Television can be another good way for English language learners to learn new words and improve their overall English skills. Of course, it is best when television is used in moderation, and when shows are appropriate for young audiences.
Talk with the parents of your ELL students about the best way they can use television in their home. You might want to mention that many adults find these shows helpful for learning English alongside their children. It is also important to point out that not all TV is appropriate for young children. The PBS Parent's Guide to Children and Media suggests ways to create a media-literate household.
Here are five educational children's television shows that focus on either literacy, English language skills, or Hispanic themes. Visit the shows' websites for lesson plans, resources, local television listings, and more.
Arthur is an animated television series that airs on PBS. Aimed at viewers between the ages of four and eight, Arthur's goal is to help foster an interest in reading and writing, and to encourage positive social skills. The series is based on Marc Brown's popular children's books. (Don't forget to watch Reading Rockets' exclusive interview with Marc Brown).
Between the Lions
Between the Lions is an award-winning PBS television series that premiered in April 2000. It's designed to foster the literacy skills of its viewers, while playfully demonstrating the joys of reading. Each show aims to give kids four to seven years old some of the experiences they need in order to become successful readers.
Dora the Explorer
Dora the Explorer is a half-hour animated children's television series on Nickelodeon starring a 7-year-old Latina girl and her friends. The show is designed to actively engage preschoolers in a play-along, computer-style adventure. Dora the Explorer teaches children how to observe situations and solve problems as they explore Dora's world with her. Along the way, kids learn basic Spanish words and phrases, as well as math skills, music, and physical coordination.
Maya & Miguel
Maya & Miguel is a PBS children's series starring twins, Maya and Miguel Santos, their loving family, and their bilingual pet parrot, Paco. The comical series chronicles the adventures, and sometimes misadventures, of the 10-year-old siblings, while featuring their family, relatives, and a richly diverse neighborhood of friends. The underlying message is the importance of doing good for the family and community, and the philosophy that shared happiness is greater than personal gain.
Targeted at children aged 6-11, the overall goals of Maya & Miguel are to encourage children to value, respect and better understand a variety of cultures, perspectives, traditions, languages and experiences and to support children in building their understanding of the English language, with a special emphasis on vocabulary. It also fosters a positive attitude toward knowing and learning more than one language.
Postcards from Buster
Postcards from Buster is a PBS children's series starring Arthur's best friend, Buster. Buster's dad, a pilot, is flying Los Viajeros, a rock group, on a North American tour and he's invited Buster to come along. Designed to delight and intrigue young audiences, Postcards from Buster has two key educational goals: to build awareness and appreciation of the many cultures in America and to support the language learning of children in the process of acquiring English.
The Postcards from Buster website includes a Teacher's Guide For English Language Learners with a lesson plan to complement each episode. The Teacher's Guide supports and extends the language learning opportunities in Postcards from Buster, offering strategies to use before, during, and after viewing each episode. The Teacher's Guide is designed for students in grades 2-4.