By: Karen Nemeth
Sometimes our experiences help to make us better educators. But sometimes our beliefs based on those experiences can lead us astray. That is exactly what Dr. Linda Espinosa points out in her important new report, Challenging Common Myths About Young Dual Language Learners: An Update to the Seminal 2008 Report.
In the field of early childhood education, we certainly understand that young children think differently than adults. Their level of cognitive development means they are not just small grownups - they are unique and fascinating learners. Still, many people are subject to believing myths about young dual language learners (DLLs). They may assume children learn language just like they do as adults learning a second language.
Perhaps the most striking conclusion of Dr. Espinosa's report is that bombarding preschool DLLs with more English may actually result in LESS success in learning English. Full immersion in a new language may work for adults, but that's because adults have the cognitive ability to translate internally, because they already have a firm, long standing fluency in their first language.
Preschool DLLs are still in the process of learning their first language. They don’t yet know enough in either their home language or in English to form a robust foundation for their future learning, so they need access to what they have learned in both. A preschooler told me recently, "I just don't know all the rules of the world yet!" Dr. Espinosa is suggesting that, until children are old enough to understand all the rules of language in either language, they need support in both languages.
Think of it this way... A person may be fully bilingual, but there will be some vocabularies they know only in one language. Here’s an example. A bilingual woman recently introduced me for a presentation I would be giving to a Spanish speaking audience this way: "En este....en este... en este...Workshop!” Although she was fluent in both English and Spanish, having learned Spanish as a child, she had never had to use the Spanish word for workshop. That was a word she only knew in English. This is what happens as young children are developing. They know some things in one language and some things in the other. They need BOTH sets of words as funds of knowledge to learn new concepts and experience the full experience of language development.
Dr. Espinosa also makes it clear that learning in two languages is active, challenging work. Young children are certainly good at it. But, they are not "sponges". They need thoughtful, intentional teaching strategies and classroom environments that are designed specifically to meet their needs. Simply offering a high quality, English-only program won’t be sufficient for DLLs. The early education they do receive must be part of a seamless, coordinated system that extends from preschool through at least third grade. This may present many practical challenges since different agencies may be providing the programs at different points in a child’s educational career. DLLs make up about 25% of our current population of young children. They are the fastest growing segment of our population. Every school district can benefit from improving the systems in place for these children and collaborating with every agency that serves them.
Something else to consider: as this growing body of research has built a clear case for the value of growing up bilingual with supports for both languages such as better working memory, enhanced executive function, ability to switch easily from task to task, and to persist in a challenging task – maybe we should be thinking about helping ALL children grow up with the benefits of learning and thinking in more than one language. As Dr. Espinosa states, “All children appear to benefit cognitively, linguistically, culturally, and economically from learning more than one language.” (p. 19)
In my book, Basics of Supporting Dual Language Learners: An Introduction for Educators of Children from Birth through Age 8, I’ve summarized some of the current research and included strategies for putting the research into practice. What does a linguistically and culturally appropriate classroom look like? What do administrators need to know about supervising and supporting staff in a diverse program? We answer questions like these and provide a basic introduction for teachers across the early childhood education age range.
The good news is that the new research summarized by Dr. Espinosa supports many of the developmentally appropriate teaching practices we all appreciate for early childhood education – but simply suggests that we use those strategies in more thoughtful ways that support new language learners. And, as Conor Williams says in his blog post about the Myths report, the advantages of growing up with two languages should be something we want for every child in our country.
For more information about teaching young DLLs, look for the DLL tips in every issue of Teaching Young Children or look for in-depth articles in Young Children such as the ones found here: http://www.naeyc.org/yc/resources_03_2013.
Karen Nemeth is an author, speaker and consultant on teaching young children who are dual language learners. She has written several articles and a book for NAEYC. She is on the board of NJTESOL/NJBE and is the co-chair of the National Association for Bilingual Education Special Interest Group on Early Childhood Education. She provides a wealth of information to support the field at her website: www.languagecastle.com.
How do you integrate your interests and passions into your work? Do you have plans to share your passions with the children in your program this year?
