Home-made tools for language practice I.- Flashcards

As a language teacher I used a lot of card activities with my students to explain, identify, show or play things with them. It worked even with adults, but it’s a hit with kids. They are colourful, fun to look at, nice to chew them or fold them (well, at least from E.’s point of view).

You can find a lot of ready-made flashcards on the net, for example, here. You just print them and can start using them. You can also find videos showing flashcards. I found them rather disappointing. A lot of them have strange visuals, or they use the American variation of the word I wouldn’t use. But the most horrible experience is when the words are pronounce by a machine. It’s scary. Plus, I don’t want to make E. sit in front of the computer a lot.

I decided to make my own cards; it’s more personal in this way, and sometimes E. could see when I prepared them, and became even more interested. And we can take with us if we want.

Of course I’ve read a lot about the method which was developed by Glen Doman and his flashcards, but I found it too much pressure on me. So I took it easy 🙂

What I do is similar to the Doman technique, but maybe not so thorough. I make flashcards about the topics E. is interested in. And the way I show them to her is not so systematic and not so fast. I’m not changing the cards so often as we play a lot with them and it’s not only about showing her the cards.

So here is an example. When she was 8 months old, I was just showing her the cards and say what she could see in the picture. Later, on I mooed when the cow turned up and also showed the MAKATON sign for the cow. Then when she was around 10-11 months old I started to add extra information as well (“The cow gives us milk” – and showed the picture, showed the signs for cow and milk). When E. became 1 year old we started to name the colours as well (“Look – the cow is white and brown. It gives us milk” – I showed the signs – What colour is the milk? – and I answered: – “White”. Now, at the age of 14 months, E. answers “white” and she moos as soon as she hears the word “cow”.)

Sometimes I tell her a story or connect the cards to something that happened to us, or anything connected to real life. She loves those cards the most which she experienced in her own life (E.g.: body parts are great as she can identify them on me or on herself, what’s more, the cards make her interactive; she asks D. to show his belly button. Among the flowers she adores the dandelion clock as we blew a lot of them when they bloomed in the park, but there are the fruits she can touch and taste like a banana or an apple).

I started with animals. As we don’t have a colour printer I found some colouring pages on the net and selected some basic (later some more) animals, printed them and coloured them myself. (Quite time-consuming). Luckily I got a laminator from D. for Christmas, so I glued the coloured animals on colour paper and laminated each. It was a great idea as at the beginning E. chewed, folded and threw them away, so they really needed to be tough. Different topics have different background colours.

Animals
I thought at that time I won’t make other cards but animals since she wanted nothing else but animals. We made noises that the animals made, named their colours, stated what they like eating, where they live, or sang a song about them etc.
Then she got a basket of soft vegetables (from IKEA) and I was “forced” to make some vegetable cards. (We play matching games with the soft vegetables and the cards). The same thing happened when we bought the wooden fruit box.
Fruit and vegetables

While we were walking in the park I realised we needed some flower cards, too. I just haven’t had the energy and willpower to make tree cards, but I will one day. The flower cards are more ‘professional’ as they are photos printed in colour.

Flowers

I don’t want E. to learn reading yet, so I didn’t bother making word cards connected to the pictures. Except for the flower cards. And the reason for it is that I have difficulty remembering the names of the flowers so it is also a learning process for me. The names are on the back. Sometimes she wants to look at the words, so I show her. But I’m NOT teaching her to read.

Then the body parts came influenced by the Helen Doron songs and rhymes. At the moment we are looking at them when E. is sitting on the potty, as we can point at different body parts when she is half-naked (belly button is her favourite). After making the body part cards, the time came when a box was necessary for keeping the cards in one place (that is next to the potty most of the time). So long time ago I saw a pinterest post about how to make a box for kids out of a Vanish plastic bottle. I made it and the cards can fit in it well.

Body parts

I also made musical instruments, but she has just started to become interested in them. We are going to begin using them later on.

Musical instruments

Below you can see the present collection of our cards. They are far from being ready. I’m continuously making new cards to each group.
Certainly there are more groups to come (everyday objects, furniture, baby stuff, means of transport, rooms, playground toys, tools, kitchen ware etc).

The collection
Let’s sum up what to play with cards?
1. Show them and say the name of the thing in the card
2. Matching cards and toys (toy animals, toy fruit or real ones can work well too)
3. Grouping (body parts on the head or fruit and vegetables in 2 groups, or according to colours in case of flowers)

4. Story telling (E.g.: chose few animals and vegetables and flowers, and build a story around them – the rabbit eats the carrot and hops into the field to smell flowers where he meets his best friend, the mouse, who is running away from the cat, because the mouse tried to drink the cat’s milk)

5. Link the cards with sign language
6. Face down (put out 3-4 cards facing down and the child can turn them one by one, then name/show/point at the thing on the card – sounds boring but E. loves this too)
7. Sing a song (I put out some cards, e.g.: the lamb, the ladybird and the spider – I sing a song about one of the animals – Incy Wincy Spider and either E. picks up the card I’m singing about or we act out the song; the same with The Ladybird song or Ba-Ba Black Sheep song)
8. Odd one out (I show 3 or 4 cards of the same kind, but one is different – 3 farm animals and a wild one, or 3 yellow flowers and one red etc. –  then I ask, for instance, “Is the pig a wild animal?” – “No, it’s not a wild animal.” “Is the horse a wild animal?” -“No, it’s not a wild animal.” “Is the cow a wild animal?” – “No, it’s not a wild animal.”-“Is the lion a wild animal?” – “Yes, it is!” So the pig, the horse and the cow are farm animals.)
There must be much more games to play, just let your (and your child’s) imagination fly.

