Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Prepping for Travel Through Music

Welcome to the third blog on the travel with children series written by experts. Join us every Tuesday when a new topic and expert will be featured. This week we're discussing how to use music as a travel and language prep tool and every week we'll cover topics that will enrich and enhance your travel experience. I'll be featuring experts and parents sharing their best tips and advice with you. Please come back every week and share these posts through your Facebook, Twitter and other social media and with friends. If you missed any so far here are the links: Picture tips, Travel with Cloth . Happy Travels!
I grew up in a bilingual family but we only spoke the minority language at home. My parents are native speakers and always found opportunities for us to travel and use our second language as often as possible. Now I have a child of my own and although I’m bilingual, sometimes I find I use English more than Spanish at home. This is simply because that is the language I’m using all day at work so making the switch isn’t always automatic but we TRY hard to speak it and involve our child not just in the language but culture of our heritage.

One recent way we tried was by celebrating her second birthday in Monterrey, MX with family who still lives there. Mostly my cousins and their kids who although older than my daughter are still young enough to get excited about a birthday party. In preparation, we started singing Las Mañanitas at every birthday celebration we could to familiarize our daughter with the song. We also taught her the Piñata Song and other basic games with songs that kids might play with her. Keeping in mind that she wasn’t even two yet we practiced words like: agua, leche, ayuda, and most importantly- GRACIAS… because everyone likes a grateful child. The actual time we spent there was a lot of fun and a huge success form the language learning perspective. Not only did she feel part of the fun knowing the words to every song and game but she also managed to pick up a few new words from her interactions with the other kids.

In my search to find materials that can help us keep up the language learning at all times I came across Sing-a-lingo and loved the material so much that I contacted owner Piña Madera about contributing to our blog series of experts. As a mother and a musician Piña (along with her husband Michael who is also a bilingual musician) found herself using song to narrate everyday activities. Seriously, could there be a better way to learn a language? Make sure to visit their site... not only do they have a CD but you can also download the music as an MP3 AND they offer other Learning Kits with the music and additional materials.

  Turn up the Tunes for Travel

Got a trip planned with kids to a non-English speaking destination? Turn UP the tunes (and stories) to get them to turn DOWN the whining and non-stop arrival time interrogations—while also sneaking in some language learning they’ll use when you finally announce: “We’re here!”

Getting there is hard on kids. And it makes sense if you think about it. The opportunities for complaining are endless…Whether you’re going by car, plane, bus or camel, something is going to stink. Too much carrying stuff that’s too heavy, too much sitting still, too much waiting in lines to wait in other lines, and too much camel spit on your shoes.

What kids need at times like these is a notion that they’re in control of something, however flimsy that illusion may be.

For our 5 and 7 year olds, it’s controlling a pack of gum (no kidding) and their own MP3 players.

The gum works wonders because my kids live sugar-deprived lives, and the mere act of handing a whole pack over to eat AT WILL stuns them silent.

The MP3 player, however, is pure genius. It’s a fun gizmo that they can control, keeps them distracted from the hardships of travel, and is a rich opportunity for language learning!
It’s also possible to get a splitter for your headphones and share the device between 2 kids.

As part of the packing, I let them browse for a handful of songs from our iTunes library, leaving ample giga- and brain-space for my language-teaching tunes and stories. They don’t know this plan, though, so keep it under your hat.

Our device also plays video, and I limit video to only educational shows—you might do this differently. But I know that my videos would NEVER be viewed because anything with Darth Maul trumps Plaza Sesamo or Pocoyo anyday. Do set up an incentive, because hunting down great material that never gets seen will earn you some complaining of your own.

Great materials for kids can be found online. I’ve listed some qualities of good songs, stories and shows to teach language, and below that are links to sites to browse.

Good songs have these qualities:
          1. Upbeat, fun, enjoyable
          2. Short, simple
          3. Pleasant repetition of useful phrases
          4. Uses limited, manageable appropriate language
          5. Uses rhyming
          6. Sung by native Spanish speakers


Here is an iMix that I made of songs that my family enjoys. Browse these songs—you might settle on some favorites and search out their albums.


A few links for browsing for songs:

Full disclosure: this is my company. We’ve written songs to help young people learn language. Award-winning, original songs about everyday life. Songs meet the above requirements. http://www.singalingo.com/  

Traditional songs – some recordings are amateur, but might trigger your own memories if you grew up Latino. http://www.mamalisa.com/?t=sc&p=285&c=50

A collection of traditional songs. http://www.tsl.state.tx.us/ld/projects/ninos/songsrhymes.html#arroz

The king of school-aged kids songs! http://www.joseluisorozco.com/music.php

A catalog of downloads and CDs—not all are sung by native speakers, which we think is important. Listen carefully before buying. http://www.songsforteaching.com/store/spanish-c-869.html  Stories and videos should be short, using clear language at your child’s level. Lean toward selecting too easy materials if you’re not sure.

Story suggestions:
Cody’s Cuentos http://www.codyscuentos.com/

Enter the search term “cuentos” into iTunes for many podcasts for kids in Spanish


Video suggestions:
Plaza Sesamo is Sesame Street intended for native Spanish speakers, so it’s a little fast and uses some complicated language. My kids don’t understand every word, but they get the gist. The bright visuals help. Episodes can be purchased from iTunes.


Pocoyo is a sweet animated show from Spain entirely in Spanish that uses simple language, and gives opportunities for the audience to speak. I have not found where to download them, but see that DVD’s are available on Amazon. Select Spanish when viewing the DVD. Viewable at YouTube, too. http://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=pocoyo+en+espa%C3%B1ol&aq=0

There are so many more ideas and resources to research and discover, but this might get you started…and might simultaneously reduce complaining while upping the learning on your next big trip!

Piña Madera, founder of Sing-a-lingo
Piña has worked as an educator since 1987 – Montessori, piano teacher, ESL textbook editor, curriculum developer, teacher. She is also invested in teaching Spanish to her own kids (ages 5 & 7). It is her Mexican mother’s language — Piña was raised bilingual. She wrote all the original songs on their 1st CD ‘En MiCasa’ and that’s her voice and piano playing you hear in all the songs.

8 comments:

Candi said...

Really cute blog! I'm following from TAT, please follow back:)

http://littlebittyspicecakes.blogspot.com/

Happy Gramma said...

I am going to pass this on to my girls, for their kids. What a great way to learn a language!

I am following from Tuesday Tag-along. Please come visit me @ www.happyfamilyhappykids.blogspot.com

joeandbridge said...

Hi there! I'm stopping by from Tuesday Tag to be your newest follower. Hope you can swing by my blog too! Have a great day!

Bridgette Groschen
Groschen Goblins
www.groschengoblins.com

Shonda said...

Hi Lilli- Nice to meet you. Thanks for stopping by. I also have another blog just for little ones called Milk N' Honey. Here's link: www.milknhoneylearnandgrow.blogspot.com. I will host a Kid Friendly Friday link up and your posts would be great to add. Have a great day!

Tiffany Harkleroad said...

Following you back!

Shanna said...

Cute Blog! =) Thank you so much for stopping by mine, I am now following you! Have a great day! =)
http://www.mommyofoneandcounting.blogspot.com

Natalie A. said...

I'm following your blog, Facebook, and Twitter! Thanks for stopping by my blog and following it! Have a great day!

malia said...

great post! i'm a your newest follower... hope you were able to link to those hairclips ok!