In the April/May 2013 issue of Teaching Young Children, author Jacky Howell wrote Following Your Passion: Introducing Young Children to Basketball which discussed ways teachers can share personal interests with children to help them learn. Here are some more ideas, adapted from an online discussion.
Sharing Your Passion by: Jacky Howell
I believe that teachers can and should share their interests and share who they are in the daily life of a classroom. It’s an important part of relationship building. Here are some things I’ve tried or have seen other teachers try.
Biography boards: When I visited the Hilltop Children’s Center in Seattle, Washington, I was struck that the teachers had created their own biography boards so families and children could learned about the teachers and staff who worked at the program.
I was inspired and created my own biography board. On mine I placed not only pictures of my family, but also my favorite basketball players, beach pictures, animals and more. Each year I taught, I updated my board with a current photo of my favorite NCAA team, University of Maryland Women's Basketball team, the Terrapins (U of MD team) and the WNBA team, the Washington Mystics. A small basketball net was always part of my classroom as was an autographed basketball. Just as we hopefully surround children with pictures and items of people and things they love, I believe strongly in the “bringing yourself to work” idea. Children naturally ask questions about the photos and items their teachers share in the classroom. These questions prompt the discussion and further exploration.
Special events: Sometimes teachers introduce a topic important to them as part of a special event to inspire children’s interest. One teacher who is very much interested in environmental awareness used Earth Day as a way to introduce recycling and caring for the school surroundings. Interesting questions evolved from this, including one on “how do you know what is trash?”
Passions teachers and children share: Caring for animals was always an ongoing topic of investigation in my classroom as we had animals that needed attention and, as one three year old said, needed “love”. Each year I found that the passion for pets and caring for animals was one that the children and I shared.
Do you have plans for sharing your passions this year? What are they?
We just wrapped up our very first International Institute which took place August 19-23rd at NAEYC Headquarters in Washington, DC. Nine leaders from six countries gathered for this five-day intensive event to learn about and share best practices for creating and supporting comprehensive early childhood systems.
We were truly humbled by the overwhelming enthusiasm of the participants who remained energized and engaged throughout the week. We shared, discussed, and explored NAEYC position statements, program accreditation standards, books, periodicals, and many other NAEYC resources. These presentations facilitated participants’ thinking about early childhood systems development in their countries.
From their unique cultural context, participants from The Philippines, Brazil, The Cayman Islands, Inner Mongolia, Panama, Saudi Arabia, and United Arab Emirates shared their strengths, lessons learned, and diverse approaches for supporting early childhood development. It is clear that as early childhood educators and advocates, we have a shared vision for young children and their families, despite the long distances between our home countries and the varying cultural perspectives from which we view the world.
We have much in common, As early childhood educators we all feel pressure to support families in understanding the importance of developmentally appropriate practices. Like parents here in the United States, parents across the globe are increasingly concerned that their young children learn reading and math skills in ways that are not aligned with their children's stage of development. Identifying resources that can help educators support parents’ understanding of appropriate learning activities in ways that truly prepare young children for academic success is a continuing challenge. As a group, we explored how NAEYC resources could help to address this challenge.
In our discussions throughout the week, we confirmed that early childhood educators in the US and around the world care deeply about their work and value membership in professional associations like NAEYC. Although NAEYC is a national association representing primarily US educators, there is great interest in the association in other countries. Participants in NAEYC’s International Institute believe there is a role for the association in their countries as well as the larger global community.
The time we spent together this August will lead to quality enhancements in the early childhood programs we touch. The Institute deepened our conviction for advocacy on behalf of all young children and their families.
I look forward to sharing more about NAEYC’s international efforts as they unfold.
Have you talked to early childhood educators from other countries? What did you find you had in common?
Director, Quality Enhancements Initiative
TYC contributors Louis Mark Romei, Holly Seplocha, and Laura Colker answered the question: "What's your advice for a new preschool teacher?" as part of a Q&A on Back to School Strategies. Together they shared 10 tips.
|Teaching Young Children|
Read the latest issue of TYC.
