by Sarah Smith
By: Susan Friedman
New research on how young dual language learners learn in both languages is essential to supporting children worldwide. According to the Associated Press, up to 66 percent of the world's children are raised as bilingual speakers. That is why it is particularly relevant that NAEYC is sharing best practices from two national experts on teaching young dual language learners (DLLs) on Universal Children's Day. Dr. Linda Espinosa and Karen Nemeth presented on the most current brain research and best practices related to DLLs, their teachers and their families during the second half of NAEYC's kickoff panel for Grandes Comienzos Futuros Brillantes at Annual Conference. The panel was moderated by Miriam Calderon, Senior Partner at School Readiness Consulting. Following are some highlights from the panelists' discussion.
Part II: Dual Language Learning
"The combination of living in poverty and having low access to early education increases the vulnerability of dual language learners to negative outcomes." -Dr. Linda Espinosa
Dr. Linda Espinosa, Professor Emeritus of Early Childhood Education at the University of Missouri, Columbia, discussed the latest research in dual language learning and how it impacts how young children are taught. She started by commenting on the first panel, “I heard some things for the first time here. I was struck by the fact that we are a unified family of educators with similar goals!” She advocated for cross-national sharing of information and requested that the Inter-American Development Bank report on ECD services in Latin America be made available in English; the report has already been translated and can be found here.
Dr. Espinosa described how the term Dual Language Learner (DLL) is different from the term English Language Learner because DLL acknowledges that children aren't just learning in English, they are also learning in their home language. DLL reflects the linguistic capacity to learn in two languages. This linguistic capacity is a strength and will stay with children learning in two languages their whole lives. The term is also important because it is strength-based and reflects what children DO know (their home language) rather than what they don't know (the second language - English). In the US, Dual Language Learners’ first introduction to English often takes place in an early education program.
Dr. Espinosa explained that the past 10 years of research has revealed a developmental paradox. In the Unites States DLLs are highly vulnerable to underachievement. However, this does not mean that all Dual Language Learners are the same. Context matters! When dual language learners are from families who also carry the burden of being from a lower socioeconomic status then children are more vulnerable to underachievement. However, when Dual Language learners are not burdened by lower economic status, research shows that having a second language is NOT a risk factor.
Having a home language other than English and being a DLL is in fact a strength! DLLs have:
- Lower infant mortality rates
- Fewer mental and physical problems
- Strong social skills
- Parents support education and have high expectation
Teachers need to know more about the science of early bilingualism so that they can understand the capacities of DLLs and how to support their learning in both languages and how to engage their families. The brain development for young bilinguals is different than that of a monolingual child. All babies are born being able to hear all sounds but even before the first birthday they become more attuned to the sounds of their native language.
Young bilingual brains have better:
- Inhibitory control
- Working memory
- Cognitive flexibility
For more information see Challenging Common Myths About Young Dual Language Learners: An Update to the Seminal 2008 Report.
Karen Nemeth, an author, speaker and consultant on teaching young children who are dual language learners discussed how educators and parents can nurture DLL’s through having interesting and relevant conversations together. Ms. Nemeth reminded us that connections with other people happen through conversations. In order to have these conversations educators must think about what they are doing in the classroom, including why they are choosing specific activities and materials in relation to how they help nurture meaningful conversation.
Ms. Nemeth challenged all teachers to ask themselves:
- Why did I choose this material?
- How will the child use this himself?
- What is the connection?
- Where will the child go with this information
- What related conversations will take place?
To kick off this thinking Ms. Nemeth asked the audience to sing the song, “Head Shoulders, Knees, and Toes” in Spanish, substituting the Spanish words for hair, shirt, pants and shoes. Participants experienced first hand some of the confusion that can happen when taking in information in a different language demonstrating that, “just because you said it doesn’t mean you taught it”. She then asked attendees to think of the song, “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” and to question whether the words and gestures really connect with the here and now of the children’s daytime preschool experience. Ms. Nemeth suggested that “Wheels on the Bus” is a more useful classroom song because a song with words children can use right away is more helpful and relevant to DLLs as they try to learn in two or more languages. Having items in the classroom that support language learned in songs is critical for conversation and connection. Most children will have seen or ridden buses. Most teachers have books in their classroom about buses and other vehicles as well as toy buses and vehicles children can play with. Children can then create and imagine buses as part of their dramatic play. A song with words children can use in an everyday context offers a DLL more opportunities for real understanding and real connections and can in turn nurture meaningful conversations and language development in both English and in the child’s home language.
