bethanne patrick: which is a wonderful thing so what kinds of language skills are young children likely to develop in a good preschool program? you have to have materials in that environment that support the children’s play and creativity. you want to have activities that first few weeks of school with the staff knowing what those are so that they can come back. basic things, about you know, basically maslow’s hierarchy of needs, you know how do they go to the restroom and when do they go and how can they go and what is the support for the food program, the lunch program? they can be pull out, they can be pull in, they can be different types of settings and the teacher in the classroom needs to know who those children are, identify where they are in their english language learning, provide a lot of pictures, a lot of scaffolds, which means that you’re going to do some modeling, some repetition, some things that you can manipulate and the children manipulate it while they’re learning and hearing the language. becky palacios: and part of it is, is just pictures and the things that you’re working with already as the children, for example, are sorting colors into different sets, then we can talk about what those are. we know that the children are going to listen to the language first and are able to point or separate or gesture, is one of the first steps. so there’s a variety of assessments in different aspects of their children’s growth and development that we can look at. and we have that situation in our school where the parents and the grandparents say, i can no longer speak to my child. becky palacios well, one of the things that we do in our school is develop all those different subject areas into themes, and so when we look at themes and look at learning over time, one of the best ways that we have found is that if things are organized around a central theme, second language learners, english language learners, are more likely to understand and comprehend the instruction if it’s very well organized. so when you have this conceptual understanding and conceptual awareness of what things are in the world, and you transfer those labels into that second language learning, those children just grow so quickly and develop that for us the english language learning at a much richer level and a much quicker level than children who haven’t been read to or talked to or sung to when they were very young. using language in context, assessing them in a multitude of ways, and it’s hard for me to give examples because there’s so many of them throughout the year that they progress through. and that was a really the beauty of it was that because i was one of the first dual language teachers in our district, a lot of the people that had those books or found those books or however way they would gift them to me, and so, parents in the community who have those types of books who can gift them to teachers, that’s a wonderful resource. and so, not only were we using a science concept to look at the idea of what those animals have to be able to survive in their environment, after that discussion, we were able to graph it, you know, in a big graph on the interactive white board on how many animals they had counted per set. so some of them were the desert, some of them were the tundra, the rainforest, the arctic and so in the tundra and arctic piece we were able to walk in and you would see white in that classroom. becky palacios well, play is so huge because it gives children the ability to be creative and to be problem solvers and to be able to come up with their own solutions to a variety of things. i wanted to go to school, and one of the fallacies back then was that if you knew enough english you didn’t have to go to school.
but once i saw what school was, i was just one of those schoolgirls, and i know what we can do when you have positive teachers, positive experiences, but especially for young children because we have a window of time in that learning when everything is so exploratory. many people start out and they become really good strong early childhood teachers that they really don’t have the training to become teachers of english language learners, so an important component is professional development if they’re already in the classroom. so i’ve worked with those types of school systems before and what they have done is they have gone to either the state agency, or they’ve gone to a university and said, look, this is what i’m facing. so you begin with that type of maybe formal or informal survey of the people that you’re going to be working with because, i think one of the hardest things is to make everything generic. so we are accountable to the needs of the children, and the needs of the families in that community. and what are ways that we can find ways that you can learn about the school system? and, of course, again, colorincolorado.org is one of the best ways to find what those are and what the pieces are that are missing if they want to do personal types of professional development. becky palacios: well, one of the things that they do is they talk about what is this plan? so i had really good strong models at the very beginning from teacher mentors that were paid to come in and model for us appropriate bilingual teaching strategies and skills. and they gave other teachers the impetus to say, i can do it. they know how important it is to the children’s development, and we had luckily a program with three and four year olds that helped bridge up to kindergarten, so our program was very rich in providing two extra years of schooling for english language learners. we like to see how you can help fit some of those pieces that we need in our program, and let me tell you what is part of the program, what are the actual components of it.” so materials that are used in the classroom, materials that go home to the parents from the nurse, from the counselor, from the school, all those are very important, and especially at my school i help translate a lot of those documents so that they would go home to the parents and they could read them. one of the things that i started in my school was a lending library, “lending and learning library” is what we called it, and we had books, i wrote a small grant. a lot of the times we’ll have songs and traditions that are carried on from generation to generation that are very important, and that like, for example, grandma sang to me, and, you know, i’m singing to my grandchildren now, and when we do those types of oral language pieces, the children realize that we value language, and they’re able to create that language learning environment in the home, but it doesn’t have to be things that they can go and check out and buy. i think one of the greatest things that i remember doing was bringing in community members to come and speak about their jobs and their work, and it wasn’t just during the week of community type of learning. colorín colorado is a national multimedia project that offers a wealth of bilingual, research-based information, activities, and advice for educators and families of english language learners (ells).
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