Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Stages of Learning a New Language: The Early Production and Speech Emergence Stages

Last week we described the first and very important stage of language acquisition, the silent period. This week we move forward to tell you about the next two stages of the five-step process. We also offer ideas teachers can use in their classrooms to help children as they acquire a second or even third language.

The second phase is called the early production stage. During this time, children are likely to understand and use about 1000 words. These are usually single words (nouns and verbs) along with simple phrases.

Children in the early production stage benefit from singing, playing musical games, participating in rhyming activities along with engaging in word plays. They can often respond to simple questions but do not always engage in conversations with native speakers. .

The third stage of language acquisition is the speech emergence stage. While not always grammatically correct, children try to chunk phrases into sentences. They often have a vocabulary of about 3000 words and are more likely to talk with native speakers.

In the classroom, it is more beneficial to give children in the speech emergence stage a good model of correct usage rather than correcting their attempts at speaking the new language. Children are able to understand basic texts when they have illustrations to support the content. As with the first two stages, pictures and comprehensible input are valuable teaching tools.

Stay tuned – next week we discuss the final stages of language acquisition. You will have knowledge to assist your ELLs in the New Year! 

Standards Alignment:
NAEYC – 2.A.04. & 2.D.01.
Head Start – IX. A., B., & C.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Stages of Learning a New Language: The Silent Period

Many of us work with English Language Learners (ELLs) and their families. To help us better understand how to help these children, Maggie’s Big Home will discuss the stages of second language acquisition over the next 3 weeks. We will describe the stages and offer suggestions as to how you can support ELLs in your classroom.

Most people (children and adults) who are immersed in a new language go through a Silent Period. This first stage of language acquisition is very important. Although it appears nothing is happening, key connections are being made. A silent period will vary in length. It can last from a few weeks to over a year.

There are several factors that can influence how long a silent period lasts. A child’s personality can play a big role, as some children are more outgoing than others. They feel comfortable in different situations and are not easily intimidated. Other children are naturally shy. We need to take into consideration individual personalities. Culture also plays a role. In some cultures, females may be expected to be quieter. This may influence how long a silent period lasts, too.

An important role for teachers is to realize that the silent period is a natural part of second language acquisition. Children are listening and processing. They are likely striving to understand what is being said to them. As teachers, we need to be sure children have the time they need. We should not force anyone to speak until they are ready. When we give children opportunities to take part in small group activities with peers, they are likely to feel more comfortable in trying out their new language.

Next week we will discuss the Early Production Stage and the Speech Emergence Stage.

Standards Alignment:
NAEYC – 2.A.04. & 2.D.01.
Head Start – IX. A., B., & C.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Common Phonological Error: Affricates

Take a look at these pictures. They represent sounds that are often difficult for our emerging readers.



The initial sounds in these words, j, tr, dr, and ch are called affricates. Many teachers have never heard of this term, despite the fact that these letter combinations are often confusing for young children. It may seem perplexing to us, but these sounds are made in a certain location in the mouth, which leads to them being easily confused. 

Look at your students’ authentic writing. You may see words such as chrip for trip, jran for train, or even jiv for drive. We can understand the vowel changes in these words but we may wonder why the consonant substitutions are occurring. When teachers (and families) know about affricates, these types of errors are easily fixed. 

We suggest placing little toys around the room, as our pictures indicate. Children will wonder what you are up to! You can hand out jellybeans as treats, as further incentive to talk about affricates.
You can have children sort pictures according to their initial sound. For example, include pictures of a dress, dragon, drum, train, tray, truck, chimney, chain, chin, jar, jet, and jump. Children place these in columns according to the sound they hear. For children who make many errors with affricates, begin by having them compare pictures of only two letter/letter combinations, such as j with tr. I add the other letters as children progress.
In our experience up to a third of emerging readers confuse these sounds. If affricates are not understood, teachers and families are easily confused as to why these substitutions are occurring. If we can’t identify the cause, we can’t fix the errors. 

For more, see our activity this week. Be sure you are signed up here to receive these free offerings.

Standards Alignment:
NAEYC - 2.E.06
Head Start - VII. B & C.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Child Friendly Presentations: I Do, We Do, You Do

How can we help our young learners understand new knowledge, strategies, and ways of approaching learning? If we think about the words in the title of this article, we have a good roadmap of how we can guide children through learning. 

We often begin by showing children how to do something new. Let's think about tying shoes. We don't just tell a child to tie his or her shoes. We show them how to do this. Often we talk about a process as we are showing a new skill. For example, in the case of tying shoes we might say, "Let's make two bunny ears from the shoelaces." Then we do this for the child. This is the "I Do" stage of teaching. As adults, we are doing something and the child is watching. We have talked about this in depth in our post about modeling - http://www.maggiesbighome.com/2016/10/teaching-skills-to-children-use-modeling.html 

The next part of teaching is the "We Do" phase. This often takes the longest as we are partners with children and try out a new skill or strategy together. That is key. We are still right there, guiding children, as they attempt the new learning. In the case of tying shoes, we sit with a child and orally review the steps in securing shoes as the child ties laces. We may repeat directions, give children parts of a new skill to do while we do other parts, or guide small groups of children as they work together. The key is to allow plenty of time for practice under the guidance of the adult.

Finally, we invite children to continue to practice the new learning on their own. Aptly titled, the "You Do" phase of learning, we say, "Now it's your turn. You do it!" Children have opportunities to independently practice doing something like tying their shoes. 

When we follow these three sequential components of teaching and learning, children receive the adult guidance that is necessary for learning something new. We have found it beneficial to share these concepts with families and to advise them that the "We Do" phase often takes a lot of time as it is expected that practice makes permanent. 

Standards Alignment:
NAEYC - 2.A.10 & 2.A.11
Head Start - IV.A., B., & C.