“Sometimes Spanish speaking children have more words than their monolingual peers - this wealth needs to be acknowledged.” -Karen Nemeth
Ms. Nemeth provided the following recommendations for supporting staff, children, and families:
- Develop a language plan
- Communicate with staff about the goals of the plan and how it will be implemented in classrooms
- Include monolingual staff in the language plan
- Include trainings about the importance of intentional conversation planning
- Provide professional development materials in different languages so staff can continue to develop their own language assets
- Encourage educators to learn some words in each child’s language and support them in this effort
- Engage in planned conversations, stories, and activities in both the children's’ home languages and in English
- Ensure sure there is time in each language to become truly engaged with content and conversation
- Help children focus on one language at a time
- Take time to explore connections and meanings
- Remember that roving interpreters or sprinklings of language are not effective in supporting young DLLs.
- Get to know each families and their cultural context
- Show families you value their home language
Ms. Nemeth ended her talk by reminding us that having two languages is wonderful for young children. Young children are especially hard-wired to learn languages. Educators can learn how to support young children in their programs as they learn in both languages, setting the stage for their continued learning and success both in school and in life.
ExchangeEveryDay invited readers to weigh in on the "Best Books for Preschool Teachers" and we’re proud to see four of NAEYC’s books on the list!
- The Intentional Teacher: Choosing the Best Strategies for Young Children’s Learning by Ann S. Epstein
- Developmentally Appropriate Practice in Early Childhood Programs Serving Children from Birth through Age 8 by Carol Copple and Sue Bredekamp, eds.
- Anti-Bias Education for Young Children and Ourselves by Louise Derman Sparks and Julie Olsen Edwards
- Powerful Interactions: How to Connect with Children to Extend Their Learning by Amy Laura Dombro, Judy Jablon, and Charlotte Stetson
We’d also like to highlight two more preschool teacher favorites, Developmentally Appropriate Practice: Focus on Preschoolers and Teaching Young Children (TYC), NAEYC’s award winning magazine for preschool teachers.
Any other favorites you’d like to add to the list?
This is an exciting time to be part of the early childhood education field.
Never before has there been this significant attention on the value of early learning. It is increasingly recognized as the time in a child’s life where society may have the greatest impact. If we invest time and resources so young children can have access to high quality early learning experiences, we are creating a solid foundation to set them on a strong trajectory of success in school and life.
- It is going to take us investing in the early childhood workforce.
- It is going to take us investing in continuous professional development for early childhood educators--including best practices in using various forms of technology with young children, as well as skill in communicating with parents and others who perhaps subscribe to the "either/or" form of ECE
- It is going to take a public financing system with the goal of making sure that every young child in the United States has access to high quality early learning experiences.
In a recent survey of our members one of the top three topics they cared about most and wanted NAEYC to engage in was technology. I believe our members are hungry for knowledge. They want NAEYC to help guide how to effectively use technology in the classroom.
By: Susan Friedman
Digital storytelling for dual language learners; deep diving on a virtual Titanic; and more innovative uses of technology for early learning.
Computers, tablets, smartphones, apps, and other digital tools are part of our everyday lives. When used appropriately, technology can help children explore their world, express and make sense of what they know, and interact with other children. Technology tools can also assist families as they support their children’s at-home learning.
So, how can early childhood educators choose appropriate technology tools to enhance and support children’s learning?
NAEYC and the Fred Rogers Center created the position statement, Technology and Interactive Media as Tools in Early Childhood Programs Serving Children from Birth through Age 8 as a guide for early childhood educators as they make decisions about how and when to incorporate technology into their programs.
In a recent NAEYC survey, educators were asked about their use of the technology position statement. Respondents describe referring to the joint position statement as they plan university courses, develop curriculum, explain developmentally appropriate uses of technology to other teachers, administration, and families, and make decisions about when to incorporate technology into their own classrooms.
Teachers also asked for more examples of developmentally appropriate uses of technology in early childhood settings. Following are three examples of educators integrating technology into their work with young children in ways that are developmentally appropriate. We hope you will share the technology position statement and these examples with colleagues. Then let us know how you are using the technology position statement and integrating technology tools into your work with young children.
Three examples of technology that supports early learning:
A 5-year-old child fascinated with the Titanic is given a book and interactive CD-ROM with a large screen desktop computer. The transmedia materials allow him to explore and express his interests, and develop his small motor and social skills.
