bububooks

Helping children develop their American and native cultural identities together.

Archive for the ‘Trends in Education’ Category

You Can Lead a Child to Books…

Posted by bububooks on March 6, 2010

Language Magazine’s Editorial in the January 2010 issue focused on the importance of enjoying reading in order to develop literacy skills.  I really liked the editor’s viewpoint and got permission to reprint the article here for you.  If you’d like more information on or to subscribe to Language Magazine: The Journal of Communication and Education, please visit their website, www.languagemagazine.com.

Language and literacy are the tools with which knowledge is built.  Without their acquisition, no child has the chance to become an astronaut, a scientist, a doctor, a movie star, or even a musician.  Without aspirations, children cannot flourish and life loses some of its magic.  Yet, we continue to deny so many of our children the opportunity to develop their own language and literacy skills by refusing them access to books that are suitable for them and might even excite them.
According to a newly released study (see News, p. 10 by the American Association of School Librarians (AASL), in more than 90 percent of school libraries, books in languages other than English account for less than five percent of the collection and, in nearly 60 percent of school libraries, they account for less than one percent. While nearly 14 percent of responding schools reported that at least 25 percent of their students were English Language Learners (ELLs) and a quarter of all respondents rated free-choice reading as the most effective ELL initiative.
Now, I can already hear the English-only brigade proclaiming that all books in school libraries in America should be in English because that’s the language spoken here, but even the most hardened English-only advocate must appreciate that children will never become literate in any language if they don’t enjoy reading. And reading in a second language is hard work at first —imagine being obliged to pick up War and Peace every night for your bedtime read.
Librarians consider “school-wide reading initiatives that encourage free choice reading” to be the most effective teaching strategy for ELLs. Many teachers and experts agree (see Opinion, p.26). Restocking our school and public libraries with books that will interest today’s kids is a relatively low cost policy with no drawbacks and an enormous upside. Not only is it a long term investment which will serve children for many years to come, but, for those who are counting, nearly all the money will end up with American publishers (yes, there are many American publishers of books in languages other than English) so the investment will satisfy stimulus package requirements.
Britain’s Cambridge University recently released the results of a three-year study (see News p.11) into elementary education, which warns “that prescribed pedagogy combined with high stakes testing and the national curriculum amounted to a ‘state theory of learning.’ Prepackaged, government approved lessons are not good for a democracy, nor for children’s education…Pupils do not learn to think for themselves if their teachers are expected to do as they are told.” This completely contradicts the blindly accepted notion that more standards and testing make better schools —the basis for the federal education funding.
Another $250 million was allocated to science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) teaching earlier this month. About the same amount of funding would buy an appropriate library book for every child in public school across the nation. Instead of pinning all its hopes of school reform success on standards, assessment, and incentive schemes, the government, like all wise investors, should spread its bets.

Daniel Ward, Editor

Advertisements

Posted in Trends in Education | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Upcoming Latino Children’s Literature Conference

Posted by bububooks on February 22, 2010

Hi there!  We wanted to share some information on an upcoming conference.  Let us know if you’re going!

Latino Children’s Literature Conference

photo of Latino Conference

National Latino Children’s Literature Conference: Connecting Culture & Celebrating cuentos
This April 23rd and 24th celebrate the rich traditions and diversity within the Latino cultures at the National Celebration of Latino Children’s Literature Conference. Discover how to meet the informational and literacy needs of Latino children via high quality, culturally-relevant literature and the latest educational strategies. Engage in unique networking opportunities with librarians, teachers, educators, and researchers from across the nation as we explore how to make intercultural connections and serve this rapidly growing, uniquely diverse population. 

As the number of Latino children and their families continues to increase, so does the need for understanding these diverse cultures.  This exclusive conference provides a forum for sharing current research and practice addressing the cultural, educational, and informational needs of Latino children and their families. At the same time, the conference also examines the many social influences that Latino children’s literature has upon the developing child. 

Beginning Friday April 23rd at 1 p.m. on the historical University of Alabama campus, nationally-recognized Latino children’s literature expert Oralia Garza de Cortés will launch the recurring conference theme “Connecting Cultures and Celebrating Cuentos” with a powerful keynote address. Participants will then have the opportunity to attend breakout sessions related to Latino children’s and young adult literature, library services to Latinos, and literacy education for Latino children.  Immediately following these small group sessions, award-winning Latina author Monica Brown and award-winning Latino artist Rafael López will discuss the collaborative synergy behind their work.

Friday evening, award-winning Latina author and storyteller Carmen Tafolla will celebrate El día de los niños/El día de los libros (Children’s Day/Book Day), Latino children’s literature, and cultural literacy with a free community event at the Tuscaloosa Public Library. This Noche de Cuentos (Evening of Stories) begins at 7 p.m. and includes storytelling, refreshments, and free books for the niños. 

On Saturday April 24th, Dr. Monica Brown energizes participants and opens the day’s events with a keynote address at Mary Hewell Alston Hall. Breakout sessions for both practitioners and researchers as well as graduate and undergraduate students will follow and include a variety of topics related to Latino children’s literature and literacy. Research posters will also be on display throughout the conference.

Lunch will be served at the Ferguson Center and will be followed by an engaging keynote at Mary Hewell Alston Hall with award-winning artist and illustrator Rafael López. Afterwards breakout sessions will include topics related to education, literacy, storytelling, and library services for Latino children. Storyteller and award-winning author Dr. Carmen Tafolla will bring down the house with a grand finale performance followed by a book signing with conference authors. Attendees will have additional opportunities to talk with first-time, Latina children’s literature authors: Jennifer Cervantes, Christina Diaz Gonzalez, and Guadalupe Garcia McCall. 

