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Teaching Tools for Language Nests

Activities and Games

Activity Ideas for Language Nests:

An effective early-childhood language immersion program provides a high level of interaction, physical activity, and exploration that supports all areas of child development as well as language learning. The following are some games and activities that can be used and/or modified for a language nest.

Language Development Activities for a Language Nest
More Language Nest Activities
List of Phrases for Language Nest Activities

Wordless books
Wordless books are a great way to share stories with children in your language. These books do not contain text, only images, so you can tell stories in your language without being distracted by English text. You can create your own wordless books by using masking tape to cover up the English text, or you can translate the story and use a label maker to replace the English text in books with your language. Label makers can also be used to make signs and label objects throughout the nest. These visual cues help staff remember to stay in the language and support early literacy development for the children. Find a list of wordless books here.

Create your own wordless books
Liq'wala Resources for First Nation's Language Education Programs has created a guide for developing your own Wordless Book Set using the Pint Sized Productions website. You can view their guide here.

First Nations Language Nests: Your Guide to Operating a Successful Immersion Program for the Very Young

(Chief Atahm School Curriculum Team, 2009)

This resource was created by the Chief Atahm School Curriculum Team for First Peoples' Cultural Council in 2009 to support new and existing language nest programs. The excerpts below contain a variety of activities and games for the language nest.

Songs, Games and Movement
Art and Expression

Exploring the Natural World

Food Activities

Program Planning Forms

Handbooks and Guides

Native Child Inc. Curriculum Materials 
Native Child Inc., 2004
This curriculum guide provides examples of preschool activities that can be adapted to support First Nations languages and culture. The materials and resources in this guide are meant to raise awareness to accurate and respectful ways of teaching children about Indigenous cultures.

Authentic First Peoples Resources: For Use in K-7 Classrooms
First Nations Education Steering Committee and First Nations Schools Association, 2012.
This guide offers a large list of authentic First Peoples novels that can be used in the classroom. Though these resources are geared towards school-aged children and are primarily in English, it may be possible to adapt them for use in an immersion language nest. 

In Our Own Words: Bringing Authentic First Peoples Content to the K-3 Classroom
First Nations Education Steering Committee and First Nations Schools Association, 2012.
This resource guide for teachers provides some sample curriculum based on authentic First Peoples materials and resources. While this particular guide is directed at non-Indigenous teachers, many of the lesson plans and activities may be adapted for use in the language nest.  


These websites have a variety of language activities and games that may be adapted for your language and language nest program.
FirstVoices Kids


Squamish Lil'wat Cultural Centre

Sealaska Heritage Institute

Seven Generations Educational Institute
Cherokee Learning Center


These apps can be adapted to support First Nations language learning in the Language Nest, at school and in the home.

My PlayHome
My PlayHome is an interactive doll house that allows children to explore and use everything in the home. Create characters that can eat, sleep, shower, brush their teeth, and more. With this app, learners can practice language associated with the home and daily routines.

Apple Devices: https://itunes.apple.com/ca/app/my-playhome/id439628153?mt=8
Android Devices: https://play.google.com/stor/apps/details?id=com.playhome&hl=en 

My PlayHome School
My PlayHome School is an extension of the My PlayHome app. This app allows children to expand their learning by exploring the school as they play various roles. With this app, learners can practice the language associated with school and the classroom.

Apple Devices: https://itunes.apple.com/ca/app/my-playhome-school/id922188121?mt=8
Android Devices: https://play.google.com/stor/apps/details?id=com.playhome.school&hl=en

My PlayHome Stores
My PlayHome Stores is an extension of the My PlayHome app. This interactive app allows children to explore four different stores where they can play, build their own ice cream cone, go grocery shopping, and more. With this app, learners can practice the language associated with various day-to-day tasks outside of the home and school.

Apple Devices: https://itunes.apple.com/ca/app/my-playhome-stores/id683942610?mt=8
Android Devices:  https://play.google.com/stor/apps/details?id=com.playhome.stores&hl=en

My Story
Create your own stories with the My Story app. This is a great app for both home and school use. You can make voice recordings so that the story can be told using your language. You can also create your own text for the story, so if your language has a keyboard app you can practice reading and writing in the language. Your stories can be imported and exported for easy sharing with others.  

Apple Devices: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/my-story-book-maker-for-kids/id449232368?mt=8


The Bitsboard app makes learning fun through the use of games and flashcards. There are certain games that cannot be modified and rely on the use of English, but there are selected games that can be customized to support language learning. For example, the flashcard game can be customized to only show images without the language, and there is also the option to record audio. With 25+ games to play with, this app can be a useful tool for language learning and practice.

Apple Devices: https://itunes.apple.com/ca/app/bitsboard-education-games/id516842210?mt=8

Sock Puppets
Create your own Sock Puppets that speak in your language! This fun app allows you to create videos of conversations between puppets using various characters, scenery and backgrounds. When you are finished creating your videos, you can upload them to Facebook and YouTube to share with others.

Apple Devices: https://itunes.apple.com/ca/app/sock-puppets/id394504903?mt=8

Teaching Tools

Language Cheat Sheets

Cheat sheets are a helpful tool for staff in the Language Nest. These sheets act as a quick resource for adults to help them stay in the language at all times. 

The Tahltan Language Nest has created their own cheat sheets that include commonly used words and phrases for staff members to practice.
Tahltan Colouring and Crafts
Tahltan Transition Phrases
Tahltan Playtime
Tahltan General Language Nest Phrases

Resources for Second Language Learners

It is common for staff in the Language Nest to be second language learners, and many are often learning the language alongside the children. The following are some resources to support second language learners in the nest.

