Fast 5 Gamechangers- Preschool Science Learning for DLLs
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Science is a great subject for early learning because it is hands-on and includes language, literacy, math, and other learning domains. But, how can teachers make science learning meaningful for children who don’t speak the same language? There are plenty of options for science explorations. The key to succeeding with (dual language learners) DLLs is not to cling to your usual activities, but to try new activities that make more sense with diverse learners. Try these tips!
Focus on activities that are linked to real life experiences that children can recognize and connect with their prior knowledge. Look for materials that children already understand so they don’t depend on explanations. Ex: Explore how food grows, where it grows, which animals eat what, and how we use science to prepare foods.
Learn key vocabulary in the children’s home languages so you can explicitly connect the new words to words they already understand. Home language vocabulary is connected to a collection of concepts, so linking home language to new has lots of learning benefits. Ex. “This is a little frog. In Spanish we say la ranita. La ranita is a little frog – let’s all jump like a frog together.” This is more than translation – it helps the child take everything he knows about frogs and transfer it to his new language.
Assign science buddies (peers or adult volunteers) to work together so children can have interesting conversations about their discoveries, even if you don’t understand what they say. Be sure to record the interactions so someone can help you translate and assess the level of each child’s learning.
Use digital resources to support topics you want to explain or discuss. Choose topics that you can find on Youtube.com, Teachertube.org, or National Geographic’s website, for example, so children can see the process that you are trying to explain.
Learn a few key questions in the languages of the children so you can guide their thinking and let them continue independently. Ex. What do you think will happen next? How does this feel or smell? Encourage children to answer in any language – or even with drawings – to express their knowledge.
Now – dig in and have fun with science learning that works for DLLs! (A longer version of this article appears on the website of the National Science Teachers Association – click here!)