Teaching English Idioms with Language Lizard

Idioms are a common part of speech and a fun vehicle to help emerging bilingual students communicate and understand conversational English.   Getting your students familiar with them early on can help them communicate more naturally and give them a deeper understanding of the English language. 

I love children’s books and have long collected bilingual titles for use in my classroom. Picture books aren’t just for early readers. Many fantastic picture books concisely teach a concept, portray a literary device, or fill in background knowledge in a way that can not only fit into one class period but also keep readers’ (or listeners’) attention. 

An idiom is a form of figurative language that can be especially difficult for emerging bilingual students. They’re a lot of fun to teach and to learn, and as students begin to use them in their own speech, they will sound more like native speakers and become better listeners, more in tune to colloquial English.

twin emerging bilingual boys reading a book together
Twin emerging bilinguals reading the English idiom, Make a Mountain Out of a Molehill

Language Lizard Idiom Books

I am delighted to share a new series of books published by Language Lizard, LLC that introduces English idioms to children in many diverse languages. Bilingual versions of the books provide idiom translations and meanings in the child’s home language, making them easier for English learners to understand.

I was recently gifted Fresh as a Daisy: English Nature Idioms to review on my blog. It is one of four books in a series, each with a different theme:

 The idioms are presented with characters and settings from around the world, using clever multicultural illustrations, side-by-side translations, and an English example sentence.   

A girl on her dog on a beach illustrating the English idiom, A Needle in a Haystack

Virtual Teaching Activities with Idioms

One of the activities I have had success with virtually is Running Dictation and idioms work really well for this activity. I begin by assigning roles to each students: 

  • Runner/Reader – Reads / memorizes the sentence and when ready, goes to the breakout room (or another part of the classroom if teaching in-person) to dictate it to their classmates. I help them with pronunciation and they can return to the main room as often as they like to read it again. 
  • Writer – Writes the sentence into their notebook.
  • Artist – Draws the sentence in detail to show understanding.

I then send all students to a breakout room (my groups are small so thus far, they have all gone to a single room but groups of 3-4 are ideal) and ask the “Runner / Reader” to stay in the main room.  I screen share the idiom in the main room. When the runner reports that he has finished, I close the break out room and encourage everyone to compare what they wrote with the original. Artists are also invited to share their drawings with the class which always brings out the laughter. With each new sentence, students get a new role.

The Language Lizard, LLC books also come with free multicultural lessons and activities to support culturally responsive teaching.

Multicultural Children’s Book Day

Multicultural Children’s Book Day 2021 (1/29/21) is in its 8th year! This non-profit children’s literacy initiative was founded by Valarie Budayr and Mia Wenjen; two diverse book-loving moms who saw a need to shine the spotlight on all of the multicultural books and authors on the market while also working to get those book into the hands of young readers and educators.

Eight years in, MCBD’s mission is to raise awareness of the ongoing need to include kids’ books that celebrate diversity in homes and school bookshelves continues. Read about our Mission & History HERE.

MCBD 2021 is honored to be Supported by these Medallion Sponsors!

FOUNDER’S CIRCLE: Mia Wenjen (Prgamaticmom) and Valarie Budayr’s (Audreypress.com)

Platinum Sponsors: Language Lizard Bilingual Books in 50+ Languages, Author Deedee Cummings and Make A Way Media

Gold Sponsors: Barefoot Books, Candlewick Press, CapstoneHoopoe Books,  KidLitTV, Peachtree Publishing Company Inc.

Silver Sponsors: Charlotte Riggle, Connecticut Association of School Librarians, Author Kimberly Gordon Biddle, Pack-N-Go Girls

Bronze Sponsors: Agatha Rodi and AMELIE is IMPRESSED!, Barnes Brothers Books, Create and Educate Solutions, LLC, Dreambuilt Books, Dyesha and Triesha McCants/McCants Squared, Redfin Real Estate, Snowflake Stories, Star Bright Books, TimTimTom Bilingual Personalized Books, Author Vivian Kirkfield, Wisdom Tales Press, My Well Read Child 

MCBD 2021 is honored to be Supported by these Author Sponsors!

