How Do I Prepare My Child For Preschool?
By Emily Valentine and Priscilla Garcia - Emily Valentine currently teaches the toddler class at Discovery Child Development Center and Priscilla Garcia is a preschool teacher at Discovery.
While the first day of school can be stressful for children and parents alike, it can also reap great rewards, even in the early days when your child might be upset at having to separate from you, the parent or caregiver. Some children may have a negative reaction to the first day of school, and how you respond can help your child work through those negative emotions and experience success at school.
One way to prepare your child for school is to read books about going to school and relate the book content to the child’s upcoming entry into school. Once you have been able to tour the school and classroom and meet your child’s teacher or watch your teacher’s welcome video, you can talk with your child about the details of their class. Some books we recommend at the beginning of the school year:
As a parent, it is important to be consistent with your drop off routine. Develop a routine for saying goodbye to your child. This can be something that you decide on with your child and could include a hug followed by a kiss, high five, etc. It is important that even if your child is upset and crying that you say goodbye and not try to sneak out. If your child is unaware that you left, they can feel insecure and more upset the next time you drop them off at school. In my toddler classroom for example, it is okay for a child to bring a small security item such as a small stuffed animal, small car or other small toy from home.
Now that you’ve gotten your child in the door, let’s talk about some skills that can be very helpful to practice at home. These are not skills that we expect the children to have mastered, but familiarizing them with these concepts will help them when they are entering the classroom. A lot of these skills are learned through repetition and modeling by the teachers and children will pick them up even more quickly when the teachers and parents are on the same page, working on the same skills together.
Focusing on these things with your child will foster independence and confidence in your child and will help them have a great start in preschool. A lot of these tasks take practice so don’t be discouraged if it takes a lot of reminders. We as teachers will be there to support you and your child and will do all we can to help them get off to a great start!
Supporting English Language Learners in the Classroom
By: Sanja Subasic, Discovery Child Development Center Pre-K Teacher
As a classroom pre-k teacher, I regularly teach students who speak a language other than English at home. Some of the students speak some English and others may little or no English. I have worked with many anxious parents who worry about their child transitioning to the classroom without knowing much English. Fortunately there are a number of teaching strategies that I have found to be successfully in supporting students who are learning English. The strategies I utilize not only help students who are learning the language, but benefit all students in the classroom.
It is important to recognize that there is no single approach that will work for all bilingual children, or children learning a second language.That is why as teachers, it is important that we support children by finding out more about our students, their families, and their culture. We believe that it is important that child’s first language is acknowledged and valued, and it should be encouraged to be continued to be spoken at home. Also, it is important for us to observe what children are interested in and what motivates them, so we can include fun activities in our lesson. The more we understand and know about what to expect when children learn a second language, we can have appropriate expectations. By knowing, for example, that some children learning a new language will go through a silent period, we can recognize this stage and not pressure children to speak.
While supporting bilingual children at our school, there are many methods and strategies we use when teaching English (or Spanish) as a second language to ensure that the child grows up confident, and fluent in more languages. These are some of the methods that help all students (bilingual or monolingual) to succeed in communication.
1) Read Aloud - Reading aloud to students introduces new vocabulary and eposes them to new words they may not otherwise hear.
2) Music - We play music and sing songs. This helps children with memorization and learn new phrases in a fun way.
3) Puppets - Puppets are a great motivational tool for students to practice the language and motivate them to start talking. We have found that some students who are reluctant to talk to teachers and adults, are happy to engage and interact with puppets.
4) Visuals - We post visuals all around our classroom. A student going through a "silent" period can always refer to picture to communicate.
5) Repetition - We repeat meaningful words and phrases, modify our speech, model, and use gestures.
6) Playing Games - Games are a great way for children who are reluctant to speak to participate in play. I use a lot of matching games in my classroom.
Language is a big part of identity, and it is important that teachers work collaboratively with parents to support English Language Learners. Together we can positively help shape their sense of self as their understanding of the world around them.
The Benefits of Learning a Second Language
By Sanja Subasic - Discovery Child Development Center Pre-K Teacher
Growing evidence suggests that giving young children an exposure to a second language, either at home or at school, provides cognitive benefits that can last a lifetime. Research suggests that early childhood is the best time to learn a new language.
I have the privilege of teaching children from families who come from a variety of countries and backgrounds. While learning a new language provides so many benefits, many parents have questions and concerns about what learning a second language will mean for their child’s development. Common questions include:
To address and answer frequently asked questions and avoid misinterpretations, our parents and teachers are encouraged to focus on research findings from a variety of scientific fields including developmental psychology, cognitive psychology, education and linguistics.
Will Bilingualism Lead to Confusion and/or Delays?
Many parents express fear that their child might have a language delay if they continue speaking their native language at home while learning English at school. The research in this field shows that being bilingual does not decrease or increase the chance of having a language delay. Just as there are children who speak one language and have a language delay, there are also bilingual children who have a delay. Even as early as infancy, children can differentiate multiple languages without confusion. Children will sometimes alternate between languages in what is known as code-switching, but that actually shows that they have understanding in both languages rather than confusion.
When is the best time to learn a second language?
While it is never too late to learn a new language, research has consistently shown that the early years are the ideal time for it. Young children are able to distinguish sounds and the brain is at its most flexible. A 2018 MIT study showed that it is best to start learning a new language by age 10 to achieve native-like fluency. Since children are well equipped to learn additional languages during the preschool years, it is a wonderful time for them to begin to learn an additional language.
What are the benefits of learning an additional language?
There are so many benefits to learning additional languages. Raising your child to be bilingual increases their understanding of the world from a new perspective and allows them to communicate with a broader range of people from different language and cultural backgrounds.
Studies have also found that bilingual children often perform better when asked to multi-task and it can also lead to increased ability to concentrate on a task. It has also been shown to benefit brain development and can improve communication skills in a child’s first language as well.
While teaching a child a second language does take time and effort, the investment is well worth it.