Teaching Euskara in Early Childhood
by Axun Azurza
Thanks to Axun for making this material available. Eskerrik asko! For a copy of the music that goes with these lessons, send an email
Our first aim is to create a warm inviting atmosphere in the classroom: the children need to feel comfortable, for most of them it will be the first time they hear Euskara, so they might feel a little nervous. The school will also be new for them, and the teacher will be speaking to them in a language that many will not be able to understand at first. We need them to feel secure and comfortable, this will give them the confidence to start speaking a new language. If the children feel secure and happy, it is easier for them learn. On the other hand, the activities have to be interesting to them as well, and they need to provide them with opportunities to start speaking in another language, apart from the one they already speak. Therefore, they will feel happy and have fun!
A well-organized classroom, divided into centers, also helps (a blackboard and a place for circle time, another center with tables and chairs for writing or doing worksheets, and a little library). We decorate the classroom with Basque pictures and words, for instance, with the numbers and their corresponding words, also colors...
When learning a second language and specially at this age, it is important for them to get into some routines, as these routines give them a kind of security, they feel more confident when they know what comes next. Thus, we always start the class in the same way, asking similar questions and doing warm-up activities, and then we start the different activities planned for that lesson.
As we learn a language by speaking, we encourage them to start speaking from the very first day, with these warm-up activities, so that they can see they can speak Euskara, and feel motivated from the beginning.
The method used in the Basque Country for teaching Early Childhood is called "Urtzintga", and it is based mainly on stories, which are a good way to reach children, besides the games. Each month they work on a new story, many times, a traditional one (like "Txanogorritxo" Little Red Riding Hood).
The story is an excellent opportunity for them to learn new vocabulary and expressions. They have an activity book with activities related to the story they are learning. Apart from that, they also use flashcards with images of the story, play bingo and so on. In the end, they will be able to tell the story (a simplified version) they have learned by using a small poster with the characters of the story or tale (this is not exactly what "Urtxintxa" asks, but this is what we have started doing in Boiseko Ikastola).
There are some variations in the way "Urtxintxa " is used in the Basque Country and how it is used here, in Boiseko Ikastola. The situation here is different, and therefore the method requires a different image of itself, and we have adapted the method to be more developmentally and linguistically appropriate, for our young learners.
It is convenient to start every lesson the same way, so that they can get into a routine, which is very helpful for learning a new language. As it has been said before, it is good for the children to know what they are going to do, or at least, the order of the activities, as this way they feel more relaxed, more confident, and a as result, are more prepared to learn.
Sitting on the floor in a half-circle, next to the blackboard, we start the class in the same way each day:
- Greetings. We encourage all the children one by one to repeat or answer (of course, if they do not want to do it the very first day, we try again, until the child feels confident enough with the teacher and in the classroom).
Egun on! / Arratsalde on!
- Date: We have the days of the week and the months written in flashcards near the blackboard, and talk about them (example: which days we go to school, which days we do not...). Then, we write the date on the blackboard.
- Who is missing and who is not: We have the name of each child written on a nice picture (it could be a bus...). Then, near the blackboard, we also have a chart, divided in two: on the top left side, we write: ETORRI DIRENAK, and on the right side: ETORRI EZ DIRENAK. Each day one child, standing up in front of the class, takes the names from the chart and asks:
"Kepa etorri (al) da gaur?" and Kepa, says:
"Bai, hemen nago"
If that child is missing that day, the other children say:
"Ez da etorri". Once they have learned to say this, we add " gaixo dago", if that is the case.
When the pupil asks about his own name, the others say "hor zaude!". (They really like this).
- The weather: We have a big blue cloud, with a question inside:"Zer eguraldi daukagu gaur?"
In addition to that, pictures with the different possibilities (sunny, rainy, snowy, cloudy and windy) and other flashcards with sentences like: ' eguzkia dago, euria ari du (or euritsua), elurra ari du, lainotuta dago, haizea dabil".
The same pupil who asked about those who came and who did not, takes the picture of the weather and the corresponding sentence and puts it inside the cloud. After these everyday routines, we do other activities, still sitting in a circle or half-circle.
We do a variety of different activities:
-Sing songs: To teach them a new song, we ask them to repeat the song line by line, first without the tune, then with it. Then, we start, and see how well they manage by themselves.
- Activities with flashcards:
a) We give children a different flashcard, and ask them to say what they have. Then, the teacher says: "Prest? Or Prest zaudete?", they have to raise their flashcard whenever they hear the teacher calls its name. After a while, the children exchange flashcards. We also do this activity for learning numbers, colors, or any other vocabulary such as clothes, parts of the body, food... We also practice "gora/behera" with this flashcards With only one flashcard we can also say: "Horia ... belarrian ... sudurrean!"
b) Three flashcards for each child: For instance, we give each one a yellow flashcard, a red flashcard and a blue flashcard. Then ask everyone at the same time to pick up the yellow one, then the red one, then the blue on.. . After doing it this way for a while, we ask each child individually. If we don't have many flashcards, we prepare the rectangles in a sheet, and then ask them to color them and cut them out.
c) Numbers: We use flashcards with numbers from l to 10 with the written form below. Spread them on the floor and ask them to pick up the ones you say. Then, after practicing this activity, we take marbles or similar objects and ask them to take the same quantity as the flashcard says.
d) Colored magnets:
-Ask them to pick up the colors you want.
