Literacy Strategies That a Teacher Who Does Not Speak the Language Can Use
Learning to read or write using another language can be influenced by numerous skills that a learner utilizes in the first language. In early childhood education, children develop knowledge through their native languages, as they listen and talk to adults at home. As children proceed to school, they may find that their teachers do not talk the same language as their parents. Young children have the capacity to understand more than one language, which is beneficial to their language development, but teachers who use English as their first language need to develop strategies to deal with children whose English is their second language. Such children can develop language skills through peer interaction, where follow-up activities and demonstrations assist in mastering the language. This study will focus on strategies that teachers of young second-language learners can use to enhance literacy development in school, as well as in the community.
Teaching English as a Second Language to Children
The capacity for teachers to support literacy development for pre-school learners who speak different languages from the one that the teachers are using depends on the knowledge of the language by the teachers. Most children begin to gain a considerable experience with language at the age of three, as this is the time that they start demonstrating emergent literacy abilities (Anthony n.p). Children often demonstrate less embarrassment while talking or learning new language than adults, thus, most of them develop an accent that resemble their first language. Dealing with three-year old children requires the pre-k teacher to show them how to recognize and name upper and lower case letter, which assists in associating letters with their sounds. Children need multiple exposures to words in order to develop a strong understanding of their meanings and use. This can be achieved through writing simple words on the blackboard for the children to see and recognize the differences in terms of arrangement of alphabets.
Pre-kindergarten teachers should begin introducing language study from what children are already familiar with as they grow up. This will assist children to utilize the knowledge of native language to learn English language, especially through studying cognates (Shatz and Wilkinson 98). Pre-k teachers should endeavor to activate the existing knowledge that is related to the topics under study. Most pre-kindergarten teachers utilize graphic organizers, which include word walls, planning webs, and question lists. This strategy enables pre-k teachers to focus on the instructional goals, instead of implant too much new information within a short time. By using the webs, teachers can use English language, but accept the child’s response in any language to ensure that all children understand what is being discussed. If a child opts to name a picture using his/her first language, another child can rename the picture using the second language, thus, giving all children a chance to understand what others already know.
In an environment where native-speaking children are learning English as their second language, teachers can think of demonstrations as a strategy to master the language. Demonstrations allow English-language learners (ELLs) to listen to their teachers, or other children, who speak English as their first language. Follow-up activities in forms of demonstrations can assist children at the pre-kindergarten level to master a new language. At this level, children are capable of sharing and listening while in small groups that has other children whose English is their first language. Demonstration offers guided practice to ELLs, and the pre-k teacher can observe and evaluate their learning, present feedback, and strengthen learners as the embrace the new behavior (Helman 240). Demonstration activities include read-aloud, video clips, wall charts, and gestures.
Direct teaching of concepts is essential in understanding vocabulary. Children are unlikely to understand a language through hearing quick stream of words, but rather explicit and systematic instruction through demonstration. Pre-k teachers should work on using short sentences in present tense, and exercise various mediums to pass information. Learning cognates, prefixes, suffixes, as well as root words, can enhance the capacity to make sense of different words. Pre-k teachers should avoid using metaphors, as this could create confusion to ELLs. Word walls will also offer a direct way of arranging words using alphabetical order where children can access them with ease. Activities that would involve explicit instruction include offering reading directions, pattern drills, task procedures, and understanding graphics.
Children usually learn many things in school and at home through observation. The theory of constructivism asserts that children learn through adapting to what they see or hear, and will actively deduce meaning out of their observations. Role-play can assist children in mastering language in a mixed language environment, since they can relate their language to a chosen scenario in a play. Playing matching games is essential in matching words with pictures. Play is where children start learning how to read and write. In addition, play connects children to their immediate personal world. Pre-kindergarten teachers should ensure that children are engaged in a play so that they can learn from other children who use English as their first language. These children become their role model in the mastery of language.
