Early childhood programs are perfect settings for children who are learning English as a second language. Try these strategies to enhance children's literacy skills:
- Model both languages with children. Preview and explain in their first language and then repeat the concepts or words in the new or second language.
- Use clear speech. Enunciate carefully but do not slow down the pronunciation as this will often confuse children.
- Say the same thing in more than one way. As you paraphrase, children will have time to translate and understand.
- Watch for nonverbal cues to gauge comprehension. Children will use expressions and body language to indicate their level of understanding.
- Repeat things often to reinforce words and concepts. The more children hear and use a word or phrase, the more readily it becomes part of their vocabulary.
- Start transfer language in areas that are less demanding linguistically, such as math, physical activities, and art.
- Continue to foster growth in the first language to keep the experiences positive and rewarding for children.
- Talk to children in short sentences. They may not respond to you at first. Allow them to continue with their activity.
Come back later and try to engage them again in conversation.
- Don't expect too much too fast. Children will talk when they have enough vocabulary and understanding to respond. Remember that babies have receptive language (the ability to understand) long before they use expressive language (responding verbally and initiating talk).
- Read the same books in the first language as well as English to enhance comprehension.
- Continue to involve family members in the language learning process as much as possible.