Poster Artist: Nat Iwata

Authors: Author Afsaneh Moradian, Author Alva Sachs & Three Wishes Publishing Company, Author Angeliki Stamatopoulou-Pedersen, Author Anna Olswanger, Author Casey Bell , Author Claudine Norden, Author Debbie Dadey, Author Diana Huang & IntrepidsAuthor Eugenia Chu & Brandon goes to Beijing, Green Kids Club,  Author Gwen Jackson, Author Janet Balletta, Author Josh Funk, Author Julia Inserro, Karter Johnson & Popcorn and Books, Author Kathleen Burkinshaw & The Last Cherry Blossom, Author Keila Dawson, Maya/Neel Adventures with Culture Groove, Author Mia Wenjen, Michael Genhart, Nancy Tupper Ling, Author Natalie Murray, Natalie McDonald-Perkins, Author Natasha Yim, Author Phe Lang and Me On The Page Publishing, Sandra Elaine Scott, Author Shoumi Sen & From The Toddler Diaries, SISSY GOES TINY by Rebecca Flansburg and B.A. Norrgard, Susan Schaefer Bernardo & Illustrator Courtenay FletcherTales of the Five Enchanted Mermaids, Author Theresa Mackiewicz, Tonya Duncan and the Sophie Washington Book Series, Author Toshia Stelivan, Valerie Williams-Sanchez & The Cocoa Kids Collection Books©, Author Vanessa Womack, MBA, Author Veronica Appleton & the Journey to Appleville book series

MCBD 2021 is Honored to be Supported by our CoHosts and Global CoHosts!

MCBD 2021 is Honored to be Supported by these Media Partners!

Check out MCBD’s Multicultural Books for Kids Pinterest Board!

FREE RESOURCES from Multicultural Children’s Book Day

Diversity Book Lists & Activities for Teachers and Parents

Homeschool Diverse Kidlit Booklist & Activity Kit

FREE Teacher Classroom Activism and Activists Kit

FREE Teacher Classroom Empathy Kit

FREE Teacher Classroom Kindness Kit

FREE Teacher Classroom Physical and Developmental Challenges Kit

FREE Teacher Classroom Poverty Kit

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When a Science Experiment Fails: Signs of Fall

When An Experiment Fails

In our homeschool STEM Class, I attempted a little chemistry demonstration – just for fun.  I’d originally read about the pumpkin demo here, Rainbow Fire, and I did the experiment as described but as the kids can attest, it didn’t work. On the drive home, my kiddos hypothesized that the fact that I waited a little while for everyone to get settled may have caused the hand sanitizer to evaporate. Upon further investigation, however, perhaps I was missing a key chemical.  Another site I found, Green Fire, suggested the use of Heet (methanol).  I will have to try again.   If any of you give this a try, please let me know what you discover. 🙂

The fact that it didn’t work out though is perfect science (though very embarrassing when done as a class demonstration).  When an experiment doesn’t go as planned, however hard to admit, it is actually great.  It gives you the chance to go back and really figure it out.  There is always an answer for why it didn’t work. You often learn more when it doesn’t go as planned.

Later that afternoon, Buddy was working on an aeronautics project (he’s trying to make an airplane with cardboard, rubber bands, and plastic propellers).  When his design doesn’t work out, he gets very frustrated and laments, “I wasted so much time on this! I wasted all this glue!” (or tape, or whatever materials he used). It is difficult to console him but with my own failure earlier that morning, I had an example with which to show it happens to all of us.

Recently, another activity seemingly failed and I thought I would share our process of discovery with you …

Signs of Fall

One of the extension activities I had suggested to my STEM students when we were covering plants was a chromatography activity to investigate the pigments in leaves, Signs of Fall (scroll down for the activity “Invisible Changes”).  Another link, with the same title, Signs of Fall, provides a PDF download for a student page with guiding observation questions.