By attending the Connecting Cultures & Celebrating Cuentos Conference, you have the chance to meet award-winning Latino authors and illustrators, participate in exciting break-out sessions, engage in exclusive networking opportunities, and celebrate cultural literacy in a Día community event. Come deepen your understanding of the Latino cultures and celebrate their rich diversity within our classrooms and libraries. See you in April! 

Dr. Jamie C. Naidoo
SLIS Assistant & Foster-EBSCO Endowed Professor
Conference Chair

For more information and To Register for the Conference Please go to the official Conference webpage: http://www.latinochildlitconf.org/

Sponsored by the
School of Library and Information Studies
@ the University of Alabama

Posted in Trends in Education | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

NAEYC Themes, Part 6: Research, Facts and Things to Know about Dual Language Learners

Posted by bububooks on January 25, 2010

In the last (a short and sweet one!) of our blog series on common themes from the 2009 NAEYC’s annual conference, we present a hodge-podge of facts we gathered throughout that week in D.C.  Enjoy!

–Language acquisition depends not only on adequate hearing, the ability to differentiate sounds, and the capacity to link meaning to specific words, but also on the ability to concentrate, pay attention, and engage in meaningful social interaction.

–Learning a second language and learning to read are complex tasks influenced by cognitive, environmental and social factors.

–Bilingual Children
-Exhibit the same language milestones as monolingual children
-May acquire language at a slower rate and have more limited total vocabularies in each language
-Have a combined vocabulary in both languages likely to equal or exceed that of a child who speaks one language

–Preschoolers actively listen to and separate out two languages.  So we can use both languages interchangeably.

–Development of language and literacy in the home language (or first language) facilitates development of language and literacy in the second language and cognitive development.  Academic language ability takes 5-7 years.  Social language ability (i.e. Hello, how are you?) is easy to accomplish.

–For more current guidance, check out:
-Head Start Performance Standards and Head Start Dual Language Report (2008)
-Tabors, Patton O. One Child, Two Languages: Children Learning English as a Second Language. Paul H. Brookes Publishing, 2008.
-Igao, Cristina. The Inner World of the Immigrant Child. Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Publishers, 1995.
-Espinosa, Linda. Getting it RIGHT for Young Children from Diverse Backgrounds: Applying Research to Improve Practice. Prentice Hall, 2009.

Check out below for the sources of this blog:

1) Using standards-based curriculum to support language and literacy development for English-language learners.

Presented by:
Min-hua Chen, Education Specialist, Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education;
Vicky Milstein, Principal of Early Education, Brookline Public Schools;
Min-Jen Wu Taylor, Pre-K Teacher, Brookline Public Schools;
James StClair, Kindergarten Teacher, Cambridge Public Schools;
Sandra Christison, Kindergarten Teacher, Boston Public Schools.

They haven’t posted their slides yet, but if they do, you can find it here.

2) Home Language or English?  Implementing program policies and teaching strategies that meet the needs of dual-language learners

Presented by:
John Gunnarson, Napa Valley College.

Click here for his handout.

3) Getting it right for young children from diverse backgrounds: Applying research to improve practice

Presented by:
Dr Linda Espinosa, University of Missouri-Columbia.

She hasn’t posted her slides yet, but if she does, you can find it here.

Previous Blogs under the NAEYC Annual Conference Theme:
Part 1:  NAEYC Themes, Part 1: Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan’s Presentation
Part 2:  NAEYC Themes, Part 2: Build Positive Relationships with Dual-Language Learning Children
Part 3:  Common Theme #2:  Develop meaningful relationships with parents and families
Part 4:  Common Theme #3:  Communication strategies
Part 5:  Common Theme #4:  Support the home language and culture

Posted in Trends in Education | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

NAEYC Themes, Part 4: Communication Strategies for Working with Dual Language Learners

Posted by bububooks on January 5, 2010

Another common theme that surfaced at the National Association for the Education of Young Children Annual Conference dealt with plans and strategies for working with dual language learners.  This blog posting provides some tips you can actually use, along with recommendations on how to create a more explicit strategy.

Strategy

Regardless of what you choose to do, the key is to be deliberate, intentional and integrative in your strategy.  Remember, if you fail to plan, you plan to fail.  Create an explicit plan to integrate the needs of your dual language learners with the overall needs of your center.  Check out these steps below to aid in developing your plan.

  1. Consider completing a self-assessment checklist to help you determine where you are in your DLL strategy.  You can access the checklist here.
  2. Find out about the current guidelines for dual language programs.
  3. Analyze your current program needs, specifically the demographic makeup of your students, staff and maybe even growing trends in your area.
  4. Develop a policy for supporting and a plan on how to support dual language learners.  Get buy-in from management, staff and parents.
  5. Pursue and offer professional development for staff who work with dual language learning children.
  6. Collaborate with other services and supporters.

General Tips

Following are 10 tips for communicating with DLLs. Remember to develop a relationship with the child and their family (see Themes, Parts 2 and 3) in order to maximize that child’s potential.  From birth to age 3, children need face-to-face social interaction for language development.  DVDs do not work.

  1. Pair visual tools with oral and print cues.  For example, if you display the daily schedule in printed words (English), place visual pictures of the activities next to their corresponding words.  You can combine these cues in everything you do.  For example, use pictures, gestures and movements when talking to maximize all the cues.

For new language learners:

2. Simplify your language and slow down.
3. Do not assume that a child understands what you say.
4. Do not force the child to make eye contact with you.
5. Do not raise your volume when speaking or force the child to speak.
6. Allow plenty of time for the child to answer a question or wait a bit and then rephrase the question in simpler language.

