By Anneke Forzani
Since many children are learning from home right now, it’s a good opportunity to try out fun activities that introduce new languages and cultures. In this post, we list 5 of our favorite games that use children’s bilingual books. Check out our other post for a chance to win a set of bilingual books.
Bilingual Book Games
Even when we can’t travel from home, books have a special kind of magic that allows us to travel in mind and spirit. Choose a multicultural children’s book that features characters and languages as diverse as the world we live in. Reading lets us immerse ourselves in another life, in another place. Following a character’s journey is also a chance for us to grow, and to understand ourselves better, too.
Playing games based on multicultural and bilingual children’s books is a great way to learn about other languages, cultures, and ourselves in a fun and meaningful way.
Who Am I?
To play this bilingual book-inspired guessing game, grab some sticky notes and a pen. It’s a great game for kids who have more vocab knowledge in the new language. Write names of story characters or objects on the sticky notes, and place one on each player’s forehead (but no peeking!). The players ask each other yes-or-no questions to figure out who or what they are. Am I an animal? Do I live on a farm? See who can guess what’s written on their own sticky note first!
Go on a book-inspired scavenger hunt! Choose words in the target language, and see who can find the most objects before time runs out. For example, if you’re reading a bilingual book about food, see who can find a banana, a spatula, and a salt shaker first. Or use words from a favorite multicultural folktale—they’re full of (stuffed) animals and household objects to find!
Here’s an activity that combines bilingual learning and craft fun. Find socks, buttons, yarn, or anything crafty for your puppet designs. Create puppets that represent characters from the book, and act out scenes using dialogue in the target language.
You Be the Star
Bring your favorite scene from a bilingual book to life! Use a chair as a throne, a sheet for long, flowing hair—kids will get a kick out of recreating costumes and scenes using items around the house. Once the stage and actors are ready, act out scenes using as many words in the new language as you can. Kids don’t have to memorize lengthy dialogue, just share with the audience the best moments from the story and have fun!
The classic game of charades helps kids develop their understanding of the bilingual books they’ve read. Choose a favorite character to act out with gestures, but no speaking allowed! For a bigger challenge, choose objects from the book for other players to identify in the target language. Another version of this game is to draw the characters or objects instead of acting them out. Just remember, only images are allowed— no words or numbers!
More Diversity Activities and Literacy Games
You can find many more diversity activities and games in our popular book Building Bridges with Bilingual Books and Multicultural Resources. It’s a practical manual of lesson plans, games, and fun activities from around the world that celebrate diversity. You’ll find many food and craft ideas, language profiles, and both physical and literacy-related games and activities.
Anneke Forzani is the President and Founder of Language Lizard, which provides multicultural books, audio resources, and posters in over 50 languages to schools, libraries, and literacy organizations. She actively promotes the use of multicultural resources to develop literacy skills among language learners, build inclusive classrooms, and celebrate cultural diversity. Anneke has presented workshops about using multicultural resources in diverse classrooms at educational conferences, and offers free multicultural lesson plans on the Language Lizard website to support culturally responsive teaching. She is the author of the teacher resource, Building Bridges with Bilingual Books and Multicultural Lesson Plans, and the forthcoming children’s books, Happy After All and With Flying Colors (a multicultural book to teach English idioms). She also enjoys writing for the Language Lizard blog to support parents and teachers who work with language learners and culturally diverse students.