My daughter and I worked together to set up the investigation just as it was described.  She was even careful to measure an exact amount of isopropyl alcohol into each jar. We then placed a strip of coffee filter into each jar, taping it into place to secure it and then capping each jar with a small piece of aluminum foil.  We left it overnight but there was not a single strip with any color pigment.  We thereby walked away, shrugging our shoulders. Another failed experiment.  This was getting frustrating.

I couldn’t let this one go, however.  We must have overlooked something.  I thereby left it set up on the kitchen counter for another day or two while we contemplated and brainstormed what we might have done wrong. When we happened to peek into the jars a couple of days later, we surmised that perhaps we had put the coffee strips into the jars too soon – before the heat of the water bath had had time to activate the pigments because the liquid in the jars was now clearly colored when before it had remained clear.

We thereby pulled off the aluminum foil, discarded our first strips and inserted new ones.  We checked the progress of our test a few hours later …

When a Science Experiment Fails: Signs of Fall @EvaVarga.netWhoa-lah! 

If chromatography is something you’d like to investigate further, you might also consider this activity, Rainbow Candies: A Candy Chromatography Experiment for Kids.  It is a great way to use up some of that leftover Halloween candy that may be lying about.

Life Logic: BotanyAn expanded version of this lesson is available in the Science Logic curriculum
Life Logic:  Plenty O’Plants.

Needs, Wants, & Finances – Studying Economics with Boundary Stone

My son will be a junior this fall and has expressed a growing interest in economics. He loves watching YouTube videos that explain supply and demand – particularly in relation to aviation and luxury cars.

Knowing that government and economics are required courses for high school students in Oregon, I was eager to find a curriculum that was both engaging and informative. Boundary Stone’s Basic Economics fit the bill.

This post is sponsored by Boundary Stone. I was compensated for my time. All opinions are my own and a positive review was not required.
As always, I only review products that I find useful and think you will enjoy!

When the kids were younger, we enjoyed listening to the audio book, Smart Money, Smart Kids, by Dave Ramsay. It provided a good starting point and from there we developed a financial plan for our family.

Teaching Our Kids About Money: Earning Commissions

Teaching Our Kids About Money: Developing Entrepreneurs

While Ramsey’s resources provided an introduction to finances – which we circle back to often as things come up – I knew we needed something more. We need the bigger picture of how our family resources fit into the puzzle of global economics.

Boundary Stone’s Basic Economics Course

I selected Boundary Stone’s Basic Economics course. I liked that it offered both an asynchronous / self-paced online course (with embedded videos and quizzes) and a physical textbook (a chronological presentation of information with glossary and index for easy reference).

When you flip through this book you will see no math, and very few graphs. The focus is on ideas.

What’s Included:

  • Basic Economics 4th ed. textbook
  • Student access to online course for full year
  • Student access to Budget mini-course

Basic Economics includes 4 units of study divided into 6 modules. Each module is further subdivided into daily lessons for a total of 79 lessons. Used together with Government, Basic Economics would provide a full year of high school credit.

The course builds on what you should have covered previously in Boundary Stone’s government class.

We did not begin with the government class as we had covered this topic previously but I can see how it would have been beneficial to review. The two courses are offered in a bundle. This makes planning a full year of high school social science courses easy.

Benefits of Boundary Stone’s Basic Economics course

As a Dave Ramsey fan, I loved the term project whereby my son had to prepare two personal monthly budgets. One used a salary of $25,000 and a second used minimum wage. This was an eye opener for him and provided us the opportunity to discuss payroll withholding, housing options, loans, car ownership, insurance, and more.

The Budget Project’s real-life budget project, offered as a free mini-course, is a great balance to the faith-based textbook. It can be used as a stand-alone project. However, using it alongside the online course you will need to account for one day per week in your schedule.