A little later:

7. Listen for intent not grammar.
8. Accept all attempts.
9. Don’t overcorrect.
10. Never ask a child to say something in English. Let it be spontaneous.

Actual Tactics

Below are some tactics that other centers have used and that I found interesting.

  1. Create a bilingual book with the photo and name of every student in your center.  This book helps all the students—and even parents—get to know the names, including unfamiliar and foreign, of everyone else.
  2. If you have more than two languages in your center, consider using a word wall.  For example, display the word, hello, in every language represented (along with its Romanized pronunciation if it’s not a language with a Latin alphabet).  Also, during morning meeting, have the class say hello or good morning in each language represented in your class.
  3. Bring family members in to share things from their country. Take a photo and post it in the classroom.
  4. If you have a listening center, offer audio books in other languages or bilingually and make them available to all students.

These are some specific tactics I picked up during NAEYC.  Feel free to include them in your strategy, but don’t let them be your only strategy!  Best wishes to you and feel free to contact us for resources in developing your plan.  Also, please share what tactics have worked for you!

Happy New Year!

Check out below for the sources of this blog:

1) Using standards-based curriculum to support language and literacy development for English-language learners.

Presented by:
Min-hua Chen, Education Specialist, Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education;
Vicky Milstein, Principal of Early Education, Brookline Public Schools;
Min-Jen Wu Taylor, Pre-K Teacher, Brookline Public Schools;
James StClair, Kindergarten Teacher, Cambridge Public Schools;
Sandra Christison, Kindergarten Teacher, Boston Public Schools.

They haven’t posted their slides yet, but if they do, it will be available here.

2) Home Language or English?  Implementing program policies and teaching strategies that meet the needs of dual-language learners

Presented by:
John Gunnarson, Napa Valley College.

Click here for his handout.

3) Getting it right for young children from diverse backgrounds: Applying research to improve practice

Presented by:
Dr Linda Espinosa, University of Missouri-Columbia.

She hasn’t posted her slides yet, but if she does, they will be available here.

4) Supporting dual-language learners: Identifying strategies for implementing an effective program for a diverse population

Presented by:
Susan Goettl, Fairfax County Office for Children Head Start Program.

She hasn’t posted her slides yet, but if she does, they will be available here.

Upcoming Blogs under the NAEYC Annual Conference Theme:
Part 5:  Common Theme #4:  Support the home language and culture
Part 6:  Research, Facts and Things to Know about Dual Language Learners

Posted in Trends in Education | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

NAEYC Themes, Part 3: 10 Ways to Develop Meaningful Relationships with the Parents and Families of Dual-Language Learning Children

Posted by bububooks on December 28, 2009

Another theme that presented itself throughout various sessions at this year’s annual National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) conference the need for developing and maintaining a relationship with the parents and families of non-native English speakers.  You might think this concept is rather obvious; however, several barriers exist to prevent this relationship from blooming.

Barriers

Oftentimes, there is a perception that these parents lack interest in their child’s education and growth.  However, this perception can often be misguided.  In many cultures outside the United States, teachers are revered and getting involved in the classroom is seen as interfering with the teacher’s expert intentions and processes.  Therefore, parents try to stay out of the way of their children’s teachers.  You see that as lack of interest and involvement; they see it as respect.

Also, the notion of family involvement differs for social classes.  Just because a parent is not at a bake sale doesn’t mean they are not involved in their child’s education.  Work may prevent them from attending; however, they may still be reviewing their child’s homework every night.

Immigrant families also face unique needs than other families in America.  Not only may there be a language and culture barrier, but also family tensions can exist as each member adjusts and adapts to their new life in America.  Their identities as a member of a group before may have now changed to one of an outsider—an “alien”.  Perhaps they were a leader in their hometown and now they are a laborer trying to climb the socio-economic ladder.  Further, they may have to rely on their children as their English improves more quickly, which degrades their role as provider in the family.  These adjustments can cause tension in the family that may prevent as much involvement as they’d like in their child’s education.  Think about the time you studied abroad in college.  Imagine moving there by yourself, without the school’s help, without your host family there to meet you at the airport.  Imagine trying to figure everything out on your own, in a foreign country with a language you thought you could speak. Imagine doing so with your family there too, all looking to you for guidance.  Do you think you could have done it? Perhaps, but with a whole lot of stress involved, too!

For instance, what do the following symbols mean to you (assuming you don’t speak Chinese)? 优, 良, 中, 可,  差。If your child brought home these symbols on their report card, would you know what they mean?  One presenter at NAEYC told a story of how a Chinese father was disappointed in his daughter because she brought home a grade of “S” (for Satisfactory).  He thought grades went in order from A all the way down to Z—because it does seem that way since it starts off A, B, C, D…—and so S seemed pretty bad.  We must remember that nearly everything may be unfamiliar to immigrant families!

The Importance of Developing this Relationship with the Family

The school or childcare center is a key location in cultural transition.  This place may often be the first place children are exposed to cultures other than their own (this goes for all children).  It may be the first place a child realizes he is “different.”  Further, it is the place that will help prepare him to succeed in America.   If there is not enough language support for her to learn, she will associate school as something that doesn’t do anything for her.

Parent involvement is a critical component in a child’s success in school and in society.  We must do what we can to remember that inability to communicate does not mean a person is incapable or uneducated.  In fact, new legal immigrants are as well educated as native-born citizens, on average.  We must discover and overcome whatever may be preventing a relationship with the parents and families and work to ensure they and their children can get the most out of their experience within the American education system.