Each issue provides useful, research-based ideas and activities that preschool teachers, educators, and PreK teachers can use in their classrooms.
What's your advice for a new teacher? Share your thoughts below.
The June 2013 issue of Teaching Young Children (TYC) features a Q&A about teachers and cell phones. NAEYC Author Holly Elissa Bruno (What You Need to Lead an Early Childhood Program: Emotional Intelligence in Practice) also adds her thoughts about teachers using their personal cell phones in the classroom. What are your thoughts on teachers having cell phones in the classroom? Does your program have a policy on personal cell phone use?
Q: Dear Director Danni,
My coworkers and I often use our smartphones as resource tools. Although our program policy requires teachers to leave their smartphones in the staff room, I think we’re missing out. We could use the phones to capture the children in action, play new songs, email photos of children to theirfamilies, and more. How can we work with our director to make smartphones a tool in the classroom?
A: Dear Inquiring Teacher,
I agree that smartphone technology is wonderful! In the classroom, you can use it to document class projects and children’s developmental milestones; deliver literature, music, and other content in new ways; and communicate quickly with families—both with words and images. And, of course it lets you keep in constant touch with friends!
Oh, wait. That last one is the problem, isn’t it?
People are used to texting, posting, and calling at all times. Sometimes they can’t resist the temptation to do it while at work. I’ll bet you know at least one colleague with this problem. Such minor but frequent distractions are harmful to a safe and productive classroom environment. It’s also hard to monitor. Frustrated directors have responded with blanket prohibitions on personal phones in the classroom.
Here’s another problem: It is not appropriate for teachers to use their personal smartphones to record children in the classroom. There are confidentiality issues related to pictures, video clips, and emails on personal devices. For example, you might accidentally share a child’s photo on a social networking site that would probably make families uncomfortable - and should concern you, too.
Besides, I think programs—not individual staff—should carry the cost of all equipment used for teaching and learning. If smartphone technology brings good tools to the classroom, then the program needs to invest in those tools. Ask your director if the program can purchase tablets for each classroom. They have the same functionality as smartphones (except for the phoning) and can be setup to support communications from the program’s email address. Tablet prices are coming down rapidly. Even if your director looked at this option a few months ago, have him or her look again.
What are your thoughts on teachers having cell phones in the classroom? Does your program have a policy on personal cell phone use?
With so much to see and do, attending the NAEYC Annual Conference & Expo can be both exciting and daunting! To make the most of your experience, it’s important to have a game plan. Here are some tips* for what to do before, during, and after the conference. We want to hear from you, too, so share your tips below.
Before the Conference
Decide what you want to get from the conference and what your goals are.
Use the Itinerary Planner to prepare your schedule. Think about: the topics most relevant to your work, the sessions that address your professional development needs, and which special events you want to attend. Include time to explore the Exhibit Hall, network with others, and explore Washington DC.
Need to document your conference attendance to meet program or state requirements? Find out in advance what is required so you can get credit for participating.
Plan to attend the Newcomer’s Orientation session, on Thursday morning, if this will be your first time at the conference.
Decide how you will organize the information and handouts you’ll collect at the conference.
Pack business cards or address labels with your contact information to share with all the new colleagues you’re going to meet.
Pack comfortable clothes and shoes. Leave enough room in your suitcase to carry your materials and purchases home, or plan to mail them back.
During the Conference
Dress in layers so you can stay comfortable.
Get as much out of the sessions as possible.
Ask questions, respond to presenters, and get clarification if there’s something you don’t understand.
Take part in small group activities and discussions.
Talk to other attendees and share your contact information to stay in touch after the conference.
Give yourself plenty of time to explore the Exhibit Hall. Carry water and snacks with you. Know that some men’s restrooms will be converted to women’s restrooms in the convention center to accommodate the large number of female participants. Male attendees should find out early where the “nonconverted men’s rooms” are.
If you have a problem and don’t know how to solve it, go to the NAEYC Conference Headquarters (Room 102B, Washington Convention Center) for assistance.
Pace yourself so that you have almost as much energy by the end of the conference as you had at the beginning.