-To practice " asko / gutxi".Ask them to count how many they took, the colors...
e) Three boxes: Hide an object inside one of them (for example a toy car). Ask them one by one:
- Non dago kotxea?
Then, by playing the choosing game "dona, dona, katona", one of them will hide it, and the other ones guess where it is.
f) Blindfold game: They sit on chairs, in a half-circle. One of the pupils will be blindfolded, and she/he will have to find another one, by saying: - Miren, non zaude?
- Hemen nago!
The blindfolded one will keep asking until she/he gets all the pupils.
g) Dice. Sitting on their chairs in a circle, one of them throws the dice, and counts the pupils beginning from his/her right. Then he/she says: "Tori, hemen duzu"
h) 1. The telephone game: We pretend we call one pupil, and when he/she picks up the phone, we have a conversation about: the weather, brothers and sisters, or anything...
2. The telephone game: We say a word into one child's ear. That one says the word to the one next to her/him. We continue until the last one says what he/she understood.
i) T.P.R. (total physical response): It is like 'Simon says", but nobody is out of game. We say : Altxa! Eseri! Lo egin ! Dantza! Salto egin!... We encourage the pupils to be inventive when they say the commands. It is recommended that this activity is done sitting on chairs rather than on the floor.
HOW TO WORK ON "URTXINTXA "MATERIAL:
There is a project for each age (one for three-year-old children, another one for four-yearold, and another for five-year-olds), but the basic idea and progression of each is very similar.
Big posters (one for each subject, so 12 in total)
Large laminated cards for telling the stories
Storybooks CD- Songs CD- Activities
BIG POSTER: First of all, to introduce the new subject, we put this poster on the blackboard, and talk about it. We leave this poster up for the whole month, while we work on the subject.
We talk about it, and ask them what they see in it
We point to something on the poster, say it aloud, and they repeat it.
We ask the pupils one by one to point and say what different things are from the poster. We ask them to count the different objects in the poster.
This activity consists on learning a specific dialogue of the story. It is important because these sentences (or very similar ones) will be very useful in a normal conversation, both inside and outside the classroom.
First we tell the story and they listen.
Then we tell the story again two or three times eventually leaving our words then asking them for help. We ask them to tell us what is going to happen next, encouraging them to use the basic vocabulary and expressions from the story.
In a different lesson, after they know the story well, we re-tell the story, but with "mistakes", so that they correct us.
Otsoa: Kaixo, Txanogorritxo! Nora zoaz? Txanogorritxo: Amonaren etxera noa. 0: Eta non dago zure amonaren etxea? T: Hor dago, zuhaitz horien atzean.
First, they practice and learn this dialogue, and then we change the words:
Pupil A: Maider, nora zoaz? Pupil B: Etxera noa. A: Eta non dago zure etxea? B: Nire etxea Boisen dago.
First, they all repeat the dialogue after the teacher. Then, we divide the class into two groups. The first group takes the role of the wolf, and says his lines. The second group answers. Then, we ask two pupils to stand up and do this role play in front of the others. Continue until all pupils have done it. They will probably need the teacher's help at first.
The teacher can also tell the story using flashcards. Then, play games:
Memory game. This game can be played with any flashcard, related to any subject. There must be at least six pairs, and they can be pairs in two different ways. Example: two pictures (i.e. two houses), or a picture and its written form (a picture and "etxea"). We put the six pictures diagonally face down, and next to them the other six flashcards. The pupils, one by one, pick up first one flashcard, say it aloud, and then, they pick up the second flashcard and again, say it aloud. They objective is to get a matching pair. It is convenient to go on the game until each child gets one pair (even if we have to play with other flashcards related to a different subject).
The Photographer: After reviewing all the flashcards, we choose four, and put them on the blackboard. Each pupil comes in front of the blackboard, and pretends he/she is taking a photo, and says "klik,klik , etxea!". When he/she has taken the photos, he/she leaves the classroom, and the others say: "agur! Gero arte!" Then we choose one of the four flashcards to turn over. After that, we call the pupil who is outside to come in: "Sartu!" Then the pupil has to guess which one has been turned over. Dona, dona, katona...Zer da hau? We give a pupil some flashcards, and he/she walks around the circle playing the choosing game, and when finishes, shuffles the cards and asks the pupil in front: "Zer da hau?" If the other one guesses it, then he/she takes the cards and does the same thing.
It is convenient to show the pupils the flashcards in every lesson, as they are a very good way to review what they learned in the last class.
Before starting this lesson, the pupils need to prepare some pictures in order to do a mural, that is, they will color some drawings that the teacher gives them (i.e. a hat, trousers, a sweater.. . if we are working on the subject of clothes). They will cut these pictures out, and the teacher will keep them until the time comes to stick them on the mural.
