Ways to support children with English as an additional language
This is a challenge often faced by practitioners in early years settings and there are more and more children starting early years settings speaking different home languages. As well as it being difficult to communicate with these children it can also be difficult to use the necessary language monitoring tools set out in the setting.These results may show that these children are under achieving, however they may be fluent in their home language. This means creating parent partnerships is more important than ever to help gather as much formation about the child, to create effective next steps and to learn all you can about a child.
Often practitioner attitudes can be an issue in supporting children with English as they think that the children will not understand them, however it is more important to talk to these children to develop their English and communication skills. Children are very quick learners and will quickly pick up key English phrases and then rapidly develop. Often practitioners also believe that parent should be speaking English with their children at home to help them to understand and learn but studies have shown that parents should speak their home language with children so that they learn the correct language rules in one language and can fluently speak one language.
Luckily there are many options to ensuring these children get the support they need to develop through the early year’s foundation stage and it is important to remember that all these children may find it difficult to communicate using English.
The first step in ensuring these children are supported is to communicate with parents to learn about the child and to find out some key words from the child’s home language such as hello, goodbye, toilet, meal times and anything else you may consider helpful. These can then be used to help you to understand the child’s needs and will help them to understand certain parts of the daily routine. Using these key words will also show a child that you value their language, their backgrounds and will increase self esteem which in turn will lead to happy and confident learners.
Another way we can support children who speak English as an additional language is through the use of widget symbols/ picture cards. A common tool for this is Communicate in print. These symbols or cards can be used in a variety of ways and can be a very effective way for practitioners to communicate with children and parents and also can be a way for children to communicate with practitioners depending on how you choose to use them.
One way to use these symbols is on a key ring which can be kept in a pocket or attached to trousers, these can then be changed and showed to the children when it is time to swap activities, these also clearly display golden rules so these can be shown to the children when you want to see a certain type of behaviour for example good sitting. These are effective because pictures display the same thing regardless of the language you speak.
You may choose to create a pack to give to the child so they can show you when they have certain needs or wants such as the toilet or a drink. This may ease frustration for the child and also enable the practitioner to offer the necessary support to the child.
Lastly you may choose to display these widgets somewhere the parents will see them such as a parent board as a way of practitioners communicating with parents about what their child has been up to during the day, this can be useful for not only parents who speak an additional language but also parents who are hard of hearing or are unable to read.
Another way to support a child with English as an additional language is by writing some words from their home language to go alongside some English words. An effective way of doing this is on display boards so whenever you title a display board in English also title it in children’s home languages as well. This again helps to communicate with parents and to help the children to feel valued and welcome. Another way is through ensuring books within the environment are not just written in English but also in children home languages so everyone can join in with reading books.
It is important that all children feel that they are given the same equal opportunities are feel valued for who they are. Encouraging children to learn English whilst appreciating their home language is important to development in all areas and to gain confidence and become active learners. Using picture cards is an effective way of creating a two way communication between child and practitioner and even parent is used in a communal area. The environment also plays a large role in supporting all children so displaying print wherever possible will only strengthen and support development.