials.  Don't forget "mirror" sites in other languages, like  If you aren't sure if a site is good, run it through a web translator like Free Translation or Google Translate.  The translation software will not give you a completely-accurate teaching tool, but it will help you evaluate the overall quality of the site.  Look for trace-and-color resources.  One of my favorite sites is Teachers Pay Teachers, which has quality educational material from teachers around the world.  Quite a few Norwegian teachers sell worksheets, games, reading material, and cultural material on there, including myself.  Remember, when looking for resources always look under Norwegian, norsk, and either bokmål or nynorsk (depending on which you want your child to learn).

Many countries have resources available through grammar sites as well.  One of my favorites for Norwegian is Undervisningsmetoder, which has different worksheets and flashcards for all levels, as well as rhymes and links to other great sites.

I will continue this discussion with another blog post covering learning through speaking, listening, and experiencing.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Lesson Planning for Preschool-Aged Norwegian Class

Since last October, I have been teaching Norwegian to a 4-year-old girl over Skype.  Here is an overview of my lessons with her.  I will be going into detail for each one in later blog posts, and chronicling my lessons from here on out in blog posts as well.

September 30 & October 1, 2013 (1/2 hour each day)
  • "Per Sjuspring" song
  • Numbers using Min Første Ordbok
  • Colors using Farger book that they have
 October 7 & 8, 2013 (1/2 hour each day)
  • The Very Hungry Caterpillar (Den Lille Larven Aldrimett)
  • Sequencing pieces for The Very Hungry Caterpillar
  • Butterfly life cycle pieces in Norwegian
  • Calendar and weather pieces to set up a calendar bulletin board
  • Clothing and weather using Min Store Ordbok
  • Fall song
October 14 & 15, 2013 (1/2 hour each day)
  • Body parts using labels on a silhouette
  • "Hode, Skulder, Kne og Tå" song
  •  Body parts using Min Store Ordbok
  • Body parts using Roll-A-Monster
October 21 & 22, 2013 (1/2 hour each day)
  • Farm animals using a book they have
  • Farm animals using the Norwegian version of Big Red Barn
  • "Bæ, bæ, lille lam" song ("Baa, baa, black sheep")
  • "Per Olsen hadde en bondegård" song ("Old MacDonald")
November 26 & 27, 2013 (1/2 hour each day)
  • Thanksgiving plate craftivity
  • Thanksgiving foods
  • What I'm thankful for
  • Setting the table
December 2 & 3, 2013 (1/2 hour each day)
  • What to wear in the snow
  • Winter wear vocabulary cards
  • Winter wear in Min Første Ordbok
  • Freddy the Frog story (Freddy Frosk)
December 9 & 10, 2013 (1/2 hour each day)
  • Winter words
  • Christmas matching game
December 16 & 17, 2013 (1/2 hour each day)
  • Christmas verbs
January 6 & 7, 2014 (1/2 hour each day)
  • "Å jul med din glede" song ("O Christmas with your joy")
  • Nativity story & pieces from the Bible
January 13 & 14, 2014 (1/2 hour each day)
  • Sami video
  • Label the reindeer
  • Make your own reindeer
January 20 & 21, 2014 (1/2 hour each day)
  • Polar bears & other arctic animals word wall
  • Label the polar bear
  • Polar Bear on the Go book
  • "Bjørnen Sover" song ("The Bear Sleeps")
January 27 & 28, 2014 (1/2 hour each day)
  • Da snøen kom (The Snowy Day in Norwegian)
 February 24 & 25, 2014 (1/2 hour each day)
  • Hot chocolate category sorting game
March 31 & April 1, 2014 (1/2 hour each day)
  • Fairies theme
  • Building a fairy house (house part vocabulary)
  • Making a flower wreath (art vocabulary)
  • Label the fairy
April 14 & 15, 2014 (1/2 hour each day)
  • Religious Easter vocabulary
  • Easter egg Bible story hunt
  • Paper plate tomb
April 28 & 29, 2014 (1/2 hour each day)
  • Princess theme
  • Medieval words
  • Add/subtract the dragons
  • Label the castle
  • Cookie tea party
May 5 & 6, 2014 (1/2 hour each day)
  • Norway vocabulary
  • Symbols of Norway
  • May 17th coloring sheet
  • May 17th barnehage book
May 12 & 13, 2014 (1/2 hour each day)
  • Norway's Constitution Day theme
  • Mina og Løven book
May 26 & 27, 2014 (1/2 hour each day)
  • Beach theme
  • Beach vocabulary
  • Beach bingo
June 3, 2014 (one hour lesson)
  • Ocean animals
  • Ocean toob from Safari Ltd
  • Wild Republic Itsy Bitsies Aquatic pink bucket animals
  • Ocean animals memory game
  • Ocean depth "submarine dive"
June 8 & 9, 2014 (1/2 hour each day)
  • Summer theme
  • "Sommer kommer" song ("Summer comes")
  • Adding soap bubbles
  • Which is different?
  • Patterning
June 16, 2014 (one hour lesson)
  • Airplane travel
  • Label an airplane
  • Looking at toy airplanes
  • Sequencing a plane trip
  • Airport vocabulary
  • Putting suitcases in order from smallest to largest
I probably am forgetting some themes for some weeks, so I will add more as I find them in my files.  Most of the time, we did 1/2 hour lesson twice a week, but sometimes we did a 1 hour lesson once a week.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Barnehage goes on a field trip!