I also like that the course includes a hardbound book. He gets so much screen time as it is. I appreciate that he can read the assigned chapters the “old fashioned” way, in print. I encouraged him to take notes as he read and to use the Getting the Point questions to ensure he understood the concepts. We also went through the review questions at the end of each chapter together so I could stay abreast of his progress.

Boundary Stone also has bundles designed for homeschool co-op teachers. These include multi-print licenses for the government study guide. The economics study guide can be found in the textbook.

Boundary Stone’s homeschool Economics curriculum also incorporates online lessons, videosand outside reading in addition to the textbook (which is lacking in color and photos). This adds that little spice and helps ensure students are engaged.

Tell Me More

Upon purchase, students have access to the online material for 12 months. Students have the freedom to develop a schedule of their own and to work through the course at their own pace. If you follow the suggested syllabus the course can be completed in a single semester. If you go at your own pace, the 12 month window is still generous.

Allowing a student to work at his own pace is important to me. It gives them control over their schedule and allows them a sense of autonomy. The quizzes though are limited by time and can only be completed once. This may be a concern for students that have processing delays.

The online lessons keep track of where he left off which makes it easy to pick it up again the next day or so. Once he has completed everything in the lesson, he marks it complete. When he takes a quiz, an email with his score is emailed to me.

An optional teacher’s guide (including an answer key) is also available as a digital download. It includes lesson plans that are very similar to the layout of the online course, however it lacks the linked articles and embedded videos.  

Using each component will transform the textbook into a comprehensive course, deeply based on both Christian and free-market principles. Boundary Stone’s economics course is based on the premise that our rights come from God. It follows the premise that we have rights, those rights come from God, and we need to protect our God-given rights.

Boundary Stone Giveaway!

If you’re looking for an online economics curriculum for high school, you can’t miss Boundary Stone’s Basic Economics for high school.

Use coupon code StoneReward2020 to receive 15% off all purchases through 8/23/2020.

Autobiography Maps: Our Life as an Island

I originally discovered this creative autobiography project activity years ago. When I shared it with my kids, they were excited to give it a try. I am now looking forward to using it in my ELL classroom this fall.

I started with a short questionnaire that got the kids thinking about important things that have happened during their lives, items or activities that represent them currently, and goals that they have for the future.

We spent a few minutes talking about our interests and revisited the essays they had written previously.

Gautobiomap   Jautobiomap
We then discussed elements of actual maps:

  • Scale:   Scale is used to show that a certain distance on the map represents the actual distance on the earths surface.  On a map, scale is represented using words (for example, one inch = 400 miles) or using a graphic (a line graph).
  • Title:   What the map is about. The title is generally the biggest, darkest, most noticeable text on your map.
  • Legend or Key:   Used for defining and understanding the symbols found on the map. It is usually in one of the corners of the map and is often enclosed by a box. It explains the meaning of the different sizes, shapes, and colors used in the map.
  • Symbols:   The things on the map which stand for or represent real things on the earth’s surface. Symbols vary according to 2 categories: color and shape.  For example: a star ê is often used to represent the capital city or yellow to represent a desert.
  • Compass:   The compass shows which way is up on the map. Nearly all maps are printed so that north is towards the top of the page.  This is shown by a compass rose using N, S, E, and W.
  • Location:   Where the place or places shown on the map are exactly location the earth.  Lines of latitude and longitude are used on the map to show the location.  You should have at least one line of latitude and one line of longitude.
  • Border:   The outside edge of the map. This is a thick, 1 inch straight line around the outside of the map. The border can be left blank if the entire ocean is colored. It helps direct people’s attention to the map.

Lastly, I set out the art materials and they got to work. They opted not to include all the map elements but using a rubric, each included enough detail to achieve a desirable score.

I did not use letter grades in our homeschool but did occasionally incorporate rubrics to keep them accountable as well as to prepare them for more formal courses. In my ELL classroom, I will use a simplified version of the rubric. I’ll share that soon.

