Supporting Dual-Language Learners

Teachers have so many questions about working with children who speak different languages.  Experts recommend that preschool DLLs should continue learning in their home languages while they are also learning English.  In many cases, there will be three, four or more languages in one room and teachers feel overwhelmed.   There is one strategy that all early childhood educators can use to build support for each child’s home language:  Make parents your teaching partners!  While it is important to incorporate the languages and cultures of the children in their preschool environment, a lot of support for early language and literacy can take place at home as well.  Here are some ideas to set the stage for a successful blend of home and school supports for home languages.


*  Make it clear in your literature, website and interviews that your program values and depends on the family of each child as partners in the learning process.


*  Have literacy activity workshops, lunch-and-learn meetings, library visits, or informal conversations until you have reached every parent with things they can do to build home language learning.


*  Parents may need to see how you read to children with enthusiasm, expression, silly voices and actions.


*  They may need explicit instructions about how to talk through a wordless book if they don’t feel confident in their own literacy.


*  Give clear examples of the kinds of questions and discussions they can have about books, stories and daily activities.


*  Help every family get a library card and bring them in to meet the librarians so they can feel comfortable.


*  Have a varied and interesting take-home lending library in your building so there are always new books to try.


*  Share brief video or audio clips of the kinds of conversations you have with children to model the rich, engaging give-and-take that can happen at home as well.


These strategies will provide a major boost to the language and literacy development of your dual language learners – but wouldn’t it be wonderful for all of the children if their parents received this type of intentional support and encouragement?

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