Category Archives: School

Some songs to remember

into the wild

The end of the schoolyear is the toughest time for expats or internationally living families. To the usual change of class the change due to friends moving abroad is the one that affects us the most. We begin early to build a R.A.F.T. and say goodbye over and over again… This is a very sad time of the year.

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Bilingualism and homework (part 1)

I recently discussed this topic with linguists and parents who are raising their children bilingually and I noticed that people generally tend to jump onto general conclusions way too quickly.

Parents who send their children to an international school where lessons are held in another language often struggle when it comes to doing homeworks.

The question I often hear from parents and that induces me to write this post is: “Do I need to do homework with my child in his/her mothertongue or is it enough if she/he does the homework in the school language?”

There is not an overall answer, because there are differenct appraisal factors to consider.

First of all, if using the mother language helps to understand the topic of the homework, it would surely be important to switch to it.

Especially with literacy homework it is very helpful to discuss the topic of a text or book in the first language so that the child really gets the meaning of the text in the school language.

Parents often assume that their children fully understand a text because they are able to “perfectly” read it phonetically. We can’t be ” perfectly bilingual” after 2 weeks or a few months at school.

Fact is that children first of all learn the phonetics. They simply repeat the soundchains. So, for example, they would be able to say “Good morning”, “Thank you”, “May I have… please” very quickly. But only when they use a broader spectrum of sentences with similar words they will be able to understand that for example, “good” can be combined with “morning” , “evening”, “job”, “girl”, “boy” etc. Very slowly they will divide those sound chains into actual words and morphemes.

It takes children from 5 to 9/10 years to catch up on monolingual peers language-wise.

Therefore, when we send our children to a school where they’ll be immersed into another language the whole day, we’ll need to support them process what they’ve learned at home by using our family languages.

When our children come home with a book to read aloud, our task is to question them about the text. Asking them to paraphrase the text is a great way to understand whether they understand the plot or not.

We can ask them to find other words, synonyms for words that may be more difficult. – Obviously, in order to do this we should have a great proficiency in the school language too! – But what if this is not the case?

Many parents struggle with this and I know that some take extra language lessons in order to be able to help their children at school.

But if one doesn’t have the time to do so, or finds it really hard to catch up with the language, my advice is to try to find other words in the family language and if the child asks for more synonyms in the school language, don’t hesitate to use the dictionary. I know many parents who improved their languages by learning alongside their children.

What seems very logical and relatively easy for literacy, becomes more complex for other disciplines. (see part 2 soon)


Finding British Schools For Your Expat Children, by Luke Rees

A few weeks ago I found a very useful map about British Schools Abroad and shared it on social media. I’m now glad to publish Luke Rees’ very insightful post about it here.


Parents who are planning to move abroad face a number of initial challenges. To start with there are the stresses that go along with finding a house, setting up a bank account, buying a car and sorting out healthcare. However there is perhaps nothing quite as tricky as setting your children up in a new foreign school.

Emigrating with children often stirs up a variety of feelings within the family. On the one hand there is the excitement of a new climate, a new culture and a whole new land of opportunities, but on the other there is the fear of change – the stresses of which can wreak havoc on a family. It therefore always pays to be prepared, and to ensure the transition is as smooth as possible.

Taking your kids away from their friends and teachers whilst they are still at primary and secondary school is a delicate process. It is well know that young children need stability, and to wrench everything away from under their feet is no doubt going to be traumatic. If the new country speaks a foreign language or uses their own national curriculum then this can make the transition even harder on your child, who has to learn to negotiate an entirely new educational system.

For British parents there is the option to keep their child at a British school no matter where they are in the world. The British curriculum, from the key stages up to the GCSE exams, are taught in over 1,000 schools around the world. Cambridge IGCSEs are also taught in many schools, which are the international equivalent of GCSEs and accepted by all higher institutions in the UK.

In order to help parents locate British schools an interactive map was created by Expat & Offshore – an online information resource for expats. The map has over 1,000 primary, secondary and through schools to choose from all over the world. In order to find a school in your host country, click on a star and you will find information on the school’s address, website, phone number, and student population. You can view the map here:

British Schools Abroad

British Schools Abroad

Setting your children up in a school where they feel at ease and have the same educational opportunities as back home is everything a parent could hope for, however there are a number of extra strategies to ensure your child’s move is as tear-free as possible.

If your child is particularly sensitive then you must give them lots of time to get used to the idea of moving. Reading books and researching the new country with your children can help them to build an impression before they arrive so that it doesn’t seem so foreign on arrival. Also getting friends and family to put together something to remember them by before you leave – something like a signed T-shirt or a photo album – gives your child time to let go of their home whilst also allowing them to still feel connected to friends after the move.

Some tips to help your child settle into school even quicker include speaking to their new teachers and informing them of your child’s likes and dislikes, as well as giving them the names of important people in their life. Teachers can then reference these people and make your child feel like they’re still at home.

Children with United Kingdom, Guinean, United States and Chinese flags painted on faces

Moving country is one of the biggest steps a family with young children can take and so it always pays to extensively research your country of destination before the move. There are British schools in almost every country in the world (barring a few in Africa), so parents are likely to find an appropriate school no matter where they are.

Luke Rees

Luke Rees

Luke Rees is a travel writer from London who currently writes on behalf of Expat & Offshore.

Why reading aloud is important

We usually tend to read less to our children when they start reading by themselves. It’s such a big milestone to be able to read everything from the ingredients on the food-packages, the countless adverts, to the biggest book on the shelf!

