bububooks

Helping children develop their American and native cultural identities together.

Posts Tagged ‘english language learners’

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

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Family Literacy Project Fundraiser a wild success!

Posted by bububooks on February 10, 2010

In November, we at bububooks decided to sponsor a poet, Jacey, for the 30 Poems in 30 Days Project.  The organizer, Northampton poet laureate Lesléa Newman, set a goal to raise $3,000 to help the Center for New Americans (CNA), a non-profit community-based education and resource center for immigrants, refugees, and other limited English speakers in the Pioneer Valley of Massachusetts. The organization offers free English classes, free literacy classes, free child care for students, family literacy, and many other services.

Jacey wrote 30 poems, one each day from Nov. 1 – 30, 2009.  She has graciously provided us with one to post here (and I like it a lot!).  The 30 Poems in 30 Days fundraiser raised $12,040.50, wildly beating Newman’s goal.  We were glad and are proud to have contributed to this noble cause.  Below Jacey’s poem, check out the press release for more details on CNA and the 30 Poems in 30 Days project.

Congratulations Jacey and thank you for letting us be a part of this project!

———————————————————–

This Lady, June Baby

Jacey Blue

Daddy found my name lint-thick
in the front pocket of his Wranglers.
Faded blue, classic cut, dusty as hell,
stacked over his life-worn Ropers.

Hands rummage past pocket watch.
Dig down deep for decent quarters
to buy a Pepsi to pass the time,
while I was being born.

It was sweaty hot and Mama,
was a hellcat, yelling about snap peas,
pushing and waiting, cursing,
crying for it to end and me to begin.

Daddy just wanted some cold,
fast break from that dirty heat.
Uncovered four 1980 quarters,
his wedding band, my me.

Doc shook his cornhusker
hands.  Daddy just smiled then.
Held me slow, said:  Blue.
You’ll be my June girl.

–Jacey Blue


———————————————————–

30 Poems in 30 Days Project Raises More Than $11,000 for the Center for New Americans Family Literacy Project

This past November, Northampton poet laureate Lesléa Newman issued a challenge to the poets of the Pioneer Valley: Write 30 poems in 30 days and find sponsors to pledge a dollar amount per poem to raise money for literacy. Not only was the challenge met, but it exceeded Newman’s wildest dreams.

“About 75 poets participated in the project,” Newman said. “Most of them were from the Pioneer Valley, but there were also poets from Georgia, Louisiana, Illinois and Colorado. Poets got very excited about both the challenge of writing a poem a day, and the opportunity to use poetry to raise money for literacy.”

Newman, who wrote a poem a day and raised about $700 on her own, hosted a reading and celebration of the project at the Forbes Library on December 2nd. About 45 poets read to an audience of 100 people. “It was very exciting,” she said. “There were several poets there reading to a live audience for the first time, there were poets who had published books and won awards, and there was everyone inbetween. Every poet and poem was greeted with wild enthusiasm.”

Jim Ayres, the Executive Director of the Center for New Americans, which serves families and individuals from more than fifty countries who together speak over thirty-five languages, is thrilled about the success of the project. “We are all touched by the number of writers and sponsors who stepped up to meet Lesléa’s challenge. The valley is very fortunate to have such a talented, engaged, and generous literary community,” Ayres said. “The donations raised will allow us to expand our early childhood staffing so as to increase the number of families who can benefit from the family literacy project.” The project  offers free English classes, free literacy classes, and many other services.

The Northampton Arts Council fully funds and supports the poet laureate position.  The “30 Poems in 30 Days” challenge was Newman’s final project as poet laureate. During her two-year term which concludes at the end of this year, Newman hosted a “Lunch with the Laureate” series, distributed poetry books to waiting rooms as part of her “Poetry to Wait By” project, initiated the Paradise Poetry Prize, and edited a bi-weekly column for the Daily Hampshire Gazette called “Here a Poet, There a Poet” which will be published in book form next year, funded in part by a grant from the Northampton Arts Council. Newman says she will definitely miss being poet laureate. “I met so many fabulous poets and poetry-lovers,” she said. “It was a fantastic opportunity. One of the highlights of my writing career.” As for the future, Newman plans on remaining an active member of the poetry community, while turning her attention to her own writing. “After all,” she laughed, “I’ve got drafts of thirty new poems to rewrite.”

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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

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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

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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

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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

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Themes from the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) Annual Conference

Posted by bububooks on December 1, 2009

I attended the annual NAEYC conference just before Thanksgiving in Washington D.C.  I learned a lot more about the strategies, techniques and trends for teaching dual language learners.  I also got to see some friends and make some new ones who are involved in early education.  Moreover, I got to see Secretary of Education Arne Duncan speak live!  Over the next few blog postings, I’ll be recapping some of the presentations I attended.  For this particular posting, I’d like to discuss four overarching themes that seemed to repeat throughout the various sessions.  I will expand on these themes through the specific postings that will follow.

Common Theme #1:  Teachers need to build positive relationships with dual language learning children.  Help them to feel safe and included. Oftentimes, every single thing is new to them since they have just moved here.  Even their parents are stressed as they try to get settled in a new country.  With everything so new and different (read: scary), a safe and inviting environment will help them to open up more in school.