Immigrant families come to the US for a variety of reasons.  They range from political (refugees facing violence or persecution in their home country) to economic to socio-cultural (i.e. female activists in a Muslim country) to educational.  The fact that they have arrived (remember the difficulty of such an action by thinking back to your study abroad days) shows that they can set a goal and achieve it.  Also, remember that bilingualism is a gift we should not throw away!

What to Do

Remove your preconceptions as I have tried to do here by pointing out examples like studying abroad and different grading systems.  Think about why the families in your center have come to the US.  They may not be willing or able to share right away, but just consider what the possibilities may be.  Think about the type of life they may have led before moving here. Remember, they’ve already demonstrated their ability and willingness to set a goal and achieve it.  Try to find out where the children are coming from.  Get to know their families and culture, patterns of interaction and emotional expression.  Learn from parents and others from the child’s home about their culture.  The children can be the connectors (just remember not to rely on them for translation).  Family support has shown to be crucial in a successful transition.  Remember, it may not just be the parents involved.  Some cultures involve the whole family in child rearing.  You may need to talk to an aunt or a grandmother, etc.

You’ll want to communicate to the parents that they need to speak their home language in rich context and with complex words.  Otherwise, their child’s home language and overall cognitive abilities may be stunted. Remember, learning to read and speak transcends language.  It’s okay—and recommended—that parents maintain their home language.  Thus, collaborate with parents on the importance of developing their child’s verbal skills and thinking in their home language.  Finally, use community collaborators, i.e. parents, community visitors, administrators, consultants and therapists, to help bridge the cultural and language gap between you, your staff and the parents.

85% of teachers in America are white, female and middle class.  Yet, 1 in 5 children in the US are from immigrant families.  On top of that, 25% of the US population is children.  Teachers (everyone) use their own cultural lens to define individual children.  It is almost certain a cultural and language divide will exist!

10 Ways to Develop a Relationship with Parents and Family Members

As discussed in NAEYC themes, Part 2, staff members should model acceptance, respect of and interest in the child’s home culture.  You should first start there and then work to include family members.  Following are some specific tactics other centers have used successfully or that researchers recommend.

1)   Get the parents and children to read together in the classroom.  One center called this “Cuddle up and read”.  During drop-off time, parents sit with their children and read a story in their home language.  Thus, keep books in their home language available in your center.

2)   Schedule readings where family members come in and read a story from their home country to the class. It’s okay if it’s not in English, children will grasp the story if it’s simple enough.  Take a picture of the event and post it in the classroom with other photos of events.

3)   Involve parents and other teachers in selecting literature.  One center shared a story where a child had become withdrawn because she did not see herself as pretty—none of the “pretty” characters in their storybooks looked like her.  Then they read a story in which the main character was the same ethnicity as the child.  The definition of “pretty” changed for all the girls to include other ethnicities.  This child re-engaged and the others wanted to look like this new character also.  A parent had given this book to the center.

Including such books also helps the other parents to understand what’s going on. For example, one center had an autistic child who brushed his skin as part of his “sensory diet”.  When a parent asks their child what they did in school that day, they’ll surely be confused with the child replies, “we helped so-and-so brush.” Parent: ”You mean you helped him brush his hair?” Child: “no, his skin.” The parent may begin to wonder what you are teaching their child! But if the child brings home a book on autistic children, the parents will learn that brushing skin is a therapeutic protocol for autistic children. Such books can help other parents to also model respect and acceptance of others.

4)   Here are some preparatory things teachers have done to foster parent involvement:

  1. Attend ESL conferences at local universities
  2. Participate in community activities celebrating linguistic and cultural diversity
  3. Network with other teachers
  4. Attend intercultural workshops & family/school partnership workshops
  5. Participate in multicultural leadership and heritage language workshops
  6. Participate in international travel to visit schools in other countries

5)   Develop intentional strategies and set goals for engaging the families.

6)   Understand you have a multi-faceted role as a good listener, a mediator between cultures, a source of information for community resources, a facilitator of a supportive classroom, a teacher and an advocate.

7)   Learn about home cultures through local organizations, societies and international offices and student organizations at your university.  Start by searching the internet, too!  Don’t let it be overwhelming, even knowing a little bit will go a long way toward developing a relationship with the parents.

8)   Visit the child’s home and neighborhood.  Observe and talk to them in class to learn more.

9)   Present seminars explaining the school system (with translation services). NEVER rely on the child to translate. It places unnecessary responsibility on their shoulders.  If you can’t afford a professional translator, tap into the foreign language department at your local university. Provide translated handouts.

10) Actively invite parents to meetings and events.  Meet with them regularly and with translation services provided.  Remember, their notions of involvement may differ from yours.  You cannot develop a relationship with them without meeting them.

I know this may seem like a lot to do.  Just remember that as with all children, it is important for you to develop a relationship with the parents.  For non-native speaking English parents, this will require a little more work on your part, but the impact will be immeasurable!

Thank you for reading this far.  Check out below for the sources of this blog:

1. Using standards-based curriculum to support language and literacy development for English-language learners.

Presented by:
Min-hua Chen, Education Specialist, Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education;
Vicky Milstein, Principal of Early Education, Brookline Public Schools;
Min-Jen Wu Taylor, Pre-K Teacher, Brookline Public Schools;
James StClair, Kindergarten Teacher, Cambridge Public Schools;
Sandra Christison, Kindergarten Teacher, Boston Public Schools.

They haven’t posted their slides yet, but if they do, it will show up when you click here.

2. The role of play in cultural transition: When the culture of the home differs from the mainstream culture of the school

Presented by:
Leah Adams, Eastern Michigan University
Mary E. Earick, Plymouth State University

They haven’t posted their slides yet, but if they do, it will show up when you click here.

