Early childhood education can play an essential role in preparing young English language learners (ELLs) for later success in school. Children who have an opportunity to develop basic foundation skills in language and literacy in preschool enter kindergarten ready to learn to read and write.
We understand that children require multiple exposures to words in order to develop a rich understanding of their meaning and use. Our teachers make a point of introducing interesting new words for children to learn into each classroom activity.
For group activities, we pair English language learners with children who have strong English language skills, and make sure that all the children who speak the same home language are not grouped together. This encourages conversation between both children. We have found that our English speaking children are beginning to speak both English and Spanish and the Spanish speaking children are speaking more English.
Our Head Start classrooms arrange the classroom in a way that supports each type of instructional activity that will take place, and then keep changes to the physical environment to a minimum. Once ELL children learn which activities take place in various parts of the classroom (e.g., centers, circle), the physical environment will cue them as to what they are to do and how they are to behave in that area. We explain to the parents during orientation that we follow a daily schedule, we keep it simple, refer to the schedule often and stay consistent so that children know what to expect next.
Predictable classroom routines can also provide scaffolding for English language learners by allowing them to anticipate what will happen each day, including the type of language they will need for each activity.
In our Head Start program we honor the diversity of Hispanic families. We work with the teaching staff and families to welcome their differing demographics and perspectives. We work with community organizations in the community, building relationships with faith based groups, youth and businesses to expand our network of support and opportunity.
When meeting with parents and setting goals, if we see the parent has not graduated from high school, we ask them if we can help to get them enrolled and begin classes that we offer to the community.
We have families fill out a cultural survey to help us know the individual family culture and needs. We provide all information in the family’s language. All parent meetings we have someone to attend to translate. Home Visits and Parent Conferences we have someone there to also translate what the teacher is saying. All materials are in Spanish and English and the classroom is labeled with pictures in Spanish and English.
We encourage the Hispanic parents to be a voice in our program planning, serve on Policy Council etc. We empower our parents as advocates for their children.