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Hope and Intention as a Way Forward
However, as Gillanders, Castro and Franco highlight, when EAL children are exposed to the English language only within an environment such as their early childhood setting, their language acquisition will be specific to that context, particularly if it is not used in other environments. The authors further add that to overcome this, teachers need to value the sociocultural experiences that EAL children and L2 learners bring to the ECE setting and teach them useful language for both centre and home contexts. A study of four early childhood centres in Aotearoa New Zealand identified four key attributes for successful language acquisition and learning for EAL children and L2 learners within ECE settings Podmore et al.
It is suggested that to fully support L2 acquisition amongst children, the environment, including the teachers within it, must apply a credit-based lens. This involves recognising the funds of knowledge that each learner brings from their L1 and builds upon them Park, ; Podmore et al. The rich prior knowledge the child has already established must not be disregarded. Drury urges teachers of EAL children and L2 learners to be able to recognise and hear what children do not say particularly surrounding their body language, in order to understand their needs. In doing so, this can establish trusting relationships whereby children have confidence to engage in English language learning.
Podmore et al. This means that the twenty-first century teacher needs to be equipped with knowledge and training to support children, families and communities from potential EAL within early childhood settings and be willing to do so. The need for appropriate teaching strategies was absent. A key teaching strategy discussed in the literature to support L2 learning is the notion of co-construction.
MacNaughton and Williams explain that through the co-constructing of knowledge, children and teachers work together to formulate meaning and understanding while deepening knowledge in a particular area. As highlighted above, EAL children and L2 learners will typically go through a silent period while learning another language.
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Berryman and Woller state that during L2 learning, teachers should respond to all L2 that a child says with positivity. Teachers should co-construct meaning through both verbal and non-verbal methods. Dobinson and Buchori further add that teachers need to scaffold and support L2 learning through asking questions, regardless of whether the child responds, as it further co-constructs ideas of what language means.
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Gillanders et al. The authors further emphasise that in order for teachers to support and promote L2 engagement and learning, teachers must introduce children to language in a range of contexts to broaden their knowledge within the early childhood context and everyday situations. Another teaching strategy that is widely discussed in the literature is community building. MacNaughton and Williams explain that through community building, the sense of belonging is created for all.
Pianta as cited in Park, found negative relationships between teachers and children were more likely to be a disadvantage towards future social and academic achievement. This stresses the need for teachers to actively seek and engage in positive relationships with EAL children and L2 learners to lay the foundation for future educational success.
Challenges facing the early childhood workforce
Such relationships between EAL children and their families are fundamental to successful inclusion and support. This means that while relationships are key with learners, teachers must also seek to build relationships with parents and families to get an understanding of the whole child. Berryman and Woller encourage teachers to talk with parents and families to find out what children already know in their L1 and use this as a strategy to build upon during L2 learning.
Teachers must strive to establish and maintain positive relationships with not only L2 learners but also their parents and families to support language acquisition and development within the ECE setting. Through the facilitation of the environment, MacNaughton and Williams explain that teachers can create intentional and well-organised environments, based on the ideas and needs of children. This includes the use of language within a rich multilingual environment promoting diversity. A simple way of doing this as suggested by Berryman and Woller is for teachers to greet learners in their home languages, to welcome them into the ECE setting.
This is particularly important for infants and toddlers who are still developing competency in their L1 May, Another way to facilitate the ECE setting is to offer a play-based curriculum. Early childhood education in Aotearoa New Zealand is largely based on a free play, child-led pedagogy MoE, Takemoto et al.
This also creates communities of practice among children Takemoto et al. This is particularly achievable within an early childhood context whereby learning through play is highly valued by teachers, society and the government. Lastly, teachers should seek to encourage and praise L2 learners within the ECE setting. MacNaughton and Williams explain that through encouragement, learners are supported and reassured to build confidence in areas they are developing. Through encouragement and praise, L2 learners are more supported to establish more trusting relationships, which lay the foundation for L2 acquisition within the ECE setting.
Supporting and safeguarding home language, particularly within the ECE sector, has become contested discourse within the last decade. As this article has highlighted, early childhood teachers have the varied task of supporting and scaffolding all learners in their language acquisition to promote a sense of belonging as well as embed cultural identity for each learner.
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Supporting Early Learning - The Way Forward: An Introduction by Victoria Hurst
Return to Book Page. Jenefer Joseph Editor. This book focuses on improving the effectiveness of early education. The authors emphasise that children from birth to age six have particular developmental needs and argue that those working with young children are most likely to meet these needs if they approach their work developmentally. This means offering children educational opportunities within the framework of an This book focuses on improving the effectiveness of early education.
This means offering children educational opportunities within the framework of an integrated and developmentally appropriate curriculum. Get A Copy.
Building a Better Future: A discussion paper for transforming early years and child care in Ontario
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