Common Theme #2:  Teachers need to develop meaningful relationships with parents and families.  Parents and families from different countries display their involvement with their children’s education in various ways. Also, sometimes their current circumstances prevent them from being as involved as they’d like.  This does not mean they are not interested.  Furthermore, language need not be a barrier for a teacher to communicate with the families.  These meaningful relationships help to eliminate misunderstandings and further create a safe environment for the child.

Common Theme #3:  Be deliberate, intentional, integrative and committed with your communication strategies.  I’ll offer suggestions in following postings.  But certainly determine what your policy is for incorporating dual language learners and then set about creating a strategy to do so.  This process will include research and can even mean hiring a consultant.

Common Theme #4:  Support the home language and culture.  Dual language learning children do not come to your school as a blank slate. By supporting their home language and culture, you maximize their potential to learn, send them a message that they are not different, help create that safe and inclusive environment, and lay the foundation for a strong relationship between them and their parents.

I look forward to sharing with you specific details from the sessions as well as expanding upon these four themes.  In the meantime, Happy Holidays and don’t forget to check out our bookstore, where all the books are bilingual: www.bububooks.com.

–Laura

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More events this past weekend, SCAEYC and the Georgia Literary Festival

Posted by bububooks on October 19, 2009

Rome Library

Rome Library

Jacey and Laura both represented bububooks at events this past weekend.  Jacey visited beautiful northwest Georgia for the annual Georgia Literary Festival in Rome.  Despite the cold temperatures, she says she enjoyed her time up there and got to meet some pretty cool people, authors and booksellers.  Maybe she and her husband will make a camping trip up there in the near future!

SCAEYCLaura headed up to Columbia, South Carolina, for the South Carolina Association for the Education of Young Children conference.  Having never been to South Carolina before, she thoroughly enjoyed the city of Columbia and the people.  By the end, she was giving hugs as she left the conference!  At the conference, Laura met lots of GREAT people who are all seeking to improve the lives of children and teachers in South Carolina.  She says it was an inspiring weekend and she looks forward to going back as she develops stronger relationships with the people she met from throughout the state.  She’s so sad (and has been chastised by us) that she didn’t get any pictures of her new friends but promises to take more pictures next time. It has been her favorite trip for bububooks by far!  Thank you South Carolina and the SCAEYC!

GA Lit Fest

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Fun and Surprise at GAYC

Posted by bububooks on October 13, 2009

bububooks' booth at GAYCI had so much fun this past weekend in Atlanta at the Georgia Association on Young Children conference.  Not only did I enjoy meeting various childcare providers from throughout the state, but I also appreciated the enthusiastic response from them regarding our mission at bububooks to help bilingual children with literacy and cultural identity development.

I also had two pleasant surprises throughout the weekend. First, my hotel happened to be in a Korean part of town.  Being half-Korean, I found my way to a BBQ restaurant and indulged in some good ol’ Korean BBQ!  Even better, I invited some newly made friends to join me. It was both their first times to try Korean food and they loved it! I thought, “what a great way to embrace our mission by introducing people to a new cuisine!”  Second, as I was packing up at the end of the conference, I walked past a room where a session was still continuing.  The attendees were singing a song I had never heard before. However, the tune was that of the Air Force Song! I found myself humming the Song as I finished loading up the car (I’m an Air Force veteran).  I couldn’t believe I still remembered the words and it brought back many memories of the jovial times in which we would sing the first verse. J

Thanks to GAYC and all the attendees for making my trip so joyful! Off we go into the wild, blue yonder…

Laura

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New book at bububooks: Luna Needs a Miracle!/¡Luna Necesita un Milagro!

Posted by bububooks on September 29, 2009

Book cover

Book cover

We at bububooks are excited to announce our newest book, Luna Needs a Miracle!/¡Luna Necesita un Milagro!, written by celebrity Chef Paul Luna.  Now you must be thinking this book is about food, but it’s not!  Luna explores the themes of love, fear, family and friendship in this bilingual—Spanish/English—children’s book.  The main character, whose name is also Luna and does not speak or understand English, faces his fears as he prepares for his first day at a new school in a new country in this colorfully illustrated hardcover.

Luna prays for the school to be closed and, as a result, no longer worries about his first day in a new situation.  Yet as he walks closer and closer to school that morning, Luna discovers the school is still open, but finds his prayer answered in another, more universal way. (We won’t want to spoil it!)

“Experiencing something radically different from what you know can be frightening, but can also create a window of opportunity upon which you can take action with clarity and confidence,” said author Luna.  He continues, “writing this book was a way for me to break past my own fears of doing something new and unknown, while also sharing an important lesson that we are all the same.  We all have fears, challenges and successes in our lives.”

Laura, founder of bububooks, got to personally meet Luna and his fiancée, Cynthia.  “Our missions are quite the same. We understand and appreciate the value of languages and of reading.  It was never any question to him—the book had to be bilingual.  I am inspired by his passion and am proud that we are carrying their book. We look forward to reading more from him!”

Get the book in hardcover version at www.bububooks.com for $24.99.

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