Developing Language Skills with New Amigos Board Game

I have always been fascinated by languages. In fact, raising bilingual children is was one of the primary reasons we chose to homeschool. Along the way, we have purposely sought out resources and opportunities to develop fluency in a second language.

Finding materials for Norwegian is not easy (at least where I live) so I was very excited to discover the New Amigos board game. New Amigos makes language learning fun and interactive!

The game has sold over 42,000 copies in Norway where it was developed. In Europe, it is distributed through toy stores, department stores, as well as book stores. Thus far, there are several versions available including: Norsk-English, Norsk-Spanish, and Norsk-Arabic!

Developing Language Skills

You can play either as an individual or on teams, independent of language knowledge or age. By virtue of three difficulty levels, played in parallel, even novices can stand a chance against advanced speakers and learn the basics of the language along the way.

The game works in two directions: native English speakers, for example, but wish to learn Norwegian can play the English-Norwegian version with speakers of Norsk who wish to learn English. The vocabulary is learned by everyone as each player takes his or her turn.

I have compiled a list of my favorite Norwegian Language Resources for families interested in learning Norwegian, Snakker du Norske?

Even players with the same language background and goals can play together. In other words, though both my daughter and I desire to learn Norwegian and are at different levels ourselves, we can successfully play the game together and learn from one another. We do not need to play with someone who speaks the language fluently.

The correct pronunciation of words in foreign languages is no problem, as New Amigos uses a unique phonetic system that doesn’t require any advance knowledge. Unlike the dictionaries, the words are spelled using Latin alphabet letters instead of phonetic symbols.

New Amigos Game Play

The goal of the game is to win cards over three rounds, each new round begins after seven cards have been won. This is accomplished by translating cards in both languages. The winner is the player who, in the final round, translates all of the played cards error-free.

Novices translate simple words, while advanced players translate more difficult words. In addition to vocabulary, there are also sentences and idiomatic expressions. New Amigos also includes geographical information and cards focused on culture, business, and food and drink.

New Amigos is a great game for language learners of all skill levels. Available for purchase online, there are four bilingual versions presently available: Spanish/Norsk, Arabic/Norsk, English/Norsk, and Spanish/English.

Curriculum Plans for 2015-16 (8th and 6th grade)

This upcoming school year promises many new challenges and experiences for us. We are very excited to be moving back to Oregon, more specifically to the southern coast where Patrick and I both grew up.

While we will be surrounded by family, the transition will not be without obstacles. The homeschool community is much, much smaller compared to the previous two communities in which we have lived (Bend, Oregon and Redding, California). Therefore establishing connections may require a little more effort on my part.Our Curriculum Choices @EvaVarga.net

Geneva will be entering 8th grade this fall while Jeffrey will begin 6th grade. I will continue to teach the same material to them both. Their skills are relatively equal in most areas so as a homeschool mom of two – it works. Best of all, it requires less planning on my part.

Science & Nature Study

These past couple of years, I have been coordinating STEM Club for our local homeschool community. With our move, I have decided to step back from this for awhile and see what opportunities are available. My daughter has also expressed interest in volunteering at the local interpretive center as well as initiating a long-term study of the impact of invasive turtles on the local ecosystem.

As we will be living on the Oregon coast, the ecology is significantly different than that of the High Desert or the Central Valley and Cascade Foothills of Northern California. I am very excited to explore the area more in-depth with the kids. We will thereby be resuming our regular nature studies in conjunction with Barb’s monthly Outdoor Hour Challenges at Handbook of Nature Study.

Both kiddos have asked to learn more about astronomy so I will be putting together lesson plans and projects to follow their interests. Thus while I will continue to develop my own curriculum for science, we will be engaging in lessons independently rather than with a small group of other homeschoolers. I will also be require more reading of each of the kids. I will be using CK-12 Life Science and CK-12 Earth Science in addition to other free science curriculum I’ve found. 

Math

Life of Fred has been working very well for us since we transitioned from Singapore 6B a couple of years ago. Jeffrey is presently in the middle of  Pre-Algebra 1 with Biology. Geneva is using Advanced Algebra. When they struggle with a concept, we have used Khan Academy.