Parent educators in Maine integrate iPads into a curriculum that provides parents of migrant preschoolers with early literacy and math activities to help their children get ready for school.
Also to read and share:
Here are the four strategies:
1. First, align quality and access by addressing the inequities that are a result of historical distinctions between child care and early education.The growth in publicly funded pre-kindergarten programs is enormously important, but these programs will only partially support seamless experiences for children as long as serious gaps in quality and access remain for infants, toddlers, 3-year-olds, and children in before and after school care. Financing mechanisms must simultaneously address family needs for child care and family support and children’s needs for high quality learning experiences.
2. Second, address the different expectations for professional preparation, professional development, and compensation across settings and sectors. Children deserve skilled teachers and caregivers regardless of how their program is funded—whether child care, Head Start, state preK or school funding formula.
We recommend the NAEYC Early Childhood Professional Preparation Standards as a unifying framework. These evidence-based standards specify what all those working with young children birth through age 8 should know and be able to do. They start with a focus on child development, within the context of culture and community, and address family engagement, effective curriculum, intentional teaching, appropriate assessment and professionalism. The same standards apply across associate, baccalaureate and advanced degrees. When NAEYC implements these standards through accreditation, practicum experience is required in two of the three age groups—infant/toddler, preschool, and kindergarten/primary, critical to promoting a seamless continuum.
A common knowledge base is critically important, but children will not experience seamlessness without ensuring compensation parity for those with comparable responsibilities across settings. Until we have seamless opportunities for professional preparation and career advancement across the birth to 8 continuum, we cannot expect seamlessness for children.
3. Third, integrate early care and education practice with Kindergarten through third grade practice. Educational quality and outcomes would improve substantially if elementary teachers incorporated the best of preschool’s practices (for example, attention to the whole child; integrated, meaningful learning; and parent engagement) and if preschool teachers made more use of elementary school practices that are equally valuable, such as robust content and attention to learning progressions in curriculum and teaching.
4. Finally, and perhaps most important, ensure that teachers and administrators across the birth to 8 continuum reflect the diversity of children they serve and have the knowledge, skills, and abilities to help all children achieve their full potential.
TYC contributor Laura Colker answered this question in an online Q&A* about the value of creating a construction focused learning center in a primary classroom, and how to explain its importance to an administrator.
The key to approaching an administrator who may question how Legos, blocks, and other building materials fit into the curriculum is providing clear examples of the ways a construction learning center can inspire and enhance academic learning. To do this, focus on the clear link between construction and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) learning. It is generally agreed that to be competitive in our global economy children need to develop learning and skills in science, technology,engineering, and mathematics. Building with blocks, Legos, and other building materials can connect to STEM learning in many ways.
*Adapted from a January 2013 Q&A with Laura Colker on Learning Centers.
By: Susan Friedman
Television, smart phones, tablets, video games - As children spend more time using screen media, what do parents think their children are learning? A national survey of more than 1500 parents of children ages 2-10, conducted by the Joanne Ganz Cooney Center, asked parents about how much their children learned from educational media.
The resulting report, Learning at home: families’ educational media use in America was released on January 24, 2014 and offers many insights.
Here are some highlights from the study:
- More than half of the parents surveyed (57%) believe their children have “learned a lot” from educational media
- The use of educational media drops at age four, just when screen time goes up
- Two to four year olds spend more time each day with educational media than any other age group
- Parents report that on average, their children spend 42 minutes a day with educational TV, compared to 5 minutes with educational content on mobile devices/computers and 3 minutes with educational video games
- Parents reported their children learned more from educational content on TV than from mobile devices
- Children are reading an average of 40 minutes a day, including 29 minutes with print, 8 minutes on computers, and 5 minutes using e-platforms
- Parents don’t believe their children learn as much about science from educational media as they do about other subjects
- Many parents observed that their children extend what they learned from educational media beyond the screen by asking questions, engaging in imaginative play, and wanting to do projects related to something they learned
Upon the study’s release the Joan Ganz Cooney Center gathered a group of educators, researchers, and those involved in children’s educational media to discuss the study.
Some highlights from the discussion:
- Parents may not feel as confident evaluating the educational value of content offered on mobile apps as they do evaluating the educational content TV
- Parents need more information about what is educational and how to evaluate the educational value apps and other new media
Educational media developers could think of ways to to address the needs of the children in low-income households in particular around the vocabulary gap
- For some low-income families, mobile devices are a lifeline to many essential services, and this may impact how children use educational media on those devices
- Not all children have the same level of access to educational media
To read the report and see video of researchers and educators discussing the findings, visit the Joan Ganz Cooney Center website.
