Learn Grammar While Doing Jumping Jacks and Pirouettes? Absolutely! Bamboo English on Alexa makes it possible

Being active helps children focus. Being focused leads to greater engagement and better learning outcomes. We designed Bamboo English to allow children to be active while practicing spelling, learning grammar, building vocabulary, and listening to stories.

When children’s education hit that big hurdle in the spring, parents of elementary school children searched for online tools that could support their kids’ learning. It became evident that there was an urgent need for effective educational tools that can be used at home, with minimal parental assistance, and ideally, with less emphasis on screens.

No passwords needed? Check! No parental assistance required? Check!

During the first few months of the pandemic, as we were receiving feedback from parents –

“I wanted to reach out because Bamboo has literally saved me the last 5 weeks…I discovered your free activities my kids could access…it has been a huge help to me…it provided me much needed time to work!” (Jamye M., mother of three from Baltimore, MD)

– we were embarking on building a new product that follows a comprehensive K–5 English Language Arts curriculum and includes Phonics, Spelling, Grammar, and Vocabulary learning modules. Today, we are proud to announce it!

We believe our Bamboo English voice-based language arts program offers a new way to learn. It enables young children to navigate their learning with ease. It engages them in conversational learning. It allows children to physically move around, and to progress at their own pace. It does not require parents to sit next to their children to help answer or understand questions, enter passwords, or switch between multiple online applications.

“Alexa, open Bamboo English” is all I have to say to my Alexa device? Yes!

A family can have up to 6 children using Bamboo English. We track each child’s progress separately, and we encourage parents to register for Bamboo Grove, a web-based parent application, where parents can follow their children’s progress and activities in Bamboo Learning voice applications. Parents can see which grade level and learning modules their children are working on, and how many questions they answered correctly and incorrectly. We will be adding functionality that allows parents to view each question and task completed by their children as part of the Bamboo English learning program, similar to what we currently offer in our other voice applications – Bamboo Books, Bamboo Math, and Highlights Storybooks.

Tree-themed classrooms? Climbing Spelling and other learning ladders? How fun!

Alexa welcomes children into their tree-themed classrooms – kindergarteners are climbing the Banana Tree, 1st graders the Coconut Tree, 2nd graders the Apple Tree, etc. They go through the standard ELA scope and sequence, moving up step-by-step on the Phonics, Spelling, Grammar, and Vocabulary Ladders. We developed over 140 ELA units for grades K–5, with over 60,000 language arts exercises. Children can choose to play word games or listen to stories, and go through a language arts curriculum in a fun and engaging way.

In Bamboo English K–3 Phonics learning modules, children learn to recognize rhyming words. Alexa presents them with questions like “The glue was stuck to her shoe. Which words rhyme?” In our focus groups, we observe time after time how naturally children navigate using their voice. Bamboo English always encourages children to give a second try if they couldn’t answer the question on the first try. For most exercises, we also offer hints, or mini-lessons, explaining the concepts and knowledge areas that we cover. For example, to help with the rhyming concept, Bamboo English says “Rhyming words have the same ending sounds. SNACK and PACK are rhyming words. They have the same ending sounds.” After offering the mini-lesson, Bamboo English encourages the child to try answering the original question again.

Our K–5 Spelling learning modules level the words by grade. We offer questions of varying difficulty – ranging from high-frequency grade-level words to “reach” words for each grade level. For younger learners, we use creative and fun exercises in which children learn how to produce new words by substituting individual letters. An example of such an exercise is – “In the word KITTEN, take out K and put in M. What word do you get?” Across all grades, we include exercises focused on the spelling of irregular words.

In Bamboo English K–5 Grammar learning modules, there are units that address parts of speech, as well as introduce verb tenses, the rules of subject-verb agreement, and end-punctuation. Bamboo English has a vast collection of questions, ranging from “This movie is exciting. Which word is an adjective?”, or “The storm is so scary! What goes at the end of this sentence – a question mark or an exclamation point?” We guide children to learn how to use verbs to convey a sense of past, present, and future, how to use different types of nouns to match the verbs in basic sentences, and teach many other grammar knowledge areas.