3. Home Language or English?  Implementing program policies and teaching strategies that meet the needs of dual-language learners

Presented by:
John Gunnarson, Napa Valley College.

Click here for his handout.

4. Multicultural programs: Enriching families, supporting children

Presented by:
Rosene Johnson, Michigan State University.

She hasn’t posted her slides yet, but if she does, it will show up when you click here.

5. Taking the pulse of the policies and programs that matter to Latino children and families

Presented by:
Luis A. Hernandez, Training and Technical Assistance Services—Western Kentucky University

He hasn’t posted his slides yet, but if he does, it will show up when you click here.

6. Working with families who have recently immigrated: What teachers need to know and be able to do

Presented by:
Eun Kyeong Cho, University of New Hampshire

She hasn’t posted her slides yet, but if she does, it will show up when you click here.

7. A multicultural show and tell: Exploring children’s literature through culturally responsive teaching

Presented by:
Sherri Weber, Canisius College
Susan G. Popplewell, University of Central Oklahoma

They haven’t posted their slides yet, but if they do, it will show up when you click here.

8. Igoa, Cristina. The Inner World of the Immigrant Child. Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc., 1995.

9. Hernandez, Reyna. Transforming Early Learning: Education Equity for Young Latinos. Latino Policy Forum, March 2009.

Upcoming Blogs under the NAEYC Annual Conference Theme:
Part 4:  Common Theme #3:  Communication strategies
Part 5:  Common Theme #4:  Support the home language and culture
Part 6:  Research, Facts and Things to Know about Dual Language Learners

Posted in Trends in Education | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

NAEYC Themes, Part 2: Build Positive Relationships with Dual-Language Learning Children

Posted by bububooks on December 10, 2009

A Safe Environment
The first common theme I gathered from the sessions I attended at the National Association for the Education of Young Children Annual Conference is that it is absolutely imperative that teachers build positive relationships with DLL children.  Help them to feel safe and included.

Have you ever been in an environment where you didn’t feel safe?  Heard some strange noises at night?  In the car with a reckless driver?  In a heated argument with someone physically stronger than you?  Or how about simply watching a scary movie?

Think about what was going through your head, the first thing you thought you needed to do.  Getting to safety, right?  Grabbing that bottle of mace, getting out of the car, calling the police, covering your eyes and hiding behind the friend sitting next to you. Anything to get you out of that situation. You focused on saving yourself, on self-preservation.

Some of these examples may seem extreme and unrelated to a child in a classroom (hopefully).  My point is that regardless of the situation, when you don’t feel safe, your first priority and thoughts focus on self-preservation, on getting to a place of safety.  The same feelings occur in a child who is in an unfamiliar environment, especially when they cannot communicate in your language.  If you’re in an environment where you don’t feel safe, you close down and only focus on self-preservation.  How can a child learn and prepare for kindergarten if she doesn’t feel safe?

Additionally, behavior issues can stem from this inability to communicate.  Think back to a recent meeting or presentation during which you did not pay attention.  The topic didn’t apply to you. The presenter was wretchedly boring and just kept droning on and on.  Or maybe it was a good presentation, but you were thinking about a looming deadline instead or what groceries you needed to get on your way home that night.  What did you do?  Pretended to listen, nodded in agreement during regular intervals and acted as if your grocery list were really notes from the material?

It’s okay, we’ve all done it!  John Gunnarson from Napa Valley College calls this “procedural display.”  We as adults know how to act like we are paying attention.  Children have not yet learned this technique.  If a child does not speak the language used in the classroom and, therefore, does not understand what is being said, what will he do? Act out?  Pursue activities that are interesting to him?  Can you blame him?  Over time, what message are we sending to DLL children who do not receive enough language support?  We are telling them that school does nothing for them.  Think about the long-term implications for this message.

Thus, teachers should focus on helping DLL children to feel safe and included by building a positive relationship with each one.  If a child feels safe in a classroom, she’ll take risks, like trying a new language.  Would you be more willing or less willing to jump out of an airplane if you were 100% sure the parachute would work?  How about 50% sure?  Helping a child to feel included and valued will encourage her to try new things such as speaking a few words in English.

Cognitive Growth
The greatest cognitive growth occurs through social interaction.  In our last blog, we mentioned how Secretary Duncan stated we can no longer ignore the evidence that social development and academic development are “inextricably linked.”  Academic development through social interaction becomes an even bigger hurdle for dual language learning children.  As a teacher, take the extra steps to show—and model—that you value the DLL children in your classroom.

Tips
Now, how do you go about doing this?  Of course myriad of tips and ideas exist.  Here are some general themes to get you started.  The NAEYC Program Standards and Accreditation Criteria state that Standard # is Relationship: 1) Teachers build positive relationship with children 2) Help children make friends 3) Create a harmonious classroom 4) Promote self-regulation.

Another key tip is to value the DLL child’s native language.  Doing so validates them and encourages their mental well-being.  Remember, children don’t realize they are different until they arrive in your center.  The only life they’ve known so far is their home life (or for immigrant children, their social life in their native country too) and that has defined their view of ‘normal.’  By valuing, embracing and including their native language, you tell these children—and model for the other children in your classroom—that they are indeed normal.

Opportunities for language learning exist all day, every day (except maybe nap time).  Every child should have a relationship with an adult.  This relationship not only helps with the feelings of inclusion but also can ensure the child gets maximum language exposure every day.

Finally, remember that the desire to include comes from within.  Ensure you hire staff to embrace diversity, multiculturalism and multilingualism.  If your teachers do not include “different” children, how will the children learn to do so?

