Fun with Language, January 8

At first glance, it would seem that my homeroom is the least diverse class that I’ve had in years. We make up a pretty pale section of the Sherwin Williams paint swatches, with most of my class covering the gamut from eggshell to oatmeal. Even so, we have a selection of both primary languages and languages spoken at home that shows a different kind of diversity. I have students who speak Bulgarian, French, Portuguese, Spanish, and Ukrainian. I have another student learning Tagalog because her father is Filipino. She spent every spare moment today — including recess — practicing simple words from her Learn Tagalog workbook.

Because of this language diversity, I’ve discovered a couple of fun, easy things to do with my kids to make our differences part of our class, rather than something to overcome.

The first happens during recess. I bring a Bluetooth boombox with me out to recess. I had been playing my favorite music outside, but one afternoon, as we were walking out, I Googled, “Bulgarian top ten songs.” I popped the first result into my music app and clicked ‘Start radio.” V. came over to the bench as I was sitting there, watching the kids play, and said, “Hey! That’s Bulgarian!”

“Yes it is,” I told them.

“Cool!”

As kids filtered back and forth around us that afternoon, one of the kids stated: “Bulgarian music is gooood.” My Ukrainian boy asked if I could play Ukrainian music next time. Yes, I can. And Yes, A., I can play Filipino music, too! My favorite so far has been listening to Karol Conka, a Brazilian rapper. I do have to check to make sure there’s no explicit tag on the song, I don’t want to shock S., my Brazilian student. Other Brazilian music that we’ve listened to was fun, but Ms. Conka’s is the best!

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The other thing I’ve been doing has been drawing lots and lots of pictures. I draw during recess, and the kids love to watch. I’ve been having fun with language as I’ve done this. I’ve got these great Avery labels, two stickers to a sheet. I want to do at least one sticker each for my students. With my kids who have an international background, it’s a lot of fun to put something like, “X is pretty awesome,” on the sticker in their native tongue. Clearly, I don’t know all of these languages (I’m mediocre in French, I can tell you that you’ve fried a butterfly in Portuguese, and I know a couple of Spanish words), so I’m doing the easy route of using Google Translate. I know this isn’t great for extended conversations, but there’s something cool when M. looks at a sticker in Ukrainian that says, “M. is a good guy.”

Like I said, these aren’t capital-I important things by any means, but I really just love any little chance to celebrate who these kids are, especially through music and art. I’ll leave you with a custom message just for you, reader. I’ll let you look it up to see what it says.

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Written by

I teach kids, snuggle with cats (mine) and dogs (when I can). I eat plants, draw pictures, ride bikes, and I like to read and write. @MagicPantsJones on social.

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