After the Conference
Take time to unwind and decompress!
Catch up on your responsibilities at work and at home before planning how you’ll share what you’ve learned.
Organize your handouts, business cards, and notes.
Make copies of handouts to share with colleagues.
*Includes ideas from an article that appeared in the September 2005 issue of Young Children on pages 68-71, by Margaret A. McGuire.
How do you prepare for the NAEYC Annual Conference? What tips do you have for maximizing your conference participation? How do you share information with colleagues when you return home?
Superhero Play has been in the news recently. We're very excited about the upcoming book, Beyond Remote-Controlled Childhood: Teaching Young Children in the Media Age, by Diane Levin being published by NAEYC.
The book addresses many topics related to children and media consumption. In one chapter the author offers guidance for teachers on how to address issues that might arise when children engage in superhero play in the classroom. Here's an excerpt:
Share With Families How You Address Media and Technology and Why
If you have a regular newsletter or blog for your classroom, or your school sends out newsletters or other regular communication to families, create a feature about media and technology issues. For instance, you can include the following:
- What media and technology you use in the classroom and how and why you use it
- How you help children process specific content issues from the media that they bring into the classroom—for example, through art, play, or discussion
- Media issues that come up in your setting that are cause for concern
Tell parents about media-related topics and concerns that come up in the classroom with their own children as well as with the class as a whole. Describing your concern and how and why you are addressing it models strategies families might use at home. For example, if you describe specific rules and routines—such as deciding with the children that they can play superheroes outside but not inside - families may be inspired to try similar strategies at home.
Have you addressed superhero play in the classroom? Have you shared information about your approach with families? Share your experiences below.
|Isauro Michael Escamilla, M.A., an Early Childhood Education Teacher Researcher from the San Francisco Unified School District, spoke at the closing session of NAEYC’s Institute for Professional Development in San Francisco this year. We are pleased to be able to share a particularly moving excerpt below.|
I Dream of the Day
by Isauro Michael Escamilla, M.A.
I dream of the day when all the schools are designed keeping in mind that these spaces are for active, inventive, creative children, full of life.
I dream of the day when all the schools include a school yard garden and when all the children are served fresh, organic, healthy foods, three times a day.
I dream of the day when parents are given enough time to bond with their newborn children without the fear of losing their jobs or a paycheck.
I dream of the day when all teachers and home care providers get the training they need, the financial compensation they should have and the respect they deserve.
I dream of the day when bilingual children are given credit for preserving their home language and culture, instead of being placed in special education classes under the assumption that they suffer from a language delay.
I dream of the day when young children are given the opportunity to express their knowledge and understanding not only through the spoken language, but also through the language of painting, drawing, music, movement, poetry, sculpture, photography and many other languages.
I dream of the day when education in the early years is a memorable, enjoyable, exciting experience for children and their families.
I dream of the day when schools are the place where children, families, and educators see themselves as both teachers and learners with the power to both acquire and generate new knowledge.
I dream of the day when schools for young children are considered cocoons, where creativity finds its wings, and where no child is bullied for being different.
I know that if we work together, today is the day when we can start making some of these dreams come true.
What are your dreams?
We hope you'll share your dreams by posting a comment below.
This post is from authors Amy Laura Dombro, Judy Jablon, and Charlotte Stetson.
We’ve been very excited about readers’ responses to our book, Powerful Interactions: How to Connect with Children to Extend Their Learning, published in 2011. Shortly after the book came out, we received emails through our website from early childhood program directors, teachers, and others wanting to use Powerful Interactions in book groups. They asked us to post study group questions on our website. We organized the questions around the three steps of Powerful Interactions: Be Present, Connect, and Extend Learning. Members of study groups have told us that they read sections of the book at each group meeting and then use the questions to guide discussion and sharing.
A Strengths-Based Approach
In our book we talk about the value of “instant replay.” Although this process is not actually “instant,” the purpose of this term is to convey that using photos and video lets you focus on your actions and words to reflect on your interactions in greater detail. We encourage study groups to come prepared to try this practice during their meetings. It is so much easier to notice the little details of what you say and do when you can actually look at them carefully with colleagues.
