In today’s classroom, it is common to have a student who speaks English as a second language. The teachers today should have knowledge of linguistic diversity and apply what they know to assist those children. According to our text, language is one of the aspects that define diversity and it is one of the fundamental tools of cultural acquisition and a part of a child’s cultural identity (Robles de Melendez & Beck, 2009). As educators, we must assure those children who speak English as a second language have the same education as English speaking children.
In a child’s learning environment, no matter what language that child speaks, they should be comfortable and familiar with the things that surround them. It is important to label a child’s environment with the different languages that the children speak in the classroom. If a child’s native language is Spanish, French or German, there should be a corresponding labels in that language on shelves, tables, toys and doors. Other materials that is used in a classroom that assist with linguistic diversity is age appropriate books, printed materials such as newspapers, flyers and signs in different languages and music from diverse cultures (Robles de Melendez, 2009).
When you have a classroom of different languages, it is necessary to understand what is going on in the children’s mind as you speak a language that they are not familiar or comfortable with. We need to understand, expect, and feel comfortable with the natural responses (e.g., laughter, first language use, silence and fatigue) that occur when our students participate in interactions in which they are not completely proficient in their language (Curran, 2003).
Teachers should respect the fact that students that are English Language Learners or ELL may want to speak their native language. It could get frustrating at first trying to learn and understand what they are saying but it is the say when the tables are turned and the student get frustrated when they do not understand what the teacher is saying. Individual lesson plans can be used to connect with a child and build their language skills. Themed lesson plans also help children connect with their own language.
In any classroom, educators must not assume what a child knows or what they need to know. Assessments must be done to know what steps are needed to teach the children in the class. This is especially important when you have children with linguistic diversity. Teachers of young children in today’s diverse classrooms need to confirm that their teaching strategies meet the needs of their students (Robles de Melendez & Beck, 2009).
To make sure that the teachers are getting the right information, the classroom should be assessed for linguistic diversity. Some ways to do this is to talk to the parents and family members, doing observations of bilingual interactions and using questionnaires and surveys. Once you know what kind of diversity you have in the classroom, then the classroom should be analyzed to figure out how to teach the students. This is done by assessing the topics that are taught, how they are taught and what resources are used to teach.
It is important to maintain open communication with the child’s parents and families. We as educators should not try to eliminate the child’s first language but preserve it and assist them with the second language. Through different activities geared towards a child’s first language will help keep the child culture meaningful. Parent can assist by singing songs in their native language or just playing games that are native to their country. Continue to invite the families into the program to allow them to share their experiences with the classroom and this would help the children and families feel welcomed.
There are two typed of knowledge that is necessary to teach linguistic diversity and they are the knowledge of practices of second language acquisition and the knowledge of cultural ideas. Having the mere knowledge of how important it is to preserve the first language and acquire the second language and knowing a little something about the culture that is being taught. As early childhood educators, it must be understood that the role that language plays in the life of a child vital to their learning environment.
It is important that children with linguistic differences be supported. Through the classroom environment, experiences, assessments, keeping an open communication with the parents and the information that the teacher knows, the children will be able to get the best education not matter whether English is their first or second language.
Curran, M. (2003). Linguistic Diversity and Classroom Management. Theory Into Practice, 42(4), 334-340. Robles de Martinez, W., & Beck, V. (2009). Teaching young children in multicultural classrooms: Issues, concepts, and strategies. (3 ed.). Belmont, Canada: Wadsworth.