Pre-kindergarten teachers can guide ELLs to form heterogeneous groups that can assist them in understanding English language. Small groups create low-anxiety environments within the classroom where learners can sharpen oral language through listening, reading, and speaking. The teacher can supervise the groups and offer feedback after each lesson. Learners in small groups are encouraged to ask their teachers questions concerning sections that they do not understand. The pre-k teacher can engage small groups into perspective line-ups and poster projects to support language interaction. The teacher is capable of recognizing the groups that encounter difficulties and work on strategies to enhance their level of understanding. The teacher also gets the chance to control children’s behavior while children are more likely to follow instructions when working as groups rather than individually.
Repetition of words is a strategy that assists children in comprehending words and using them in numerous situations. Repetition of words helps in forming patterns that children can understand with ease while being given the chance to ask questions on the meaning of certain words. When children repeat words more than once, they can utilize them in day-to-day activities because they know their meanings. Providing sufficient response time enables ELLs to think about the words in their native language, and process them into the required language.
Conceptualizing vocabulary and making use of vocabulary instruction can help children to make sense of their world. In this case, vocabulary involves words that children must grasp in order to communicate effectively. By understanding common words in a language, teachers can assist children to make connections to concepts, in addition to comprehending text (Neuman and Dwyer 385). While using vocabulary words, teachers should be systematic and explicit to enable children to have plenty of opportunity to make use of vocabulary words within the classroom environment. The pre-k teacher can divide the class into different groups and select some text for each group. They should monitor the progress of children, as they offer further instructions on the use of vocabulary. They should also create an opportunity to review the use of previously learned expressions. Some activities to master vocabulary words include use of vocabulary journals and word walls; word analysis such dissecting words into prefix, root, and suffix; and dictation.
Pre-kindergarten teachers can utilize scaffolding technique to give support to learners who are struggling to understand some concepts in the second language. Visualization in scaffolding supports vocabulary development and relationship to real life situations. The teacher can give out information and request learners to respond by using graphic organizers, or charts. Read-aloud is part of scaffolding where children learn to pronounce words and understand different sounds in words. Read-aloud support engagement, enhances fluency in reading, and presents the learner with the text to work on. The pre-k teacher can guide children on which system to follow, as each learner should get a chance to read aloud while others are listening.
Pre-kindergarten teachers should construct questions based on the topic to be discussed. Questions offer children an opportunity to use the second language while talking to their teachers. Questions should be accompanied by illustrations to assist children understand the questions with ease. Children should not be asked to generate a question, but rather to complete a question. The teacher can write down questions, and then form a list of answers where learners can refer to fill in the gaps. Using gestures and objects can help children to gain extra clue about a word while having enough materials in the room ensures that children are comfortable with what they have. Even if the teacher does not understand the language of children, he/she can deal with individual child through showing pictures related to the question. Pre-k teachers should understand that children cannot advance at the same rate, thus, they should avoid labeling some children as slow learners.
Reader response theory is quite critical in assisting second language learners to gain understanding of English language. This theory involves connecting the readers with the text that they read. As learners read a text, a transaction occurs where the reader and the text constitute the literacy experience (Keengwe and Onchwari 56). The resulting transaction brings an aesthetic feeling, which is essential in advancing literacy skills. This theory allows teachers to avoid asking learners questions concerning realistic information from the text, but rather encourage them to scrutinize their own thoughts and inquiries concerning what they have read.
Engaging parents in the learning of second language can enhance children’s understanding of language through communication. Pre-k teachers should check the progress of children through their parents, as they endeavor to understand the culture of the children. Parents can contribute to their children’s development by ensuring that they undertake their homework before being allocate family chores. Engaging parents can help in integrating cultural experiences in children’s learning environment, where they can bring information about their homes and culture and expand their knowledge. Pre-k teachers can write words in the second language and advise children to consult their parents for the meaning of such words using their native languages. They should perceive cultural and linguistic diversities as resources instead of obstacles.