One of the biggest benefits of our move is being close to family. Patrick’s uncle is a retired high school math teacher. We will be reaching out to him in hopes of meeting once every couple of weeks to go over their assignments. This will be a huge relief for me as I always struggled with algebra myself. Additionally, we will be looking into the possibility of concurrent enrollment for math at the local community college.

Language Arts

Writing

As the summer was just getting started, we started using Cover Story which I had purchased at a discount from Homeschool Buyers Co-op. Cover Story takes middle school students – 6th through 8th grade – on a guided tour through the process of creating the content for their own magazine. In a single school year, students are led, step by step, on a fun, thought-provoking journey of exploration and creation. They write poems, short stories, non-fiction articles, letters, and many other short pieces. We’ve only just begun (having completed the first three weeks) but we look forward to jumping back in when the dust settles from our move. { Homeschool Buyers Co-op will again offer a GroupBuy savings for Cover Story on 07-27-2015. Save up to 20%. }

Literature

We utilized a few Brave Writer Boomerang single issues a bit last year. We liked it but I just didn’t follow through and plan ahead as I should have. I know I need to do better. My goal therefore is to create a plan or a list of books for each of the kids for the upcoming school year. I will be sharing more details on this when I’ve mapped it out better.

We will also begin an in depth study of the history of English utilizing King Alfred’s English.  This unique combination study of both English and history will provide a look at words, grammar, Shakespeare, the Bible, and language. The supplemental activities and materials (including primary sources!) provided on the website will help guide us – we are very excited to explore our language from this perspective.

Our Curriculum Choices: Mandarin @EvaVarga.net

Foreign Language

Fluency in a foreign language is very important to me. My daughter expressed her interest in learning Chinese when we were just beginning our homeschool journey so that is the path we have followed ever since. I have shared a little about How I Teach Mandarin previously. Though Shawn has moved across the country, we have had success with continuing our Mandarin language instruction via Skype or FaceTime.

We will continue to use Discovering Chinese Pro, the middle school curriculum developed by Better ChineseOur Road to Mandarin Fluency has been very rewarding as we’ve been able to travel to China as well as make life long friends. We have taken some time off these past couple months as Shawn was traveling back home to China, conflicts with summer camp, and soon our travels abroad. We plan to resume our regular twice a week sessions come late September.

At summer camp, the kids are learning Norwegian. I would really like to continue incorporating our ancestral language into our weekly lessons but I always slip up. Perhaps our move will ensure I stick with it. We shall see.

History & Geography

We love to travel and like most, we learn best by immersion and first-hand experiences. Thus, to really understand the history of ancient Greece and Rome (our focus this past year has been ancient times), we will be traveling abroad with Trafalgar. We will first spend ten days in Italy (Rome, Venice, Florence, Naples, Assisi, and the Italian Lakes) followed by Athens and the islands of Mykonos and Santorini. I will be sharing snippets of our trip along the way via Instagram and I’ll post more in-depth travel posts soon.

To prepare for our trip, we have been moving very slowly through Susan Wise Bauer’s The History of the Ancient World. We are only half-way through the book so we’ll continue to work through it upon our return. Hopefully, by January we will move on to the medieval times. So much for my original plan of following a four year cycle; it takes us 6 years!   How We Use North Star Geography @EvaVarga.netAdditionally, we will continue to incorporate activities from North Star Geography. Designed specifically for middle and high school ages, it is an engaging Geography curriculum. We are excited to continue with this program and will be creating our own world atlases (one of the many projects described in the companion guide).

Performing Arts

The kids are both adamant they want to continue to study music. I am confidant we will be able to find a piano instructor for Jeffrey. I am a little apprehensive for Geneva, however. The preliminary leg work I have done thus far has only generated one name and she is only available intermittently for one year as she is a graduate student and will be relocating at the end of the school year.

The community has a great lab band but there is youth symphony is not an option. I’ll have to reach out to the local schools to inquire whether they accept string instruments.

big book homeschool ideasThe Big Book of Homeschooling

To get tons of great advice, and move beyond the basics of academics, pick up a copy of The Big Book of Homeschool Ideas. Topics include active learning, inquiry science in middle school, learning with video games, using LEGO bricks for learning, teaching on the road, learning with movies, high school literature, and stamp collecting.

This book can carry you through all your years of homeschooling, covering the stages your children will mature through: preschoolers, elementary grades, middle school, and high school. As your life situation changes, you will find new chapters that apply to you. You can view the full table of contents to see all 103 topics!

 

Our Homeschool Planner

Working from home as well as homeschooling my kids requires me to be organized. As I have every year for the past six years, I will be using the Well Planned Day homeschool planner. I have tried a few others when we first began homeschool and I have perused others, yet I keep coming back to this one. It just works for me.

I love that it provides templates for meal planning as well as keeping track of the books the kids have read and an ongoing record of their grades. They have student planners available as well but my kiddos prefer that I send them an email each week. They thereby create a note on their iPad and delete each assignment as they go.

This post has been linked to the 2015 Not Back to School Hop.  Join the fun!

Syttende Mai :: Norwegian Constitution Day

Constitutions are groundbreaking documents that establish fundamental principles by which a body of people are to be governed. Norway’s Constitution was written in 1814 at a time when cultures were emphasizing democracy and free will. The start of the 19th century brought with it new concepts on politics and national independence. The revolutions in the US (1776) and France (1789) paved the way and Norway was intent on following their lead.

Syttende mai constitution day
Norwegian Constitution Day
 is the National Day of Norway and is an official holiday observed on the 17th of May each year. Among Norwegians, the day is referred to simply as Syttende Mai. Signed at Eidsvoll on May 17 in the year 1814, the constitution declared Norway to be an independent kingdom in an attempt to avoid being ceded to Sweden after Denmark-Norway’sdevastating defeat in the Napoleonic wars. 

Vi Feirer Grunnlovsubilet :: We Celebrate Constitution Day

A noteworthy aspect of the Norwegian Constitution Day is its very non-military nature. All over Norway, children’s parades with an abundance of flags, national costumes, and big smiles are the heart of the celebration. Decorations of leafy birch branches, in celebration of winter’s end, and ribbons of red, white and blue make for a festive atmosphere.

Syttende Mai is also celebrated in many Norwegian immigrant communities throughout the world, with traditional foods (I share one of our favorite recipes below), sometimes including lefse and lutefisk, but simple hot dogs are equally popular.  In the United States and Canada, the local lodges of the Sons of Norway often play a central part in organizing the festivities. Our small lodge is no different; we gather for an annual brunch and special cultural programming including games and folk dancing.

syttende maiLitt På Norsk :: A Little Norwegian

syttende mai – 17th of May

Norge – Norway

nasjonaldagen – national holiday

festdag – celebration

barnetoget – children’s parade

flagg – flags

Barna jublet og vinket tilbake med sine flagg. :: The children cheered and waved back with their flags.

Barna fant igjen foreldrene sine, og nå fikk de spise så mye de ville av iskrem og varme pølser. ::  The children found their parents, and now they got to eat as much as they wanted of ice cream and hot dogs.

 

One of our favorite treats on Syttende Mai are Fastelavnsboller:

Fastelavnsboller :: Shrovetide Buns

fastelavnsboller3 1/2 cups (800g) plain white flour
3/4 cups 140g) sugar
10 1/2 tbsp (150g) butter
1 7g package active dry yeast
2 1/4 cups (525g) whole milk
1 tsp ground cardamom
1 1/3 cups (300g) whipping cream
powdered sugar for garnish
1 egg

  1. In a large bowl mix together the flour, sugar, cardamom and yeast.
  2. In a medium saucepan melt the butter.
  3. If you are using fresh yeast, in a small bowl mix together the yeast with some of the milk.
  4. Add the remainder of the milk to the melted butter and mix.
  5. Make a well in the dry ingredients and add liquid ingredients. Mix well, work into a smooth dough and knead lightly.
  6. Cover the bowl and let the dough rise until it has doubled in size.
  7. Turn out the dough on a lightly floured work surface and knead until smooth. Form into 20-24 buns, rolling them into an even size with your hands.
  8. Put the buns on a baking sheet and leave to rise for another 15 minutes.
  9. Preheat the oven to 450°F (230°C).
  10. Beat the egg and lightly brush onto buns with a basting brush.
  11. Place the buns into the oven and bake for 8-10 minutes.
  12. When the tops of the buns are light brown and there is a light brown ring underneath them, remove them from the oven and let cool on a wire cooling rack.
  13. While the buns are cooling whip the cream, add superfine sugar to your taste. Place whip cream in refrigerator while the buns finish cooling.
  14. Halve the cooled buns and fill with the whipped cream and sprinkle with powdered sugar and serve.
  15. ** We like to mix lingonberry preserves into the whipped cream.

For more activities and ideas to explore Scandinavian culture, check out my Barnesklubb Pinterest Board.

Barnesklubb: Learning the Norwegian Lyrics to “Let it Go!”

la den gå

I was excited when Disney announced the release of their new animation, Frozen, in November of last year. It was the first Disney animation to be set in Norway; a stunning big-screen comedy adventure.  It features the fearless optimist Anna as she sets off on an epic journey — teaming up with rugged mountain man Kristoff and his loyal reindeer Sven — to find her sister Elsa, whose icy powers have trapped the kingdom of Arendelle in eternal winter. Encountering Everest-like conditions, mystical trolls, and a hilarious snowman named Olaf, Anna and Kristoff battle the elements in a race to save the kingdom.

Frozen is inspired by Hans Christian Anderson’s classic The Snow Queen, about a young girl who saves her friend from a magic mirror and wicked snow spirit. To adapt the story to the screen, Disney needed a suitable setting to match. After traveling to several Nordic locations, the art direction team settled on Norway as the perfect backdrop for the fictional ice kingdom of Arendelle. The Norwegian influence is reflected not just in the wintery landscape with snow-capped mountain tops and deep fjords but also in characteristic Norwegian elements like the ancient stave churches, the traditional Norwegian folk costume the bunad, and even in the typical Scandinavian hairstyle with braided plaits.

Art director Mike Giaimo explains, “Norway offered a cultural backdrop we’d never explored before and we thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be great to blend its dramatic environment, architecture and folk costume aesthetic?’ It feels like a world from a classic Disney film, but it’s completely new.”

My kids and I have been singing the theme song of the film since we first saw it in theaters months ago.  We have enjoyed the film so much (my daughter is not into Disney princesses – so this is saying a lot) that I thought it the perfect opportunity to learn a little Norwegian with our Barnesklubb friends – Norwegian Lyrics to “Let it Go!”

La den gå

Det glitrer hvitt over fjellet i natt,

det er vakkert vintervær.

I riket jeg bor alene,

og som dronning står jeg her.

Og vinden hyler lik som

stormen i mitt bryst.

Holdt det ikke ut, himlen så min dyst.

Slip ingen inn, la ingen se,

slik er plikten, jeg er jo født til det.

Jeg dekket til. Det ingen så,

det vet de nå!

La den gå, La den gå.

Den kraften jeg skjulte før.

La den gå, La den gå.

Jeg har snudd og stengt en dør.

Jeg er lei, alt de tror de har sett.

La det strome nå,

litt frost gjør meg ingenting unasett.

We focused on learning only the first verse in Norwegian but the kids thought it would be fun to learn another verse in Chinese and then sing it in three languages. I would love to see them follow through. 🙂

To accompany this language activity, the kids enjoyed creating snowflakes using Disney snowflake templates as well as their own designs.

How I Teach Mandarin .. Not Speaking it Myself

We’ve recently returned home from a family holiday in China and thus our study of the culture and language of this diverse country has been on the forefront of my mind.  Much of what we do in homeschool revolves around our Mandarin studies so I thought I would take a few minutes to share with you all a little of what we do.

How I Teach MandarinAs I sat down to write this post, however, I came to realize that my vision for how I teach Mandarin does not necessarily match with what we actually do.  We could do more.  We need to do more.  Our experiences in China proved that while the vocabulary is there – we still need more experience with practical application.

What We Did Then

When we first began our journey to learn Mandarin, I wanted a curriculum that had teacher materials in English as I myself do not speak or read Chinese.  When I found Better Chinese, I knew immediately that I had found what we needed.  The spiral-up approach allows students to review past lessons as they advance through the volumes in the series and the cute graphics and animations were captivating to my daughter, five years old at the time.  Most importantly, there was a large variety of supplemental materials available that corresponded to the textbook, thereby a strong potential for enrichment activities.

 

my first chinese wordsI thereby ordered My First Chinese Words, a series  for kindergarten and 1st grade learners with no prior exposure to Chinese. The set of 36 size-appropriate storybooks was a great introduction to the language and thereafter, we moved into My First Chinese Reader, a student-centric 4-volume, 48 lesson, curriculum that builds Chinese language and culture skills in a spiral-up approach.  When we first began our journey I honestly knew very little about teaching a foreign language.  Previously, my only experience was as a student myself.  Since then, I have learned a lot. The biggest impact, however, was changing tutors, a change that was brought about by our move.

What We Do Now

My kiddos meet with their language tutor (a native speaker) twice a week for an hour each.  Presently, they work with him one-on-one for an hour each session.  Thus, they each receive two hours of direct instruction each week.  Occasionally (generally once a month), when we do cultural activities, we join together in a small group. I love these days because I get to be a part of the lesson as well!

my first chinese reader老师 Shawn introduces each new lesson using the illustrated story in the textbook.  Sometimes he makes special activities related to the illustration that engage the kids in the vocabulary and get them moving physically – role play, games, drawing activities, etc.  For homework, he asks the kids to use the illustration vocabulary to create a conversation of their own.  The next session, they review the homework and move on to the activities in the text or additional activities that he has developed.  The workbook and textbook challenge activities are assigned over the weekend. Often they are also expected to practice reading aloud the conversation they composed earlier in the week.

If the written work is complete and time allows, the kids are expected to review their vocabulary words (they are encouraged to make and use flashcards in a variety of games).  Ideally, they are supposed to do Mandarin daily for at least 30 minutes each day.  Admittedly, this doesn’t always happen and as you can suspect, many times they wait until the last moment to complete their assignments – failing to review past vocabulary.

What We Will Do Next

When we were in China, we came to realize that while the kids have a strong grasp of vocabulary and can recognize perhaps hundreds of characters, they lack the ability to put these skills to work in real life.  This is in part due to their age and personality.  My son is more outgoing and though it took him a few days to feel comfortable, he engaged in numerous conversations in Chinese with local people we met during our travels.  My daughter, on the other hand, was more reserved.  I should have expected this because she is quiet and shy at home.  As a result, she spoke very little but was very helpful in providing me with the correct pronunciation for phrases that I needed – addressing the taxi driver, asking for directions, etc.

Upon our return home, 老师 Shawn was not surprised to learn of this and we discussed it in great detail as we planned the next academic year.  Our desire is to increase the practical application of their language skills and to encourage them to communicate more regularly with one another.  In addition, we will be incorporating reading assignments and oral presentations.

discovering chinese proWhile Better Chinese has materials for all grade levels, they recently released a new app for their upper level materials, Discovering Chinese.  Lessons in Discovering Chinese parallel the lesson progress in My First Chinese Reader, so students who began their Chinese learning with the My First Chinese Reader series can easily switch to Discovering Chinese once they enter middle school.  I love the flexibility of the new app – it provides a wealth of activities to practice their budding skills in reading, listening, speaking, and writing.  To learn more about the program, I have reviewed the app in more detail here, We Are Loving Discovering Chinese Pro.

I am excited about the possibilities that these new tools and our new approach will bring to our language curriculum.  I am confidant that so long as I stay persistent, their confidence and thereby their fluency will improve dramatically.

howIteachhomeschool

The bloggers of iHN are sharing how they teach their children at home. Browse other topics in the link up, How I Teach, and find the posts that best suit your situation.

We Are Loving Discovering Chinese Pro

I am über-excited about the new Discovering Chinese Pro app by Better Chinese.  As most of my readers are aware, we have been using Better Chinese curricula for our Mandarin studies for years.  I even blog about our language learning endeavors for them.

Discovering Chinese Pro review

For the past several years, we have been using My First Chinese Reader and have been anxiously awaiting the release of an interactive iPad program. Discovering Chinese Pro is the answer. Easy to navigate, engaging animations, and a variety of practical language skill applications.

Each volume in Discovering Chinese Pro contains twelve lessons and each lesson begins with the goals outlined clearly.  Upon reading through the goals, each lesson begins with a short animation. The material is presented in several formats allowing students with different learning styles to choose the method that is best (with or without pinyin, with or without audio, and with or without English translations).  The student even has the choice to use simplified or traditional characters and can apply this option to specific words or the entire lesson.

Tabs across the top divide the lesson into sections that allow the learner to easily jump to the desired section:  Language Notes, Culture Points, Practice, Homework, and I Can.

Language Notes

The Language Notes section of each lesson introduces in more detail the new lesson vocabulary, additional required vocabulary, and proper nouns.  Here, the words are defined and the characters, pinyin, and parts of speech are shown.  Students can tap on an icon to hear each word spoken aloud. Within ‘Language Points’, students are shown how to combine different characters for phrases and example sentences can be heard. ‘Language Tips’ points out short cuts or more commonly used phrases.

Discovering Chinese Pro

Culture Points

True of all the lessons in the series, the tab Culture Points helps put the lesson vocabulary into historical and cultural context.  Here students are introduced to China with idioms and photographs – bringing the Chinese culture to life.  In anticipation of our trip to China, I had selected two lessons from Volume 2 to review, Lesson 19 “Shopping” and Lesson 24 “Trip to China”.  These tabs were very valuable to me, providing a better understanding of the culture of China.

Practice

The practice section is split into six parts – pinyin, characters, listening, reading, speaking, and writing.   In the pinyin section you can practice pronunciation of the four tones, pinyin identification, and pinyin dictation.  In the character writing section, several characters are introduced that correspond to the new vocabulary introduced in the lesson.  Here, students can see the story behind a Chinese character, watch the stroke order animation, and try it themselves.

The next four practice sections work on the students’ listening, speaking, reading (split into reading comprehension and reading challenge), and writing skills (split into grammar exercises and composition).  The activities and practice applications vary with each lesson – ensuring the students are engaged and have ample opportunity to practice their budding skills in varied contexts.  In the speaking section of Lesson 24 “Trip to China”, students were asked to interview a friend about his/her recent trip.

One of the things I liked best about the Practice section was the partner and group activities.  In Lesson 19 “Shopping”, students were asked to set up a flea market.  Working in small groups, they were to decide upon a name, what to sell, categorize the items, create an inventory, set prices, determine if bargaining is allowed, and finally create a poster.  In Lesson 24 “Trip to China”, students were asked to pick a destination from a list of overseas trips and to create an itinerary to potential customers. As a group assignment, tasks were to be divided between students (transportation, food, activities, etc.).  In both scenarios, the students were to present it to the class.

Homework

The homework section provides additional opportunities for the language learner to test his developing listening, reading, writing, and speaking skills.  The listening section has three dialogues. The reading section has two short passages with characters only, followed by a few comprehension questions.  The speaking section asked the student to record an oral narration of the lesson animation.  The writing section provides grammar practice whereby students follow a specific sentence structure or pattern as they compose sentences of their own.  In addition, a composition activity is provided that varies with each lesson. In Lesson 19 “Shopping”, the student was asked to compose an email response to a friend regarding what she bought at the store.

Each practice and homework section has a prompt box whereby the student can record their audio reply and/or type their composition.  If desired, images can even be added for a multi-media approach.  As I know even less Mandarin Chinese than the kids, I love that the students can email their tutor their work for review.

To learn more about Discovering Chinese Pro, visit the Better Chinese website.  You may also wish to watch their Discovering Chinese Pro Demonstration to see how to navigate this app more thoroughly.

 
I received the Discovering Chinese Pro app in exchange for an honest review. I am very pleased to be a part of the Better Chinese Blogging Team. All opinions are my own.  Please see my disclosure policy for more information.