W̱SÁNEĆ SEN: I am emerging: An auto-ethnographic study of life long SENĆOŦEN language learning
Jacqueline Jim, 2016
A Master's of Indigenous Language Revitalization student, Jacqueline Jim shares her SENĆOŦEN language learning journey using an auto-ethnographic approach to reflect on her experiences. Jim discusses the challenges and successes she has experienced as a second language learner while teaching in an immersion environment. She also shares best practices and learning strategies to support other Indigenous second language learners.  

Teaching Approaches and Methods

This section outlines some different teaching approaches and methods that are well suited to the immersion language nest.

Current Immersion Teaching Approaches

chuutsqa Layla Rorick, an Indigenous scholar from Hesquiaht First Nation, compiled a list of current immersion teaching approaches used in B.C. for Indigenous languages. References are provided for each approach for more information.

Total Physical Response (TPR)

One popular teaching method used in Indigenous language classrooms is the Total Physical Response (TPR) method. The basic principle behind TPR is for instructors to give commands in the language and for learners to act out these commands. This method, developed by Dr. James Asher, was designed to copy the ways in which children are observed learning language. That is, children often learn through listening and responding to their parent's commands. This method is a great way to stay in the language with beginner learners. It can be used to increase vocabulary and listening skills.

This is Dr. James Asher's website dedicated to TPR. It offers many valuable resources, including an outline of the TPR method and many articles on this approach. Some of these articles even address TPR-Storytelling (see below).

Wikipedia: Total Physical Response
This page covers the background, principles, procedures, teaching methods, research, reception, and influence of TPR.

Chief Atahm School
The Chief Atahm School offers annual conferences and training opportunities in TPR methodology, including summer institutes in TPR and TPRS. You can find information about their current training opportunities on their website here.

TPR in the Language Nest
From: First Nations Language Nests: Your Guide to Operating a Successful language Immersion Program For the Very Young, Chief Atahm School 2009.
This section of the Chief Atahm School language nest guide explains the TPR method and demonstrates how the Chief Atahm School has used TPR in their language nest.

TPR Storytelling (TPRS)

TPR Storytelling was developed by Blaine Ray in the 1990s. It was created as a way to continue using the TPR method past the beginner stages of language learning. The traditional TPR method was found to be a great way for beginners to interact with languages while they did not yet have the skills to produce a large amount of coherent speech. TPRS is based on the TPR method but offers intermediate learners more speaking opportunities, which is important in language learning.

TPR Stories

This website contains information on TPR Storytelling. Of particular value is the resource section where you can find videos and links to other websites.

Wikipedia: TPR Storytelling
This page outlines steps to TPRS as well as techniques, teaching materials, training, and theory.

Storytelling in the Yup'ik Immersion Classroom
Abby Augustine, (n.d.).
Master’s student and Yup’ik teacher, Abby Augustine, discusses the TPRS method. As a teacher she has had great success using this method. On this website she clearly outlines three steps to using TPR Storytelling. At the bottom of the site you will find links to further information she has shared.

A Simplified Guide to Storytelling for Students of All Ages
Fransisco L. Cabello, (n.d).
This paper leads the reader through steps to TPR Storytelling. It offers English examples as an outline in order to understand the process. These methods and steps can be modified to fit your language, your language nest and your stories.

Using TPR-Storytelling to Develop Fluency and Literacy in Native American Languages
Gina P. Cantoni, 1999.
The article answers the questions: "what is TPR?",  "what is TPRS?" and, "how can TPRS promote Indigenous language learning?" This article encourages the use of the TPR method to learn vocabulary. Once the vocabulary is learned, learners can advance to TPR Storytelling, in which they use the vocabulary learned through TPR to create and tell a story.

Culture-Based Education (CBE)

A Brief Overview of Culture-Based Education and Annotated Bibliography
Shawn Kana‘iaupuni, 2007.
This article answers the questions, "What is culture-based education?", "What does culture-based education look like?", "Why do we need to know more about culture-based education?", and "What do we need to understand better?" The article also includes an in depth list of resources that can be used to learn about CBE.

Culture-Based Education and Its Relationship to Student Outcomes
Shawn Kana‘iaupuni, 2010.
This paper explores the use of CBE for Native Hawaiian students. The paper outlines a study titled "Hawaiian Cultural Influences in Education". The study explored the educational outcomes of using CBE.

What is Culture-Based Education? Understanding Pedagogy and Curriculum
William G. Demmert, Jr., (n.d.).
This paper discusses CBE programs and offers 16 great summary points.

Culture-Based Education

This power-point presentation outlines CBE and offers videos that support learning about this approach.

NWT Teacher Introduction
This website introduces CBE, outlines the expectations, and offers advice for teachers and schools.

Indigenous Culture-Based Education Continuum
Demmert, Beaulieu, Yap, Tharp, and Hilberg, 2006.
This continuum highlights what it would look like to use CBE at varying levels.

The Accelerated Second Language Acquisition Method (The Greymorning Method)

This method is often referred to as ASLA or the Greymorning method, and was developed by Dr. Neyooxet Greymorning.

Strengthening Indigenous Languages and Cultures
This is Dr. Greymorning's website. Here you can find videos and comments about the method.

The Gift of Language and Culture Website
This website highlights how the method has been adapted to Cree.

Do you know of some great teaching tools or methods not listed here that you would like to share? Please let us know by contacting Aliana Parker: aliana@fpcc.ca.
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