Books we are using

E. is extremely interested in books and  we, as a family, find it important to have a good and varied library at home. If you raise your child bilingual, having great books is essential from the very beginning. Quality counts more than quantity. We also use some Hungarian books in English and vica versa. I would spend my husband’s monthly salary on books if I could. So far I’ve managed to collect a few books both in English and Hungarian:

Our small baby library

The books you can see in the photo above are the ones that are available for E. at any time she wants them. I also have some more rhyme books, fairy tale collections and other stories in paperback format. I rather keep them away from her at present as she is living her life through experimenting (chewing, tearing, hitting, folding etc.) with everything.

Reading out loud to your child, no matter in which language, is a must. Even at a very young age. In our case both in English and in Hungarian.

E.’s biggest favourite is The Wizard of Oz at the moment. She is now a year old. And of course, we did not start it with this story. What we have is not a board book so she can’t have it; I take it only when we read it, so it is not available to her 7/11. Probably this is also part of the magic. I bought this book in a second hand Hungarian (!) book shop for 100 HUF:

 
 

I try to read it out with sound effects. The characters have different tones of voice, when the storm is coming I say whoooosh or sssssshhhhh, when the lion appears I roar, when the wizard prepares the balloon I imitate the blowing of a balloon etc. E. really loves all the sound effects. After I have read the book, she can get it for a short while. E. tries to turn the pages (it’s not easy for her as she is used to board books) and while we are looking at the pictures I tell her what we see in a few words. Then we put the book back to its place. This is when she starts whining, sometimes crying but it’s quite easy to direct her attention to something else, luckily.

But I should start with the beginning. Let’s go in chronological order:
At the very beginning, from birth to 6 months I used three CLOTH BOOKS.


IKEA cloth book – The Giant Elephant’s Circus
One from IKEA, and two from DM (we got them all as presents). When she couldn’t move around too much and too fast, I just put down the book so she could see it and told a story (The Giant Elephant’s Circus, The Rabbit’s Carrot Garden, The Secret Treasure – the latter is an underwater story with sea animals, alas, I have no pics of it as it landed at one of the Grandmas). She paid really close attention. Then by the time she could touch the book, I described the sounds they made (crackle and rustle), the different surfaces they had (rough, smooth, soft). Later on I stared to name the colours, the very simple sentences got more complex, though the main story line remained the same.



Babylove cloth book -The Rabbit’s Carrot Garden



The first thing E. could do with her hands after grabbing an object is turning the page of these books, and after a while BOARD BOOKS. It was after the age of 6 months, but this time she was just interested in turning the pages. When she was around 8-9 months old she was closly examining certain pages and skipped others.

I, myself, LOVE the Ladybird series. They have so many great books for all ages. The Baby Touch series is what suits a child under 3 the most. We have 2 of these colourful, vivid fun books which can be touched, scratched, pushed and licked:


In case of the Rhyme Book, I say the rhyme or sing the song which is on the given page while E. is touching and licking the different surfaces. I often ask her questions about the pictures (Where’s the Teddy? or Are these flowers the same? What colour is the pussycat?) and then I answer them (There he is, No, they’re different, She’s orange), but nowadays she’s started to answer me babbling or pointing or even saying some wordlike utterances.

In case of the Happy Babies Book, we mostly touch and scratch, or wave hello or bye-bye to different creatures. Also, I say a lot of colours here. If I’m a little bored with it then I sing along a song which could be connected to the pictures. E.’s favourite page is the last one, so we just sit over it and push and lick the squishy, circle and the shiny, silver triangle.

Another number 1. book with small kids is the Spot series by Eric Hill. Here is a video where Eric Hill himself is reading out one of his books, Where’s Spot?. The little hands love turning the flaps (but be careful, they can tear them off in the twinkling of an eye). Spot is very well supported online as well. Have a look at Spot’s homepage.

E. enjoys flap books a lot. Another one in our library, which is “read” on a daily bases, is Dear Zoo. You can have a look at the inside in this funny video.

There are some educational books for early learning purposes. The market is vast for these books and there are a great number of them. What we have are some Baby Einstein books about shapes and numbers (I managed to get 3 of them at a mom-to-mom sale in the local youth centre for a few hundred HUF). 
 

I could go on and on listing the books we love using or would love to buy but there would be no point. As far as I’ve experienced it, it doesn’t really matter what books you have, and how many you have as long as you open them regularly, on a daily bases, or as frequently as your child is interested in them. Even if you don’t have a well lined purse (well, well it’s not a surprise that these baby books cost a fortune) you can find discounts and second hand books too.

Check out the following sites:

 

Angolkönyvek.com

There’s a site (bookdepository.com) where delivery is free. What’s more, you can read to your child online for free (though it’s not really for babies, or at least my little one doesn’t really enjoy it that much yet): wegivebooks.org . Another possibility is to make your own book, but it’ll be another post.

 
And to finish this post, here is a photo of E. reading her favourite book:
 

First bithday – first words?

Wow! A year has passed. It was a really emotional day with a lot of English.
Both of our helpers (A. and B. – haha) were here.

A. told me after she had been playing for 2 hours with E. that she was trying hard to say words in English. Yes, the first words are coming… and they seem to be English ones. Here are some words E. has been trying to pronounce lately:

English word
E.’s utterance
bib
bab
duck
dut
ball
ba or da (it’s more like the Hungarian word for it)
lamp
bamp
book
boo
apple
a or ap

It’s great feedback for me. I’ve been waiting for her first close-to-a real-word utterances so badly.

Since the weekend party when she received tons of presents, she’s been playing a lot with the new wooden fruit cutting set. Now she’s trying to say banana (in E.’s language “nana”)

 I guess we are on the right track.