The summer theme for our children's group, barnehage, is "camping".  Going camping is as popular in Norway as it is here in the States, although in Norway people tend to go camping in cabins rather than in tents.  These cabins are sponsored by a national group and are located along popular trails, hiking destinations, and on the coast.

To combine the Norwegian love of camping and the American camping tradition, I brought back the little tent and camping set from Fisher Price that I used last year.  The kids love it!  They use it as a house, a doorway (since it does not have a back), and various other things as well as a tent.  The fire that came with the set is the class favorite toy now, and everything gets grilled over it!

On June 22nd, the day of the National Wildlife Federation's Great American Backyard Campout, we took a field trip to Laurelhurst Park to study outside wildlife.  I gave each child a scavenger hunt page, half a toilet paper tube slitted into a cuff bracelet, and a small bag.  The scavenger hunt page I used is downloadable for free from this site in Norwegian or English.  Since Laurelhurst Park has a lake, we were able to find most of the animals listed!

We played tag in Norwegian, saying "sisten" when we tagged each other.  It means "last" in Norwegian.  The children used their bags to collect various leaves, stems, flowers, sticks, and other natural objects.  Later on, they glued or taped their finds onto the toilet paper tube bracelets and hole-punched a hole in each side of the slit.  They tied the bracelet to size with yarn, making the bracelet easy to take on and off.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Playing store with my adult Norwegian class

One of my adult Norwegian classes is studying food right now, and just learned about the Norwegian monetary system. There is a dialogue in our textbook that illustrates how to shop for food, but that is the only example given. Many of my students either want to go to Norway in the future or are already planning their trip, so I use this opportunity to do a practical, hands-on lesson. Over the years, it has become a favorite among all my classes. I take the play food that the barnehage (children's immersion class) uses and set all the pieces out on a table. I include some silverware and condiments. Then I set the play cash register on the end and take out the play money. I make sure to hide the credit card that comes with the cash register! The students bring their books along and gather around the food. I sit at the end with the cash register and start the activity, greeting the first "customer". The "customer" chooses what he or she wants to buy, then gives it to me to ring up. I make up reasonable prices, but have a current advertisement from a Norwegian grocery store chain as a reference for those who want to use that. I tell the "customer" the price, then he or she pays me and we end the conversation. The "customer" then becomes the "cashier" and another student becomes the new "customer". I then am the last "customer" so that every student has an opportunity to fill both roles. If there were an interactive whiteboard in our classroom, the students could use the online advertisement site to pull up the actual prices of their merchandise so the "cashier" could ring it up accurately. This would also incorporate the techniques of skimming, reading forms, and spelling.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Dinosaur theme for barnehage

The kids absolutely loved the new dinosaur theme!  Right when they first came in, they saw the dino dig I'd set up in front of the play tent (from our camping theme) and asked if they could start in.  I supplied various buckets and tins, two metal ice cream scoops (with non-moveable parts), and paintbrushes.

