How was school today?

The question “How was school today?” is probably the one that children in every home hear almost every day throughout the school year… Many parents would say that the most common answer is “Good” or “OK”. However, the “school run” can be the best time for parents and children to use the heritage language in a meaningful way. How can we encourage bilingual children to tell us more about the school day in the heritage language?

Some children may need encouragement to use the parent’s language and they may simply not have the vocabulary or grammar needed to fully express themselves. Also, for many people, not only children, it is difficult to summarise an entire morning and to choose the most interesting and important information, so the right questions can help the child to engage in conversation.
As parents we can help and encourage them by asking more detailed questions than “How was your day?”.
Specific questions will require detailed answers, and they are a great start to a conversation about what happened in school and about how the child feels.
These more meaningful conversations are also likely to trigger the use of new words and sentence structures and, therefore, help children to develop knowledge in the heritage language. It is very likely that children will have learned new words in school that they have not yet learned in the heritage language and this is why using the language every day is so important. To encourage children to elaborate on their morning in school, parents can ask about particular games the child played, about their friendships, or about something new the child learned.
Here are some questions that might be used instead of the general “How was your day”:
What was the best thing that happened to you today? What was your favourite part of the school day today? What new word did you learn today? Did you do anything new and exciting today? What part of your lunch did you like the most? What was the most interesting thing you learned about? And many more…
So, the main piece of advice would be to try posing questions that can potentially start a conversation by talking about a memorable part of the day.
Every day has something special to talk about, we just need to ask the right questions, and give children time to use the heritage language regularly in a meaningful way.