Teaching in Hawaii often meant having children coming to school without any knowledge of English…especially in Kindergarten. There was one year in particular that I had 8 out of 24 students who had very limited or no English speaking background. This was quite a challenge as not only did they not speak English, they all spoke different languages or dialects.
Recently I was asked to put together some materials for an adult to learn the English language. What was successful in the classroom with children who are 4-5 years old to me is very different than what an adult would find helpful nevertheless I was asked to recreate some of the materials/assignments that we did.
This led me the idea of putting together a post of activities that others may find useful. Of the 8 children who were identified as having limited or no proficiency in English, 6 exited the ESLL program by the end of the year. In combination with the class that specialized in helping these children, we did many activities to help promote language for the entire class. Of course their age was a huge factor in learning English so quickly…they just have no inhibitions and communicate with others and somehow I feel their is a universal language among children…they just adapt and understand each other. So while I would love to take credit for their success, I think their peers made the greatest difference!
Some of the visual language I provided in the classroom was:
1. Labels: not just items in the classroom but areas in the room creating centers, labelled baskets of books by genre, names on desks and cubbyholes, calendar and a word wall for basic sight words.
2. Books: Dictionaries, Encyclopedias, and as many books for them to read as possible with books to take home every night in case they didn’t have many at home. I bought books from second hand stores, carnivals and ordered from Scholastic and book companies to supplement my school library.
3. Hands on Science, Math and Language Arts Activities. We made many projects after reading books, we cooked, we painted and we wrote our own mini books. Many you can see on our site Teaching Tiny Tots.
4. We had paired reading (a strong reader with a child who needed a little extra help, group reading and small reading groups by ability.
5. We read a different book daily often tied in to what we were learning whether it was a holiday, season or learning about an author.
6. We had journals for daily writing…at first a picture I labeled and they copied until they could give me a sentence and spell phonetically.