Supporting English Language Learners in the Preschool Classroom

Supporting English Language Learners in the
Preschool Classroom>>DR. JEFFREY TRAWICK-SMITH (Host): Most
classrooms include children who speak a language other than English. Preschool professionals
are challenged to work effectively with young children who may not understand much English
at all. How can teachers best support the English language learners in their classrooms?
Bilingual education expert Dr. Ann Anderberg offers us great suggestions for working with
English language learners and their families.>>DR. ANN ANDERBERG (Expert): Teachers do
not need to speak the native language in order to support its development and also to help
transfer those skills to English. The underlying skills that children acquire in their first
language are similar.>>BETH MARTIN (Teacher): We have a lot of
parents that speak a variety of languages other than English or Spanish at our school.
For example, Urdu, Persian, Arabic, Chinese. What I notice about the English language learners
at the beginning of the school year is that they are nervous and scared but as are all
the rest of the children. They’re probably a little more quiet, though, than the English
speakers, and also very observant in watching what other kids are doing so that they know
what’s coming next and watching what I’m doing so that they can get any type of clue
that they possibly can from my gestures, or from the picture schedules that I’m offering
so that they know what’s coming next and so that they can learn the routine.>>DR. ANDERBERG: It wouldn’t be unusual for
a child to arrive in a classroom not speaking any English in an all English environment it ís
very natural for students to engage in a silent period. During that silent period, what’s
really happening is they are acquiring the sounds of that new language.>>Teacher: That’s how you go to the park?
On a bicycle?>>Child: Yeah.
>>Teacher: Yeah?>>DR. ANDERBERG: Most preschool teachers are
very good at extending talk and trying to elicit conversations with children so that
they draw out more and more information by asking questions, by finishing off sentences
for children, by just helping them to create more language.>>Teacher: These are different kind of scissors.
>>Child: Girls.>>Teacher: Theyíre girls’? What makes it
a girl’s scissor?>>DR. ANDERBERG: Ultimately what we want is
for the children to be talking, talking to themselves, talking to us, talking to each
other, and using the language themselves.>>Child: It’s a pizza de apple
>>Teacher: It is. It’s a pizza of apples, but you call that an apple pie.>>DR. ANDERBERG: Two strategies that are very
powerful in oral language development are parallel talk and self-talk. Parallel talk
is when I am sitting next to a child and I am basically narrating what that child is
doingólike a play-by-play description of their activity.>>Teacher: You put that on top of the girlís
head. And you put the legs under the girlís body.>>DR. ANDERBERG: Self talk is actually doing
that for what I’m doing.>>Teacher: Open, close. Open, close. Open,
close, stop.>>DR. ANDERBERG: And by doing that, it makes
a very tight link between the language and the actions.>>Teacher: Pato, amarillo. In English, yellow, duck.>>BETH MARTIN: We have different techniques
that help that, help them to use more of the English language and also encouraging them to play
together in the dramatic play area.>>NARRATOR: Another effective strategy is
what’s called the Total Physical Response Technique.>>BETH MARTIN: Total physical response strategies
include using your body. If youíre going to be teaching about verbs, do the actions
that you want them to learn.>>NARRATOR: Total Physical Response, or TPR,
builds on the relationship between language and movement. Total physical response teaches
children language in the same natural way that parents model language to their young
children. As the teacher speaks, she acts out the language to make meaning clear, and
expects no oral response from the child.>>NARRATOR: Another helpful strategy for supporting
English language learners it to learn a little about the children’s native languages, including
a few key words and phrases.>>Teacher: This book is in English, and this
book is in Spanish. What’s happening on the cover of these books?
>>Child: They’re giving besos.>>Teacher: They’re getting KISSES, right?
Besos is kiss in Spanish?>>DR. ANDERBERG: Some languages may share
cognates; that can be a very powerful tool for children to learn vocabulary. True cognates
are words that has the same meaning in both languages and are basically the same. So for
example the word animal and animal in Spanish, same word, they’re a cognate, they have the
same meaning. However, often if we don’t point it out to them, they don’t make that
connection. Once it’s explicitly explained, the children can begin to make those connections
for themselves.>>NARRATOR: Teachers can support families
in their understanding that their childís learning their first language will build a
solid foundation for learning English.>>DR. ANDERBERG: Native language proficiency
is very important for children because they can transfer the skills that are involved
in that to their second language. Families should be encouraged to support that first
language and be assured that it will support the child’s English language acquisition
at the appropriate time. [Girl and her father speak Chinese while reading.]>>NARRATOR: Families are encouraged to engage
in oral language and read to their child in whatever language is spoken in the home. One
great way to encourage parents to do this is with rhymes and songs in their native language.>>Class: Dos, tres>>NARRATOR: With support from her family and
teachers, the child learns to speak both languages and is preparing to read and write in both
languages.>>DR. ANDERBERG: At the end of the day, the
most important thing or the best practices are very playful interactions with children
around storytelling, storybook reading, rhyming, oral language, really rich conversations, those
are the same things that will help second language learners in their first language
as well.

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