Friday, 23 March 2012

In search of a good (bilingual) nursery school-Update

As I mentioned in my previous post, we are looking for a nursery school for Chloe to attend next year, if possible I´d like her to go to a bilingual nursery school but unfortunately I don´t think one exists in my city! The word bilingual gets bandied around quite a lot here, a lot of schools call themselves bilingual or have a bilingual project but they aren´t as bilingual as I´d like and in many of these schools, the teachers aren´t bilingual and often only have a passing knowledge of English,some don´t even have the basics! However, there are other teachers that do have a high level of English. I think that these "bilingual schools" or "projects" don´t seem to be all that successful as through my job as an EFL teacher, I teach a variety of kids from the "bilingual" schools and from schools that don´t have a bilingual project and I don´t notice that much difference in their English abilities.You can find kids with good or bad levels from both types of school. Kids that attend bilingual project schools often know specific vocabulary for example eyebrow but don´t know basic verbs such as have got etc. To tell you the truth, I think it´s a bit of a gimmick!Often I think these schools don´t start with the bilingualism early enough,which is one of the reasons they aren´t successful, which is why I´d like to get Chloe started off as soon as possible in a bilingual nursery or as close to one as I can find!!!Most nursery schools offer English among their activities but in my opinion bilingual nursery schools should do 50% of activities in one language and 50% in the other language. From what I´ve read some bilingual preschools in the States take their bilingual initiatives quite seriously.

I seem to have gone off on a bit of a tangent there! We have been to see three nursery schools now. The first one we went to look at is the best nursery school in my city and is probably the closest to a bilingual nursery thatll come across in my city. It is situated in a lovely family-style house with a front and back patio.The back patio is larger and has slides etc to play on and a swimming pool/paddling pool in the summer. There was a comfortable, cosy atmosphere when you enter. Downstairs is for the older children, the babies are upstairs and have cots, changing tables with nappies etc and on the bottom floor is a kitchen, gym complete with tunnels for the kids to crawl through and a stage with scenery for plays etc. Everything was spotless and clean. There were a lot of nursery nurses (about 5 or more I think) working with and looking after a small group of children (about 5 or 6) and none of the kids were crying...they all seemed to be having fun and listening and joining in. One of the teachers had a guitar and they were singing Spanish nursery rhymes but just before they left I heard them singing If You´re Happy and You Know It.Plus the activites which the children participate in during the morning are repeated in the afternoon. The facilities are excellent and what really sways it for me is that they also have two native English workers!!! However, it is quite expensive especially as my daughter will be attending in the afternoons as I work in the afternoon/evenings so she´ll only be there 3 -3 and a half hours and it costs as much as if she were to attend the whole morning! It even has a school uniform, that alone costs 80 euros, as they consider themselves as an infant school rather than a kindergarden.

The other two nursery schools we´ve seen are quite similar to one another. One is bigger but is quite far away. It didn´t seem quite as clean and tidy as the first nursery school and there are more kids to a nursery nurse, the ratio was about 13:1. They do offer English among their activities but there are no natives and they don´t do the activities in the afternoon so it´d mainly be playing. It just didn´t present as well as the first either. On the other hand though,you have the option of only paying for the hours your child is there,making it a much more affordable choice. The third kindergarden was similar to the second, again they have a high ratio of kids to carers, 20:1, 13:1 and again English was among their activities on offer but yet again these activities are not offered in the afternoon...and no native English people either! Plus the price wasn´t that much cheaper than the first nursery school as you don´t have the option of paying by hours.

We have a few more nursery schools to check out but I think we´ll probably end up sticking with the first even though it is pretty expensive. I just don´t understand why more nurseries aren´t open during the afternoon and why they don´t offer the activities in the afternoons too.Ok, I understand that maybe there aren´t as many kids in the afternoons so it might not be worth having activities but I don´t understand why there aren´t more kids in the afternoons as many people have a split timetable and shops etc open till 8pm and what about doctors and nurses who work shifts?It´s difficult trying to work around these little inconveniences! Maybe I´m just going to have to work more hours to help pay the nursery fees or try and find a morning job (easier said than done in my line of work!) Does your child go to a bilingual nursery or a normal nursery? What is your experience or opinion about it?

Friday, 9 March 2012

Books Glorious Books

I love books and as I´ve mentioned before, I´d love to pass on my passion for reading to my daughter so I thought I´d take another look at what´s on our bookshelf. We have quite a few of the famous children´s classics in English,such as Dear Zoo,Where´s Spot? (which I actually bought for teaching English purposes!) and Guess How Much I Love You.

Dear Zoo by Rod Campbell is a great book for babies and toddlers as it has many flaps that young children love lifting up or opening, which helps to involve the children in the story. It introduces many animals and has very bright and colourful illustrations to grab children´s interest. With its simplistic text it is also a great book for the ESL classroom.Here are some further reviews on Amazon.

Where´s Spot? by Eric Hill is also a lift-the flap book about a mother dog´s hunt for her puppy,Spot.Again it is beautifully and colourfully illustrated and its simplistic text makes it ideal for the ESL classroom.It also introduces many animals, furniture and prepositions.Here you can read other people´s reviews. My daughter really enjoys these books especially lifting up the flaps, we just have to be careful that she doesn´t rip them!

I haven´t bought many bilingual books so far and at the moment I only have one:

Cinderella/Cenicienta published by Susaeta Ediciones. It is a very thin book with lovely illustrations but is aimed at an older audience than my daughter, probably around 4-5 year olds!The story is very condensed with it being in both languages. Susaeta Ediciones have published quite a few popular fairy tales in their Cuentos Bilingues and they are ok. When I borrowed another of their Cuentos Bilingues(Little Red Riding Hood) from the library, my husband was reading the Spanish tale to my daughter and his verdict was that it wasn´t very well-written.

The final book I´m going to look at isn´t a book that I own but one that I borrowed from the library. There are quite a few books in English at the library in my city,more than I expected to find anyway, although a lot are aimed at Spanish children learning English. The majority of the English books are translations of Spanish books and as we´ve already borrowed most of the "true" English books, I decided to get the following book out " Tento and his tooth"by Ricardo Alcantara, a translation of the Spanish book. At first, everything started off great, lovely illustrations and the story seemed interesting but as I read on, I noticed a number of translation errors (or printing mistakes). For example, Ratoncito Perez was translated as Tooth Mouse instead of the Tooth Fairy and there were also a couple of grammatical errors such as a double past e.g. didn´t wanted etc. I know I can correct the mistakes when I read it aloud to my daughter but if she were to read it herself when she was older,she´d be reading incorrect English and therefore learning it so I´m trying to avoid translated books as much as possible. However, this narrows down the amount of English books available to borrow from the library. If my daughter turns out to be as big a bookworm as her mum, the library won´t have enough English books to keep her going(but they do have loads of Spanish books)!! Although I´m going to buy her plenty of books,I don´t know where I´m going to keep them all!!!

Last but not least, I´ve been doing some more background reading and if you are interested in finding out more info about bringing up children bilingually, then you might find the following article interesting and useful: Ask A Linguist FAQ, which gives two different perspectives about bringing up children bilingually from linguists.