Autobiography Maps is an activity I discovered on Ms. López in the Art Room. You can find the scoring guide and questionnaire I used here.

Summer Science Ideas for Teens & Tweens

For many families across the country, these past few months have been a struggle. I know keeping kids engaged and learning is not always easy.

Now that summer is here, I find kids are burned out on online worksheets. Fortunately, summer science can be more than hands-on. Grab a dip net and lead the kids on a fully immersive science adventure!

Here are a dozen or more ideas you can use with your middle level science students stay active and engaged in enrichment activities all through summer.

Community Science Opportunities

Three-fourths of the world’s flowering plants and about 35 percent of the world’s food crops depend on animal pollinators to reproduce. Some scientists estimate that one out of every three bites of food we eat exists because of animal pollinators like bees, butterflies and moths, birds and bats, and other insects.

Sadly, the number of pollinators is in decline. Other environmental factors are limiting the range of meadows and wildflower habitats, each of which have begun to show signs of succession.

Restoring native landscapes play a critical role in our ecosystem. Native plants provide shelter and food for pollinators, require less watering and maintenance, and add lasting color to any garden.

If you are concerned about saving bees, butterflies and other pollinators, #beecounted by helping the National Pollinator Garden Network reach one million bee-friendly gardens by National Pollinator Week.

The word citizen was originally included in the term citizen science to distinguish amateur data collectors from professional scientists. Today, it is important that we recognize that the term has become limiting in some contexts. As a part of my commitment to equity, diversity, and inclusion, I have transitioned from using the term “citizen science” to the more inclusive term “community science.” 

The ninth annual National Moth Week, July 18-26, invites novice and experienced “moth-ers,” alike, to observe these fascinating creatures in their own backyards and contribute to our scientific knowledge as part of one of the world’s largest community science projects.

Find more community science projects and opportunities here.

image of teen setting a crab trap at low tide

Hands-on Summer Science

Take a walk outside or along a nearby trail and observe the natural surroundings. Encourage your budding naturalists to start a nature journal.

Consider journaling activities in the classroom or allow them to develop their skills independently.

Have students build something out of recycled materials. Ideas could include a Rube Goldberg contraption, a skyscraper, or a bottle cap mural project.

Have students create a photo journal to document the trees, flowers, or common insects in your area.

Join Ms. Frizzle and her students on The Magic School Bus each month in exploring one of twelve different science topics through hands-on experiments with The Magic School Bus Science Club from The Young Scientists Club.

Practice your navigational skills using only a compass with orienteering! Set up a course in the neighborhood park and invite a few friends.

Virtual Field Trips & Movies

Summer is the perfect time for field trips. There are many benefits of local museums and science centers. Unfortunately, COVID19 restrictions have closed many popular museums and visitor centers.

Don’t worry! Many locations around the world offer ways to visit and explore their exhibits virtually. There are many movies to choose from to inspire further explorations of STEAM concepts. I will share my favorites soon.

What STEAM activities do you and your children enjoy in the summer months? Leave a comment below and share your ideas. 🙂

How Do Pets Help With Homeschooling?

Pets can be a distraction, but did you know they can also be a part of your child’s classroom? Many children love animals, and their interests can be used as motivation to read, write, solve problems, and create projects. 

Whether they can play along as a “student”, provide a source of comfort, or serve as a topic for a subject, pets are beneficial. Here are some of the many ways your fur babies can be a great addition to your curriculum.  

Teaches Responsibility & Pet Care

The first question parents typically ask when their children want a new pet is, “Are you going to take care of it?” With homeschooling, you can incorporate pet care and responsibility into their schedule. You can give your child essentials roles; tasks as simple as providing water and food to larger jobs such as walking and cleaning cages. 

You can take it a step further by outlining how to properly care for animals. When my daughter wanted a pet rabbit, I asked her to write a persuasive essay to convince us she was ready for the responsibility.

Students can research animal behavior and what type of enrichment items or pet toys are out there. Many retail and pet-related websites such as Pet Life have blogs that go into detail on pet care and safety. If students do their homework, they might even teach you a thing or two about animal companions. 