The world of words is now open and we, parents or caregivers, can relax. – Or not?

An article on Mindshift and some discussions I recently had with my children and some friends made me realize that we should keep on reading to our children even if they already comfortably read to themselves.

“Reading aloud to older children — even up to age 14, who can comfortably read to themselves — has benefits both academic and emotional, says Jim Trelease, who could easily be called King of the Read-Aloud. Trelease, a Boston-based journalist, turned his passion for reading aloud to his children into The Read-Aloud Handbook in 1979; it has since been an unequivocal bestseller with sales in the mult-millions, and Trelease is releasing the seventh, and final, edition in June.”

Fact is that when someone reads to us we focus on the pronunciation, the intonation, the content . If we read to ourselves, we often don’t even know how a new word is pronounced and would probably not recognize it when someone uses it in a conversation.

What about bilinguals?

Many bilinguals – children and adults – are very good in finding out naturally how a word is pronounced in the other language(s). But being able to read a text in a phonetically perfect way doesn’t mean that we captured its meaning. In fact, if asked to find a synonyme or to paraphrase what we’ve read, we often struggle. Sometimes we even get the wrong sense of our readings simply because we misunderstand a word. – When using the word “eventually” in English, for example, I still need to keep in mind that it means “finally/at length” such as “schließlich” in German or “finalmente” in Italian, whereas “eventuell” in German or “eventualmente” in Italian express an uncertainety.

Of course, monolinguals can struggle too with comprehend the semantic width of a word, but they have more chances to use these words in their everyday conversations at home and they have more opportunities to correct and consolidate the use of the vocabulary acquired while reading.

"To be successful at reading comprehensio...

“To be successful at reading comprehension, students need to …” (Photo credit: Ken Whytock)

Why it is important that teachers keep reading to the children

Our nine-year-olds usually had “two solid years of drill and skill, a lot of testing, a lot of work, and they’re competent, but they’re thinking in terms of reading as a sweet experience”, and we, as parents and teachers, are pleased they do. But children may tend to choose books that are not challenging enough to keep up the learning curve. Especially when left alone to choose their readings. Therefore “when a teacher reads a good book above student reading level, he shows students that the good stuff — the really great books — are coming down the road, if they stick with it” and, by choosing books that are slightly above the level of our children’s competence, they can build and improve build the vocabulary and the general proficiency of that language.

 “Research collected on middle school read-alouds showed that 58 percent of teachers read aloud to their students – and nearly 100 percent of reading and special education teachers. And, while middle-school students reported liking read-alouds, little data has been collected on the “extent and nature” of reading aloud to twelve- to fourteen-year-olds.”

Personally, I think that all children and adults benefit from someone reading aloud to them, not only EAL or SEN students. – The article in Mindshift points out that they still lack of data about twelve- to fourteen-year-olds. I think this is mainly due to the lack of time parents and teachers have to read to them, and that students of these age groups (and older) wouldn’t probably appreciate an adult reading to them? Therefore my suggestion would be to make them listen to slightly older peers. This kind of research would probably give similar results as the study with middle-school students.


Other positive side effects from reading aloud

Reading aloud doesn’t only help students to consolidate their knowledge of the language but helps them also to wade into complicated or difficult subjects. When things happen to the characters in the story, and not to themselves, they can approach delicate topics.

“Why do you think so many children’s stories have orphans as characters? Because every child either worries or fantasizes about being orphaned.”

Reading about delicate topics aloud helps to address them in an easier and healthier way. Sharing different point of views, reflecting together on what has been read can help to cope better with similar situations in real life.

Reading aloud is also something adults use to do in book clubs. I observed that book clubs are very popular these days. People who like to read, feel the need to talk about the books and to exchange views about what they’ve read, to compare, to find synonyms, paraphrase, compare. And this is exactly what children do during group reading at school too.


Samuel Richardson, by Miss Highmore, published...
Samuel Richardson, by Miss Highmore, published 1804. See source website for additional information. This set of images was gathered by User:Dcoetzee from the National Portrait Gallery, London website using a special tool. According to the NPG’s website the work was published prior to 1859, and so the author is reasonably presumed dead by 1939. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Modelling the pleasure of reading is the key

In his study, Trelease acknowledges that “modelling the pleasure of reading is important, but there are more reasons read-alouds work so well — like “broadening the menu.””

“Broadening the menu” becomes even more important if a child has difficulties with reading. According to Wandering Eductators’ Dr. Jessica Voigts, who homeschools her daughter Lillie, reading aloud can make reading more pleasurable for someone with dyslexia. “Reading together – with her watching the words as I read, and then her reading to me – is a way to be together, to experience the world, to enjoy a common pleasure. I read to her, about two-thirds of the time, and then she takes over for one-third of the time. We pass the book back and forth, although we’re usually right next to each other,” she said.

And though her daughter struggles, Voigt admitted she reads to Lillie for more than just academic benefits. “This is a time — tweens, teens — when life is full of craziness. This is one way to have a place of rest, of being, something to count on each day. Shared words have power, an energy that you can’t get from TV, radio, or online,” she said.

“The power of shared words is a big reason to keep on reading aloud after children are able to read for themselves”

English: Four children reading the book How th...
English: Four children reading the book How the Grinch Stole Christmas! by Dr. Seuss. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


Did you stop reading aloud to your children when they started to read?

Would you consider reading to them again? What is your experience with this?