Because children are developing language ability in general, consider this phrase: “everyone is an English Language Learner as a child.”  Keeping this frame of reference in mind may help you and your fellow teachers to discover techniques to include, value and develop strong relationships with all the children in your classrooms.

WOW! Thank you for reading this far.  A good chunk of this blog’s material came from three sessions at NAEYC.  They are:

1) Using standards-based curriculum to support language and literacy development for English-language learners.

Presented by:
Min-hua Chen, Education Specialist, Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education;
Vicky Milstein, Principal of Early Education, Brookline Public Schools;
Min-Jen Wu Taylor, Pre-K Teacher, Brookline Public Schools;
James StClair, Kindergarten Teacher, Cambridge Public Schools;
Sandra Christison, Kindergarten Teacher, Boston Public Schools.

They haven’t posted their slides yet, but if they do, it will show up when you click here.

2) Home Language or English?  Implementing program policies and teaching strategies that meet the needs of dual-language learners.

Presented by:
John Gunnarson, Napa Valley College.

Click here for his handout.

3) Multicultural programs: Enriching families, supporting children

Presented by:
Rosene Johnson, Michigan State University.

She hasn’t posted her slides yet, but if she does, it will show up when you click here.

Upcoming Blogs under the NAEYC Annual Conference Theme:

Part 3:  Common Theme #2:  Develop meaningful relationships with parents and families

Part 4:  Common Theme #3:  Communication strategies

Part 5:  Common Theme #4:  Support the home language and culture

Part 6:  Research, Facts and Things to Know about Dual Language Learners

Previous Blogs under NAEYC Annual Conference Theme:

Part 1: Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan’s Presentation

Posted in Trends in Education | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

NAEYC Themes, Part 1: Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan’s Presentation

Posted by bububooks on December 5, 2009

Before I get to discussing the four themes mentioned in the last post by specifically looking at the various sessions I attended at NAEYC this year, I wanted to dedicate a blog posting solely to Secretary Duncan’s keynote speech at NAEYC.  His passion for early education was very evident.  It seemed clear to me that he was very serious and not just offering a speech that pandered to the audience.  Indeed, he is the first Secretary of Education to ever speak at NAEYC.

Secretary Duncan started off his presentation with a quote from President Franklin Roosevelt: “The destiny of American youth is the destiny of America.” He focused a lot on the issue that has plagued us for a long time: closing the achievement gap that exists before children even start kindergarten.  He referenced President Johnson’s vision to reach a day when “each child goes as far as his talents will take them.”

“Getting out of the catch-up business” represented a central theme in Secretary Duncan’s speech. He spoke of the Department’s development of a birth through age eight plan.  Modern research makes it clear that the most important years of child development is from birth through age three.  Yet our current approach has been to start focusing at age five in kindergarten.  Now the Department is making a major change since its World War I when it added kindergarten to every child’s public school education.  It seeks to align Early Childhood Education (ECE) with the K-12 programs.  Up until now, ECE has been highly fragmented and non-standardized, leading to unpredictable quality and further exacerbating the achievement gap.  But several programs have shown ways to succeed and offer scalable solutions that can be expanded throughout the country.

Secretary Duncan and the Department of Education (along with NAEYC and others in the education field) recognize that care and education cannot be thought of as separate entities in the education of young children.  He stated it’s time we acknowledged the evidence that social development and academic development are “inextricably linked.” As a result, the Department of Education has entered into a serious partnership with the Department of Health and Human Services and Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to integrate their foci on early child development and school readiness.

Secretary Duncan presented a huge task that he, the Department of Education, Early Childhood Educators and K-12 educators face today. Finally, though, he is leading the way to face this problem.  He outlined to fundamental challenges that we face in closing the achievement gap that starts before kindergarten.  1) There must be a coordinated system of early care that transitions to the K-12 program. 2) They must accelerate the shift from judging quality based solely in inputs to also basing it on outcomes. Secretary Duncan made sure to insist that inputs would not be ignored because they are important.  However, he wants to add outcomes to be a part of the criteria.

Finally, Secretary Duncan expressed his excitement about the changes underway in early education and child development. He acknowledged that mistakes will be made, but then he said, “I hope we never let the perfect become the enemy of the good.”

I personally was moved by Secretary Duncan’s speech and am excited about this unprecedented attention and energy toward early childhood education.  For the full speech, please visit: http://www.ed.gov/news/speeches/2009/11/11182009.html

Posted in Trends in Education | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Bilingual babies learn better!

Posted by bububooks on October 5, 2009

A man reading with his sonResearch has shown that bilingual babies learn two languages at the same pace as monolingual babies learn one language, even though they’re learning twice as much.  Even better, two researchers recently learned in their scientific study that bilingual babies are ‘flexible learners’ and use their learning skills more efficiently.  They pick up on skills faster and can apply them to other aspects in their learning. Read the article we’ve posted below by Jean Mercer, Ph.D. from Psychology Today to see her full explanation of the study and its findings.

What great encouragement to raise your kids bilingually!!

Taken from: Child Myths
Straight Talk About Child Development

by Jean Mercer, Ph.D.

Jean Mercer is a developmental psychologist with a special interest in parent-infant relationships.

Bilingual Babies: Another Myth Busted

Surprise! Bilingual babies do better at learning.

In my last post, I commented on some preferences and behaviors that help babies pay attention to talking adults and learn about language from what they hear. Babies’ social interest in other people and their attentiveness to high-pitched, emphatic speech are factors that help them learn from baby talk. When adults talk to other adults, or when television or an audiotape provides speech experience, babies don’t learn as much as they do from baby talk.