Although many features of effective instructions are applicable to all learners, instruction modifications are extremely necessary for ELLs. Thus, pre-k teachers should modify instruction to cater for learners’ language limitations (Goldenberg 18). Recycling new and key words is necessary for understanding vocabulary words. Although the teacher can allow for discovery learning, he/she can offer instructions on how to accomplish a given task. Both first and second language teachers should demonstrate to learners how to systematize information, and how to choose main ideas from a text. ELLs do not develop at the same pace, thus, teachers should assess them individually, rather than as a group.
My experience as a pre-k teacher for the last two years has been promising, despite a few challenges in dealing with children. My class has three ELLs whose primary language is Spanish while some parents that I deal with do not speak English. In addition, my fellow teacher does not know Spanish, but we have to follow the school curriculum. After working through the strategies necessary for a teacher who does not speak the language of the children, I have come to realize that both first and second language learners go through the same problems in understanding of language. Hence, both first and second language teachers are qualified to teach ELLs.
At the pre-kindergarten class, children share information and concentrate on listening during follow-up activities, particularly when placed in small groups that talk the same language. Group activities have helped children to be keen on their studies, since they can copy what others in the group are doing. Demonstrations are critical for second language learners, as they have the chance to sharpen their speaking and listening skills. The teacher can demonstrate the process of making toys by using a simple language, and accompany his words with illustrations. Role-play is essential in literacy development of children, since they are fond of emulating what others are doing. Repeating of word severally has helped ELLs to understand patterns and sounds of word, thus, making it easier to use in communication.
Despite facing language barriers in dealing with children using English as their second language, I have witnessed change of behavior among them. Applying the appropriate strategies has helped children to understand English efficiently through reading and writing. Accepting diversity in the classroom has enabled us to treat all children equally and avoid labeling others as slow learners. My colleague and I managed to learn a few Spanish words through interacting with Spanish-speaking children. Parents have supported my effort by ensuring that children are working on their assignments. Interacting with Spanish speaking learners has helped me in understanding their culture and relating some of the classroom activities to the Spanish culture.
Pre-kindergarten teachers usually encounter numerous challenges as they teach children second language. Most children begin demonstrating emergent literacy abilities by the age of three, and this is the appropriate time to introduce them to languages. Children who speak native languages may feel as if they belong to another country when a teacher who does not talk their language gives instructions to them. Hence, pre-k teacher has to implement strategies that can accommodate such children in a class environment. Starting from what children already know can assist in understand new words and interpreting native words into English language. Explicit and systematic instructions that are accompanied by demonstrations can be utilized to learn vocabulary words. Many activities that children learn from at this age is through observation, thus, word walls, models, and charts, are crucial in advancing communication skills to children.
Anthony, Michelle. “Language and Literacy Development in 3-5 Year Olds.” Scholastic, Parents (2015). Web. 13 April 2015. http://www.scholastic.com/parents/resources/article/stages-milestones/language-and-literacy-development-3-5-year-olds
Goldenberg, Claude. “Teaching English language learners.” American Educator (2008). Web. 14 April 2015. http://www.aft.org/sites/default/files/periodicals/goldenberg.pdf
Gordon, Tatiana. Teaching Young Children a Second Language. Westport, Conn: Praeger Publishers, 2006. Print.
Helman, Lori. Literacy Development with English Learners: Research-based Instruction in Grades K-6. New York: Guilford Press, 2009. Print.
Keengwe, Jared, and Grace Onchwari. Cross-cultural Considerations in the Education of Young Immigrant Learners. Hershey, PA: Information Science Reference, 2014. Print.
Neuman, Susan B., and Julie Dwyer. “Missing In Action: Vocabulary Instruction In Pre-K.” Reading Teacher 62.5 (2009): 384-392. Professional Development Collection. Web. 13 Apr. 2015.
Shatz, Marilyn, and Louise C. Wilkinson. The Education of English Language Learners: Research to Practice. New York: Guilford Press, 2010. Print.