A Letter to Your School or Program Administrator/Director on Supporting Dual Language Learners in Preschool

by multilingualmania on June 22, 2011

in Advocacy, Leadership

Shadow of a Writing Hand

We sometimes underestimate the power of advocacy. This letter from Karen Nemeth is an excellent tool to help you get started in advocating for language learners:

Letter to Administrators about Dual Language Learners in Preschool

(a template you can use – by Karen Nemeth)

Dear [Administrator]:

I appreciate the opportunity to work with you on this most important task: teaching preschool children who come from different language background. We both know that I can only be a truly effective teacher for these children if I have your full support. Here are some things I want you to know:

  • Three and four year old children are at a different stage of cognitive development than children five and older (though many fives are more like fours than like sixes). Most of what we know works in teaching older ELLs is all wrong for preschool.
  • I want the help of our district ESL specialists but they may have had no coursework or training in the learning needs of preschool DLLs. We need you to help us work together effectively by providing professional development. Here is a book that will help: Many Languages, One Classroom by Karen Nemeth.
  • When my students are playing, their brains are engaged in the most effective learning. Let’s not hold them back by interrupting play for structured lessons because research has shown that lessons are less likely to result in positive outcomes than play based learning.
  • Preschool children are notoriously bad test takers. I need training, time and support to use other kinds of assessment such as portfolios and observations.
  • I need fewer kits and more real items to help my students build on prior knowledge and prepare to make generalizations of the concepts learned in my classroom.
  • I need materials, especially books, in the languages of each and every child in my classroom – and authentic materials that reflect their cultures.
  • Many times administrators jump to conclusions about the effectiveness of programs that offer home language support in the early years. I need you to remember that the preponderance of research clearly states that home language support is necessary, but programs with too-big class sizes, inadequate supplies, or improperly prepared teachers are not likely to succeed even if they do try to offer bilingual supports.
  • To be clear, we have to share the policy that it is our responsibility to help preschool children continue to learn their home language and to learn IN their home language while we also scaffold their learning of English.
  • I need to spend time learning the home languages of the children in my class each year. I need your support so I can purchase software or take classes or practice with my colleagues.
  • I need parents to be more involved in the classroom and to do more at home to support home language development. I need you to take the lead in setting the tone and vision of our school so that everyone clearly knows support for home language is central to all of our work. Here’s an article by Linda Espinosa that will help.

If we work together to make these things happen, there is no question that outcomes for our children will improve and the success of our school will shine.

Thank you,

Your dedicated teacher

Originally posted on Language Castle.

Karen Nemeth, Ed.M. is the author of Many Languages, One Classroom: Teaching Dual and English Language Learners. She is a consulting editor and writer for the National Association for the Education of Young Children, she is on the board of NJTESOL-NJBE and she has a consulting practice and website for supporting early childhood educators who work with children who are dual language learners.

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