What are some other relevant factors about babies’ experience with the spoken language? One situation of considerable interest is the experience of two or more different languages, whether spoken by the same person or by different people. Many of us would guess that life could be very confusing for bilingual babies and that they might be slowed down in their general language learning. At least, that’s what many people would guess in the United States, where a large proportion of the population is monolingual, and where language learning is generally regarded as difficult. Assumptions are probably different in the many parts of the world where most people are fluent from an early age in two, three, or more languages. Different groups treasure different myths, and the one about the language difficulties of bilingual babies is one that belongs primarily to monolingual English-speaking Americans.

A recent article by Agnes Kovacs and Jacques Mehler ( “Flexible learning of multiple speech structures in bilingual infants”, Science, 2009, Vol. 325, pp. 611-612) includes some surprising reports about bilingual 12-monh-olds. For starters, Kovacs and Mehler point out previous research showing that bilingual children achieve language developmental milestones at about the same age as learners of a single language, even though that means they have to learn about twice as much. Whether they are learning one language or two, babies say their first words at an average of about 12 months ( although there are many individual differences in this, and that average is made up of babies whose first word comes anywhere from 9 months to perhaps 18 months).

Can it be that bilingual babies learn more than just language from their bilingual experiences? Kovacs and Mehler were interested in this question and wondered whether the bilingual children’s experience might help them become more efficient in understanding and using information from speech. The researchers set up a situation in which 12-month-olds could learn that the structure of a “nonsense word” would tell them whether an interesting toy was going to appear on the left or on the right. There were two kinds of nonsense words, each consisting of three syllables. For one kind, the first and the last syllables were the same, and the middle syllable was different for (instance, “lo-vu-lo”). For the other kind, the first two syllables were the same, and the last one was different (for instance, “lo-lo-vu”). The babies saw and heard the appearance of the toy and the sound pattern associated in a consistent way. “Lo-vu-lo” could mean that the toy would be on the left, and “lo-lo-vu” could mean that the toy would be on the right, for example. Kovacs and Mehler had a device that measured the babies’ eye movements and showed in which direction a baby was looking at a given time, so they could see whether each baby learned to look in the direction indicated by a particular sound pattern.

Now, here’s the myth-busting surprise: although all the babies learned that one pattern (such as “lo-lo-vu”) meant that the toy was in a particular place, only the bilingual babies learned both associations– that “lo-lo-vu” meant “look left”, and “lo-vu-lo” meant “look right.” In a further experiment, the monolingual babies could learn that a male voice saying the nonsense word meant to look one direction and a female voice meant to look the other direction, so they were capable of learning something about speech sounds and directions. But the monolingual babies did not manage to learn at this early age that different but similar sound patterns had different meanings.

Kovacs and Mehler concluded that the experience of bilingual life had made these babies “flexible learners” who could apply their very efficient learning skills to get a lot of information out of the speech sounds they heard, selecting the right response out of the two they had learned. Of course, choosing the right response is an essential part of much school performance. If you subtract even though you see a plus sign, or add even though you see a minus sign, you won’t get the right answer, no matter how many facts you know.

Watch for the first commercial application of this research– but don’t buy it unless there’s good evidence that it helps facilitate flexible learning outside the laboratory!

Thanks for reading. By the way, October 3, 2009, was the Mid-Autumn holiday in China and many other countries. We hope you enjoyed the festivities!

Posted in Raising bilingual children, Trends in Education | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

An Inspiring Story for Reading

Posted by bububooks on September 25, 2009

Donors ChooseWe decided to post this thank you letter not to boast, but because the author, a teacher in a public school, offers a first-hand view of what we at bububooks strongly believe.  We like to say, “L is for literacy, not language.”  This is why we advocate for English Language Learner programs in our schools.  Please read this teacher’s note below for a perspective on what non-native English speakers face while trying to grow up.

This thank you letter comes from Donorschoose.org.  This website connects teachers in public schools who need funding for specific projects and willing donors.  Check it out at www.donorschoose.org!

Dear Laura,

Thank you so much for your generous donations. Reading is so important, and is essential in becoming successful in today’s society. Many of my English language learners are not thought of as the bright kids that they truly are because they struggle with reading. I have learned through my classes that most of my students can read and write in Spanish (their native language). The importance of reading–in any language–is immeasurable!

With the ability to read (in any language) comes vocabulary development; fluency; comprehension; and critical thinking skills, such as, prediction and sequencing. Reading in Spanish will help students transfer their knowledge, and learn more readily in English. Research has shown that students who continue to read and write in their native language, will find it much easier to learn to read and write in a new language.

These bilingual books will help my students this year–and in coming years–by allowing them to continue to read and learn in their native language, while acquiring new English skills. The books will also allow parents who feel “left out” the opportunity to engage in their children’s’ education and help them to develop a love of learning.

Once again, thank you for your generosity and compassion towards my students and me!

With gratitude,
Ms. R.

Thanks for reading.  To see the specific project, visit http://www.donorschoose.org/donors/proposal.html?id=314515&pmaId=409319&pmaHash=-973939887&utm_source=dc&utm_campaign=ity&utm_medium=email&utm_content=Project#bus

Have a great weekend and feel free to share projects you’ve donated to on DonorsChoose.org!