We emphasize using a strengths-based approach when talking about photos and videos. Focusing on strengths allows teachers to become more consciously competent about what they do well. In addition, when group members work together, they notice strategies that others do well that they haven’t ever tried before. Sometimes people ask: “What about talking about what you didn’t do well?” The fact is that we perform many actions without knowing that we’re doing them. Focusing on strengths is more motivating than looking at deficits. Moreover, it models what we believe about working with children. Focus on strengths and build upon them! Here’s how “I notice” statements work:
• “I notice that the teacher is smiling. Her warm and friendly expression helps the child feel safe and secure.”
• “I notice that the teacher is at the same eye level as the child. This promotes respect.”
• “I notice that the teacher and the child are both laughing. Shared or ‘mirrored’ affect or emotion strengthens the relationship between them.”
Mirror Talk and Using Rich Vocabulary Instead of Quizzing
We’ve also encouraged study groups to practice two Extend Learning strategies—Mirror Talk and Use Rich Vocabulary—by talking about photographs in the book Powerful Interactions or about photographs they have taken in their own classrooms.
Study group members look at photos that depict children and teachers together in the classroom and discuss how the teachers in the photos could use mirror talk (commenting on what the child is doing) in a way that incorporates rich vocabulary.
Example 1: Study group members look at a photo of a teacher sitting beside a child who is painting. They discuss Mirror Talk a teacher in a similar situation could try such as: “I see you are using your paintbrush to make long, wavy strokes.” (The first part of the sentence is the mirror talk. ‘The words, “Long wavy strokes” are the rich vocabulary).
Example 2: Study group members look at another photo in which a teacher sits beside a child building with magnetic tiles. They discuss Mirror Talk a teacher in a similar situation could try such as: "You have put together four triangles of different colors to create a square.” (Here “You have put together” is the mirror talk, and the word “create” “triangles” and “square” are the rich vocabulary.)
Many teachers say that they are quick to jump to quiz questions (questions that have one short answer, such as “What color is this?” or “How many bears do you have?”) when talking with children instead of using Mirror Talk. Some say that “Mirror Talk” is a hard habit to form. Others joke that asking quiz questions is a hard habit to break!
Reflecting on Videos
One study group decided to use videos as a major part of their work. During an initial session together, they watched video clips of children playing alone. They discussed what they might have to think, say, and do to be present and connect with each of these children if they were to join them.
- If they paused to observe for a moment before joining the child, what might they be thinking and feeling based on what they saw the child doing?
- What were some different ways they might join a child and connect?
o Smiling and saying hi
o Greeting the child by name
After a few sessions, they began experimenting with being videotaped and videotaping each other. Using a strengths-based approach, they analyzed the videos, looking for the three steps of Powerful Interactions. They also considered other strategies that could have been used. At the close of the study group, each member wrote a personal commitment statement about the strategy they would work on during the next month.
Study Groups in Action
The Professional Development Institute at City University of New York (CUNY) organized a four-session study group series for directors and providers from sites around New York City. We created a guide for them to use that includes four key ideas from the book. Each section of the guide has discussion questions, a small group activity for reflection, and then a suggestion to bring back to their setting for practice.
The staff at The Children’s Museum in Indianapolis read the book together as the basis of discussion about how to facilitate responsive and extraordinary interactions among the families who visit.
Another colleague, Marilyn Brink at NatureStart Program in Chicago (a program of the Chicago Zoological Society) has incorporated Powerful Interactions in her organization’s work. She recently shared with us that she will be teaching a week-long course at the zoo and using Powerful Interactions as the “perfect resource for supporting their ‘Talking With Young Children’ component.”
The leader of one Connecticut study group asked another teacher in the group why Powerful Interactions are important to her. She replied, “Powerful Interactions are a catalyst for creating a great learning environment.”
We’d love to hear from you about how you’ve used the book. Have you formed a study group to discuss Powerful Interactions? How did it go? How are Powerful Interactions important for you?