Then, we put a big mural with the title of the story on the top on the blackboard (there will be a simple picture in it, for example a wardrobe to put the clothes in. .. anything related to the story), and we start telling them the story. The children need to be sitting near the blackboard in a half-circle (preferably on chairs).
When the teacher says the name of the clothes, she/he will give the pupil the picture the pupil himself/herself colored and cut out, and the child will name the item (or he/she will say a sentence, depending on what the teacher wants the pupil to learn), and then she/ he will stick it on the mural, in the proper place. We continue like this until all the children do it.
After that, we will finish telling the story (because they will probably do this activity in the middle of the story).
Once we have finished the mural activity, we put it in the classroom, and use it to review the vocabulary anytime.
DRAWING WHAT IT IS MISSING
We start telling the story by mimics (we always encourage them to help us in telling the story, we may say the first word...). Then, we give them a sheet of paper in which they can see the scene of the story they are working on.
They see in the sheet that for example the main character is missing. So, after having guessed that, they will say it aloud, and then draw it on the paper. There might be missing more than one thing or character, so we will continue telling the story until we complete the scene. Then, we will finish the story.
STICKING ON THE SHEET WHAT IT IS MISSING
As we have done with the mural, the children will color and cut out beforehand some items or things.
Then we start telling the story, and give them a sheet in which they will see the scene in from that story. They will see that something or some things are missing, and those will be exactly the ones they colored and cut out previously. Therefore, they will stick them with glue onto the sheet. We tell the story with their help until the end.
We play "Bingo" with the vocabulary we want them to learn. It is good if, besides the picture, they have the written form below, so that they can get used to seeing words, and start recognizing the letters.
Every time they have the object that has been called out, they can say: 'Nik bai! Badaukat!" or " Nik ez, ez daukat!".
The game finishes when everybody gets bingo, not only when the first one gets it.
First we will call out the names, but then, after having the first "winner", they can do it themselves. It is a good activity for them to start communicating among themselves in Basque.
They have little puppets that are the characters for each story. They also have a laminated sheet of paper, with a landscape from the story. The children tell the main story using these elements, first with the teacher's help altogether, and then, by themselves. They can take this material home and tell the story their parents.
They have an activity book to do the exercises related to every subject. They have one for every month (in case they come every day).
With each story, we will learn different songs. With these songs we will reinforce the vocabulary and expressions they are learning. Therefore, if with a story we are working on the parts of the body, they will learn songs that will talk about the parts of the body.
Pintto, Pintto gure txakurra da ta,
Pintto , Pintto bere izena du.
Txuri-beltza da ta,
ez du kozka egiten,
begi bat isten du jolstu nahi badu.
Kalera irtetzen du beti presarekin.
PARISTIK DATORREN ARTISTA
Paristik datorren artista bat naiz ni (bis)
Ondo jotzen dut Baita guk ere.
Danborra nik jotzen dut...
Txiki txiki txikia, ikusten naiz kalean
Handitzen handitzen, hasi naiz handitzen
Txikia izanik asko maite zaitut nik.
Bi begi ikusteko, Bi belarri entzuteko
Handitzen handitzen, hasi naiz handitzen
Txikia izanik asko maite zaitut nik.
Ahoa dastatzeko, sudurra usaintzeko,
Eskuak ukuitzeko, bi oinak ibiltzeko
Burua pentsatzeko, bihotza maitatzeko
TXIKIENA (Brother doinua)
Txikiena, txikiena...Non zaude?
Kaixo laguntxoa, kaixo laguntxoa
Lodiena., lodiena... (change your voice, grave voice)
Bat, bi, hiru, lau. Bat, bi hiru, lau
Bost, sei, zazpi, bost sei, zazpi.
Euskaldunak irabazi, irabazi, aurrera!
HAURRAK IKAS ZAZUE
Haurrak ikas zazue, euskeraz mintzatzen
Ongi pilotan eta, oneski dantzatzen (bis)
Airetun txikitun airetun aire...
A LA KINKIRRINERA
A la kinkirreinera, a la samurrera
( izena ) plaza berriko jira hadi beste aldera.
A-Kaixo! Hatz bat naiz!
B-Ni ere bai !(edo "baita ni ere")
A-Eneeee! Banoa! Gora! Gora, gora, gora, gora...
B- Ni ere bai! Gora, gora, gora...
A- Eneee! Banoa! Behera! Behera, behera, behera...
B- Ni ere bai! Behera, behera...
A- Eneee! Banoa! Eskuinera! Eskuinera, eskuinera, eskuinera...
B- Ni ere bai! Eskuinera, eskuinera...
A- Enee! Banoa! Ezkerretara! Ezkerretara, ezkerretara...
B- Ni ere bai! Ezkerretara, ezkerretara...
A- Enee! Banoa! Atzera! Atzera, atzera....
B- Ni ere bai! Atzera, atzera...
ARRE ARRE MANDAKO
Arre , arre , mandako
Bihar Tolosarako, etzi Irunarako...
Handik zer ekarriko?
Zapata ta gerriko!