The kids uncovered every single one of the dinosaurs, made dino soup, and pretended they were Tyrannosaurus Rex with the hand puppets.  One student wanted to get a My Little Pony to be a friend to her dinosaurs, so she went over to the table where the ponies normally are.  She found the shoebox they are stored in, but she also found the rest of the dinosaur-themed activities!

The playmat came with the plastic dinosaurs, but it made a great Play-Doh mat as well.  I supplied little containers of Play-Doh (that were originally sold as Halloween trick-or-treat handouts a couple years ago) in a basket, and the kids had fun making tracks with the dinos.  The cards on the bottom of the picture are dinosaur matching cards from Busy Bee Kids Printables.  The backpack and other shapes on the left have matching "shadow" cutouts, and are all dinosaur- or paleontology-themed.  They are free from Danielle Danver's TpT store.  The dinosaur bones on the top are all different lengths, lending themselves easily to a standard and non-standard measuring activity, although one child asked if she could color them in.  They are at Sparklebox, which is a wonderful site with free printables in many languages.

I will be adding more activities as the month progresses, depending on how many students come each week.  I've collected most of these ideas, plus more, on my Pinterest dinosaur board.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Classes start in September, plus barnehage themes

August's theme for barnehage, our children's Norwegian-language playgroup, was "camping".  I set up a camp on one side of the room, complete with the Fisher Price Fun to Imagine 2 in 1 backpack and tent camping set.  A little working lantern was there for a day, but then one of the children put it away somewhere else (and I haven't be able to find it since).

The children had fun roasting marshmallows and hotdogs over the fire, hiding in the tent from various woodland creatures (me in the role of a bat, an owl, and a bear), but defending their food from the bear was scarier than they thought it would be.  Then they pretended to be various animals and ran around the room on all fours, having a great time!

One of the children lined up the roll & graph and plant or animal sorting cards from 2 Teaching Mommies' Forest Pack, then went through and named them all in English while I told the class the Norwegian words.  At the end of each class time, I took pictures of the noun cards (and some of the other cards, where applicable) with the objects they represented.  These will become part of our word wall, as well as word walls at home (via sending the pictures by e-mail to the families).

Norwegian classes for adults will start next week, as will lille leikarringen (children's Scandinavian dance) practice.  Registration for Norwegian classes is still open through the first two weeks of September.  Enrollment for lille leikarringen and barnehage is ongoing.  See the links on the right side of this blog for more information on these programs.

The barnehage theme for September will be "dinosaurs".  My nephew was helping me set up and test out the sensory box for this, using small dino toys, rice, and dried split peas.  We had a couple dino digs, then he built a dinosaur world himself.

Digging for dinos
JJ's dino world

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Sensory box and toys for June's garden/farm barnehage theme

Our theme for the barnehage, our children's Norwegian-language playtime, is gardening & farming.  I put together this activity table to encourage the children to learn new Norwegian words and use them in their play.  It includes a Playmobil farm set (seen in and around the yellow fence), several My Little Pony toys and accessories (including the barn), a sensory box, and picture cue cards.

The box has coffee beans in it, and the children can "plant" the fruit, flowers, and vegetables from the plastic toy sets.  They can also put row markers made from cut drinking straws in the coffee beans.  Then they can "water" the plants with the watering cans.  The big flower is a four-piece puzzle, and the cards to the left of it (below the straw signs) are word cards for the parts of a flower.  On the right are two sorting sheets, one for flowers and one for vegetables, and a set of picture/word matching cards with the words written in both Norwegian and English.  The sorting sheets can be used with the plant stakes and with the matching cards.

My ideas for this play table came from the Playmobil 5893 Pony Farm with Carrying Case, the My Little Pony Applejack's Sweet Apple Barn Playset and other accessories,, and Modern Parents, Messy Kids.