Our K–5 Vocabulary learning modules are an excellent tool to build and enrich children’s vocabulary. Children learn how to determine the meaning of high-utility grade-level words. An example of a 3rd Grade word-meaning question is “Does the word MEMORIZE mean – (A) to learn by heart, or (B) to tell a story?” We teach how to produce new words by using inflexions and affixes. An example of a 2nd Grade forming-a-new-word question is “If you add the letters -EST at the end of the word SHARP, what word do you get?” Children also love sorting common objects into categories, among many other vocabulary-related activities. An example of a 1st Grade categorization question is “Which of these words are vehicles – plane, boat, banana?”

Comprehensive curriculum for a low monthly fee? And a large sample free of charge!

We included free and premium content in our Bamboo English application. Families can use the first unit of every learning module in each grade for free. To get full access to all units across all grades, parents can subscribe to the Bamboo English K–5 ELA program (the subscription is $5.99/month/family, for up to 6 users).

We also have over 30 leveled stories children can listen to, across K–5 grades. These include:

  • Classic fairy tales, such as The Elves and the Shoemaker, The Hare and the Tortoise, and The Emperor’s New Clothes
  • Well-known short stories, such as Little Red Riding Hood, Cinderella, and The Elephant’s Child
  • Selections from longer literary works, such as Peter Pan, Wonderful Wizard of Oz, and Aladdin
  • Highlights for Children readers, such as The Lucky Penny, The Skeleton Crew, and Balto the Sled Dog

Reaching families in need? “Everyone Learns”!

To help address the multitude of challenges families are facing as a result of the pandemic, we decided to set up the Everyone Learns program, to offer families in need full subscription access to the Bamboo English voice-based program free of charge. We are thrilled to be working with Oakland-based Philanthropic Ventures Foundation (PVF) for Everyone Learns. PVF’s Voice-Based Education Initiative (VBEI) is administering the Everyone Learns program, including contributions from philanthropy, in-kind contributions from industry, and identification of partner organizations and families in need. To launch the Everyone Learns program, we are donating 100 Amazon Echo Dots to PVF’s Voice-Based Education Initiative for distribution to eligible families.

Additionally, the Seattle-based Technology Access Foundation (TAF) has already been selected to pilot Bamboo English through the Everyone Learns program. TAF’s mission is to build collaborative relationships with public education, to create access to transformative systems of learning for students and teachers of color, and to eliminate race-based disparities in an increasingly diverse society. TAF partners with several K–5 public schools serving diverse student populations in Washington state.

“We are very excited to work with Philanthropic Ventures Foundation and to pilot Bamboo Learning’s Everyone Learns program that offers families in need a great way to help children develop essential skills while having fun,” said Trish Dziko, Co-Founder and Executive Director of TAF. “With the pandemic requiring families across the country to provide schooling at home, this program allows children to benefit from Bamboo Learning’s fun, voice-based learning tools, and offers parents a much-needed break to focus on other tasks while their children are learning.”

If you would like to learn more about Philanthropic Ventures Foundation’s Voice-Based Education Initiative, including how to make philanthropic contributions, please visit https://www.venturesfoundation.org/programs/community-initiatives/voice-based-learning/

Bamboo Learning at the forefront of voice-based education? Go team!

While I was struggling to keep up with my two children’s virtual learning during the first few months of the pandemic, I was grateful to hear how Bamboo Learning products helped many families adjust to the “new normal” in education. For families with children who attended traditional schools, the new normal was having their children learning at home full-time. For families who already homeschooled their children, the challenge was not being able to attend many of the educational and social activities outside of home.

At that time, Bamboo Learning applications fulfilled an important need for an educational tool that did not require children to just sit in front of a computer. Bamboo Books, Bamboo Math, Bamboo Music, Bamboo Luminaries, and Highlights Storybooks Alexa skills helped children maintain conversational and presentation skills, while enabling them to practice following spoken directions. Voice technology is well-positioned to become an integral part of at-home learning, and to strengthen the home-classroom connection which is known to be critical for children’s learning success.

Bamboo Learning is at the forefront of the changing educational landscape, and we are thrilled to introduce our new language arts product – Bamboo English – to families, children, and educators. Bamboo English is our most comprehensive product to date, and is designed to help families overcome the challenges of at-home learning.

Disclaimer: I have teamed up with Bamboo Learning in support of this campaign. We received compensation for participation in this campaign. However, all thoughts and opinions are my own.

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