How do you talk to families about their children's media use?
1. You sing the “clean-up song” when cleaning at home.
2. You recite from Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! and Pete the Cat when conversation lags at a dinner party.
3. You chant "Ten Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed" to yourself while walking down the street.
4. You hand the person in front of you at the DMV a tissue when she sneezes.
5. All the chairs in your house look really big to you.
6. You use the term "phonemic awareness" in your day-to-day conversations.
7. You explain to parents in the park how much their kids are learning when they dig in the dirt.
8. You tell a dad in the grocery store, who waits patiently as his son counts all the apples, how he's supporting his son's learning.
9. You are used to the fact that the children think the classroom is where you live.
10. You can find 20 ways to use empty yogurt containers as learning materials.
11. You can count a group of toddlers in 5 seconds.
12. You wash your hands at least 30 times a day
13. You can explain why the boys in your class are allowed to play with the dolls if they choose.
14. You know that a child who drew two random lines has a whole story to tell when you ask, "Tell me about your drawing." And you write it down.
15. You print more pictures of the young children in your class than your own family.
16. You wonder how dinosaurs, crayons, and Legos end up in your laundry every week.
17. You growl (or make a face) when called a babysitter.
18. You’ve actually eaten what you’ve baked as a class, no matter the preparation, ingredients, or outcome.
19. You know that when children draw, paint, make art - it's about the process and not the product.
20. You deserve a Nobel Peace Prize for the arguments you’ve mediated and tantrums you’ve redirected.
21. You can explain the toddler biting stage to the families of the child who bit AND the child who was bitten.
22. You can turn a simple nature walk or trip to the grocery store into an action-packed learning adventure…..and connect it to early learning standards.
23. You know that even though your paycheck does not reflect the work that you do, you go to bed at night knowing that you are shaping the world and wake up every morning with your superhero cape.
Thanks for all that you do!
Add your own ideas to the list by posting below!
Happy New Year from NAEYC! What will inspire your work with young children this year? We reviewed some of our web posts from this past year and found these ideas and inspirations. Make sure to share your own inspirations with us below.
1. Classroom Stories That Celebrate Teachers and Children
2. Support for Strong Start for America's Children
Children’s early learning experiences set the course for success in school and life. We were inspired by how many of our members and readers participated in the Strong Start campaign. Thanks to you all! If you haven’t participated yet you still can.
3. The New DAP Focus Series
These age specific DAP books offer ideas for Developmentally Appropriate Practice for each age and stage. If you’re new to DAP this online DAP primer explains DAP and offers links to many resources to help you in your teaching.
4. Ten Things to Say instead of “Good Job”
Wow! So many readers shared this article on social media so we know it really resonated. Recognize children's achievements and encourage their learning with these ten alternatives to saying "good job" from TYC.
5. Integrating STEM: Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math
Early childhood teachers are preparing children to be critical thinkers by integrating Science, Technology, Engineering and Math learning in thoughtful ways. The opening session of the 2013 annual conference showed how the arts can be integrated into STEM learning. This excerpt from Spotlight on Young Children: Exploring Science shows science learning in action at the water table. And a new survey gathers information on how teachers are using the Technology and Young Children position statement in their work.
6. New Research on Dual Language Learners
This blog post updated us on the growing body of research which shows many benefits to growing up learning and thinking in two languages and offers ways early childhood teachers can support the dual language learners in their programs. A Young Children article offers more ideas for supporting the literacy development of dual language learners.
7. The 10 NAEYC Programs Standards
Did you know that there are over 6500 childcare programs accredited by NAEYC serving more than 1 million children? NAEYC accredited programs follow the 10 Program Standards. Read about them here.
8. Ten Things Every Parent Should Know about Play
Here’s another post that our readers shared widely on social media. Through play children learn and develop cognitive skills – like math and problem solving in a pretend grocery store and so much more.
9. Teachers Who Do Their Own Research!
An infant teacher writes in her journal as part of her self-reflection; another teacher explores how 2-year-olds make theories about physical and chemical changes taking place during cooking. These teachers ask and explore deep questions as they teach and then write about their own teacher research.
10. NAEYC Members
We are so proud and inspired by the many diverse and wonderful ways NAEYC members promote quality early childhood education in the work they do. Read about our members and share your story with us. Not a member? Learn about the many benefits of joining the NAEYC community.
Share what inspires you below!