Provides Emotional Support

You have heard of emotional support animals. It is no different in your home – especially when it comes to facing challenges in homeschooling. The presence of pets has a positive impact on a child’s mental health. According to Pets in the Classroom, many children turn to their animal companions for comfort and emotional support, which is proven to relieve stress and anxiety.

My daughter has often expressed how much she relies on her fur babies to encourage her to work hard in her studies. Her pet rats will often curl up in the hood of her sweatshirt or climb into the pocket as she completes her math or chemistry calculations.

Your pets can comfort your children on their sick days, keep them company, and boost morale. The best part is that they can have them close during exams – pets are like a test buddy without the risk of cheating! 

Aids in Social Skills

Much of the social skills children develop comes from group projects, presentations, and interacting with others. If your home is lacking in peers, your pets can make for fun participants. If your little one struggles with public speaking and reading aloud, practicing in front of your cat or dog can help overcome anxiety and boost their reading skills.

Promotes Physical Activity During Breaks

Up until recently, recess was a perfect opportunity for children to run around and exert their energy through sports and playtime. A combination of being at home, not having peers to play with, and having access to tablets and smartphones is the perfect storm for a sedentary lifestyle.

If you have a dog, playtime can range from walks around the block to playing fetch at the park using dog toys. Otherwise, yoga and other fun kid activities are available online. This provides quality time outdoors with their animal companion and at times, much-needed stress relief.  

Incorporating Pets Into Your Curriculum 

Your pet can also serve as a midpoint between written assignments and hands-on training and observation. Here are some common school subjects and how animals can play a role in your child’s education. 

Mathematics and Finance

For younger children, simple math can be through giving treats or learning how to measure their weight or food. Having a pet is a financial responsibility. Older children can learn how to manage money by creating a budget. As important life skill is developed as they calculate how much it cost to care of an animal.


Animals can also be showcased as part of a science observation. Students can research their ideal habitat, physiology, diet, and other needs to keep them healthy. 

Another idea is to undertake an animal behavior study. Older children can create what is called an ethogram or data table that lists the common behaviors of their pet. They can then use the chart to compile observational data as part of a larger study.

You can also help them take note of different breeds, traits, and characteristics of your pet’s pedigree and others. You and your child may learn much more than you expected about your animal friend. 


Much of psychology and behavior was observed by how people and animals react to things. Pets are no different. Teaching a dog to fetch or sit on command provides learning opportunities for children. They can learn about processes such as positive and negative reinforcement as well as other terminology to achieve the desired behavior. 

Take it a step further by using safe psychology experiments on your pets! Can your hamster make their way through a maze to find their favorite treats? What does it take to teach your dog to shake paws with you? Many of these questions can be applied to your science and behavior studies. 

Art and Literature

If your child is young, they may have fun anthropomorphizing (giving human characteristics to) animals in their stories. You can encourage creative writing and illustrate the story together. There are many pet-related craft ideas online for your child to enjoy. 

When they are done, they can read the story to their pet. It is a great opportunity to teach literary devices and other story-telling elements involving their animal friends. 

My daughter wrote a book about an adventurous panda cub when she was in grade school, Mei Mei the Panda. I scanned her artwork and helped her to type up the story to publish in a bound book. It is now a keepsake we cherish.

History and Laws

Older children can learn how animal domestication came to be. They can also learn what purpose different animals have served and geographic origins.

Current events and local laws may be another great subject to touch on when it comes to your pets. Students can learn about animal rights and why specific exotic animals and testing are illegal. Learning about animal preservation can branch into protecting endangered species from hunting, pollution, and extinction. 


Going to class with your pet has to be one of the best perks of being homeschooled. Not only is it fun, pet ownership on its own is a valuable lesson that every child should have. Adopting pets into your child’s homeschool twill add interest, create amazing memories, and build relationships with their favorite animal companion.