Posted in Trends in Education | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Tips for teachers of English language learners

Posted by bububooks on September 13, 2009

As teachers get ready for school to start in the fall, they might consider a few tips on making students welcome who don’t speak English as a native language. More students speak Spanish as their first language than any other group in the U.S., but there are over a hundred other mother tongues spoken by kids from kindergarten to twelfth grade around this country. No one teacher can possibly know all of these. So, what’s a teacher to do? Two websites offer some practical advice:

http://www2.scholastic.com/browse/article.jsp?id=3747021&FullBreadCrumb=%3Ca+href%3D%22http%3A%2F

and http://www.colorincolorado.org/educators/reachingout/welcoming

There is plenty of research demonstrating that English language learners (or ELLs for short) learn best by drawing on what they already know. That means, they learn best when they start with the language they already speak, their native language (or L1). Children are not blank states when starting kindergarten. This tends to be an unpopular notion in many places, as it was in the Word Geek’s childhood. The idea back in the Olden Days was to punish a child for speaking anything but the “best” meaning the textbook or Standard version of English. The result was, predictably, that kids who didn’t already speak a pretty standard version quit talking altogether in school and made very little progress, then stopped going to school as soon as they could get away with it. This tended to be around the fourth grade (age 8 or 9). Or, because these children struggle to learn math and science in their L2, they get placed in special education classes in which they become bored and disgruntled. This pattern is NOT recommended!

Instead of following this mournful and unsuccessful pattern, consider the tips described by David and Yvonne Freeman at the first site above:

1. Pair a newcomer (an ELL with little or no English) with a partner who speaks his or her L1 as well as some English. Make sure the partner knows this buddy position is a prestigious job and you are very impressed at how well he or she carries it off. The buddy’s job description should include making sure the newcomer knows the class rules, gets the class assignments, and, hopefully, this buddy does some translating.

2. Invite a parent volunteer into the classroom to read aloud to the class in the L1 of the newcomer(s). If this involves showing lots of pictures, even the English speakers should get something out of it. Plus, they’ll get some idea of what it’s like to be unable to understand every word of what’s going on – empathy, in other words. Not a bad idea!

3. Let the kids speak in their L1. The Word Geek wishes to put this one up in lights, so she will repeat it in capital letters and add an exclamation mark: LET THE KIDS SPEAK IN THEIR L1! Maybe she should throw some firecrackers in to get some people’s attention here, adding extra exclamation marks for more emphasis. LET THE KIDS SPEAK IN THEIR L1!!!

4. Build a class library in the students’ L1s. It’s especially helpful if some of these books are what we once called “ponies,” in the Olden Days. That means, there is the L1 on one page. On the facing page, the same text is in English. This way, a student sees that his or her native language is respected and supported, and the child can go from the known (L1) to the unknown (L2), with a lot less pain and hassle. The Word Geek was once very fond of such ponies and still has a few in her possession.

5. Organize bilingual tutoring, for example by partnering with a teacher of a class a year or two older than your own, in which there are students who speak the same L1 as your students. These older kids who presumably also speak a little more English can help tutor your students, do a little translating. It’s good for their education and self-esteem as well as helping your students along. A person never learns better than when helping someone else learn.

6. Provide students pen pals, whether in their L1 or L2, and whether through e-mail or by means of old-fashioned pen and paper. Go to the first website above to find a couple of online sites to locate e-mail pen pals. This type of writing is a lot more interesting than writing boring sentences in response to even duller reading exercises.

7. Encourage writing in a journal, whether in the L1 or L2. Sometimes, writing about the acquisition of L2 (namely English) in the L1 is one of the best ways to get a student to think about it after school.

8. Create books of students’ own writings. That is to say, with the computer it is relatively easy to type up things that students write, duplicate them, print them out, and even bind them in inexpensive ways. These can be done in the L1 or L2. “Ponies” created in this way can be distributed to the entire class, giving a newcomer a new feeling of being part of a class, not an outsider. Many of the fonts required to print, say, Vietnamese or Arabic or whatever are already available on the internet for free – or relatively cheaply.

9. Use L1 storytellers to support the ELLs language and culture and share with the rest of the class. The teacher can help bring in the rest of the class by teaching a story ahead of time, or having the class read the story or act it out, if they are too young to read it yet. That way, no one need feel left out when the storyteller comes and speaks another language.

10. Put up the signs that are displayed in the classroom in both English and any L1s spoken by students. This shows that the L1 is valued and, therefore, the student who speaks it is also valued.

Time for an object lesson:  When the Word Geek took an introductory linguistics class in college, years ago, the professor told of taking a rabbit in a cage to a first grade classroom. The children in the classroom seemed inordinately quiet and the regular teacher agreed, saying that the kiddies were all “culturally deprived” (using the parlance of the times).

The linguistics professor said that she had a cure for that dread condition. The rabbit was part of it. She put the cage on the teacher’s desk and told the silent students that she and the other teacher had to leave the classroom for a moment. “But I need you kids to help me out,” she told them. “Mr. Bunny will get very, very sick if I go away and nobody talks to him. So, while we’re gone, you need to talk to him and keep talking until I get back. Will you do that for me?” 

The kids silently nodded.

The professor and the teacher silently left the classroom. The kids did not see, but the professor had silently started a tape recorder behind the desk.

When the professor got back, as soon as she opened the door of the classroom, the kids were quiet, so she had no idea if her plan had worked. But later, when she played the tape for the teacher, the two adults heard a great cacophony of noise. The whole time the grownups had been out of the room, all the children had been talking to that rabbit, calling him “Mr. Bunny,” telling him not to be scared, letting him know he would be all right. They did not speak perfect Standard English. But they could speak all right and their meaning was clear enough.

Why wouldn’t they talk when their teacher was there? As the professor pointed out to us, when someone gets onto you every time you open your mouth, you stop opening your mouth. So, at the risk of beating a dead horse, LET THE KIDS SPEAK IN THEIR L1. They’ll eventually get to L2 that way. But if they stop talking altogether, they’ll never get anywhere.

This article was written by Diana Gainer, the Word Geek Examiner, on http://www.examiner.com.  Laura Renner added some of her own thoughts as well.

Posted in Trends in Education | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »