Helping parents help their children

Parents naturally want their children to have more opportunities than they had when they were children. In the case of many Palestinians, this means the opportunity to learn English from a young age.

Adults that I speak with and teach resent the fact that the English they studied in school for 7+ years didn’t help them to grow into adults who can speak English. They struggle to find time between work and family to work on their language skills. This struggle makes them determined to see their children learning to speak and use English well from a young age.

As a teacher of their children, it is my responsibility to not only teach their children but also to help them help their children. This means making them aware of techniques they can apply and resources they can use at home. They don’t have to perfect their English or get a teaching certificate to help their kids. All they need is a little guidance. Here are some of the things that I like to share with them.

Board Games: Kids love to play games, especially with their parents. Giving parents copies of a couple of board games or templates they can customize can lead to hours of  practicing English while having fun. Templates can be used to make custom spelling games where each square has a picture of something (a number, an animal, a food etc.) and when somebody lands on it they have to spell the word. Alternatively, each square could have a speaking topic (e.g. my favorite food, my favorite color). There are endless possibilities.

Flashcards: Introducing parents to a website like where they have easy and free access to a variety of flashcard sets can make teaching and practicing new words with their children easy. Parents can use them in simple games like Kim’s Game, matching games, or stick them up on walls as a way to see if they can remember the names of the items.

Reading: There are lots of websites including the British Council’s website for kids that have stories kids and parents can read together online. Some of them have audio files so kids can listen along instead. Starfall and Oxford Owl are two such sites. See the previous blog post Free Reading Resources for more ideas.

Reassurance and Motivation Tips: Last but not least, it’s important to reassure parents that learning a language takes time and that they shouldn’t put too much pressure on their child. Give them some tips on how to make their child motivated to learn English. Encourage them to make it a family affair and/or a game. Encourage them to use positive language and praise their child. Give them the opportunity to speak to you when they’re frustrated with their child’s progress so you can advise them rather than express their frustration to the child directly.

Want more ideas or have some of your own? Leave a comment.



Let’s talk accents

Do you have students who are dead set on speaking with a particular accent? If you do or if you’re one of those students then read on.

My question for all of those students is WHY?! Most of the world’s English speakers don’t speak with an American or British accent. Plus within English-speaking countries, accents vary from region to region.

When I ask my students who they speak English with, it is usually people from various European countries whose L1 isn’t English like Germany, Switzerland, Italy etc. So then why care about accent?

This always gets them thinking and some get the idea and conclude that they should instead focus on making sure their pronunciation of words is correct and clear instead of trying to speak with a particular accent.

Of course, there are always a few who persist in their quest to sound British. For those students, I tell them to be a parrot. Watch a show or movie or YouTube clip, choose a character and act like a parrot. Repeat everything they say, immediately after they say it. Better yet, watch something with English subtitles and read along with the character. It never fails, they feel foolish but end up sounding like whatever character they chose to shadow. Test it out with whatever language you’re keen on practicing and with whatever accent you want. You’ll be surprised at how quickly your accent will change (even if the change is short-lived).