Strategies that Work with Multiple Languages – A Resource Collection

preschool resources for multiple languages.

image by Bigstock.com

We all know that the appearance of multiple languages and cultures is growing in early childhood education. In the past, children with different languages might have been the responsibility of a specialist like an ESL teacher or certified bilingual education teacher.  Now, most early childhood educators work with students from different language backgrounds at some level. I created a collection of some of my favorite resources on the Bloomboard.com website that can help any teacher of young children
be more confident and more successful with a classroom full of different languages. My collection is called Strategies that Work in Classrooms with Multiple Languages.  Bloomboard provides educators with a platform to create and share collections of resources that answer key questions in their work. So, I thought I would give it a try. My collection is based on the notion that, regardless of the topic or the curriculum, there are four key points that can help teachers succeed with DLLs in early education:

  1. Understand that the brain is wired to learn language in the context of interactions and meaningful content across multiple exposures. Words introduced in isolation usually won’t be remembered. Words learned in one activity should be practiced at other times in other contexts to ensure they really stick.
  2. Understand that support of the child’s home language helps him or her comprehend the content and, therefore, supports the learning of English.
  3. At times when you can’t provide direct support for the child’s home language, you should focus on making the presentation of information in English as accessible as possible with visual supports and cues.
  4. With some preparation and support, families can be excellent educational partners to help build their child’s home language and literacy that provide a foundation for their learning of English.

Brain development is certainly a hot topic in education right now. Understanding how the brain processes and learns language is an important part of that topic and that understanding really shows in effective programs for young children that speak different languages. This collection includes a link to a TED Talk by Dr. Patricia Kuhl showing her research in this area. It is a great conversation starter for a staff meeting or parents’ night. The role of person to person interaction in language development is made very clear.

What does it mean to “support” a child’s home language? That’s a complicated question that depends on the needs of the children and the language resources available to the teacher. With equal numbers of teachers that speak the languages of the children in the program and equal curriculum materials in both languages, a dual language program can be very effective. But, even when those resources are not available, teachers can support learning in the languages the children need.  The important thing is to provide support that is authentic and meaningful – not superficial or stereotypical. Bloomboard has many collections that can help with ideas and resources, such as “Look I’m a doctor, look I’m a giraffe: Pretend Play in Early Childhood.”

For young children, it is really important that their teacher learns to say a few words in their language. This contributes to that human connection that the brain craves in the language learning process. Young children have so many adjustments to make as they start school, especially when their school environment is going to be hard to understand due to language differences. A teacher trying out some of their language is so much more supportive than just putting up a couple of posters with words on them. Additional strategies for introducing the child’s language can be found in the audio, video, and print resources in my collection.

A well-equipped classroom is like a teaching partner in early childhood education. Look for bilingual books, but don’t stop there. Consider the goal of providing multiple opportunities for children to practice using the new vocabulary they are learning in their home language and in English. Use real items for props, activities and projects to build on what is already understood by the children. Include digital tools such as apps that are available in different languages or apps that allow adults and children to record stories in their own languages. Suggestions are included in my Bloomboard collection.

When you focus on helping each child understand what’s happening in the classroom with the strategies and materials suggested here, a complex issue can become manageable and diverse children can be successful. Authentic cultural and language connections enhance the learning in the context of informative and engaging interactions, and all children benefit from learning a new language.

Next up in this Bloomboard blog series is a post from the Council for Economic Education! They are a nonprofit that provides economic and financial education for K-12 students across the U.S..

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