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The importance of Language development in early childhood: Primary and Second Language

The importance of Language development in early childhood: Primary and Second Language

As we continue to grow and expand Universal Transitional Kindergarten (UTK) programs across the county, we have an opportunity to design programs that value and affirm students’ languages and cultures. We know that young children are natural language learners and language plays a central role in children’s cognitive and social development in the formative years. The international research on the positive impact of bilingualism is also clear: bilingualism expands multicultural awareness, nurtures and appreciation for multiple points of view, and increases problem solving abilities. In California, where more than 40 percent of children speak a language other than English at home, nurturing quality UTK bilingual programs that maintain and strengthen students’ primary languages extends bilingual benefits to all of our youngest learners.   

The Universal Prekindergarten Planning and Implementation Grant emphasizes the importance of implementing language program models in which home-languages are viewed as assets. Models include both bilingual and dual language programs that support the development of English and an additional or primary language. Likewise, 

The Global California 2030, the California Education for a Global Economy (Ed.G.E) initiative, the California English Learner Roadmap State Board of Education Policy, and the recently released Dual Language Immersion Grant Program all aim to expand the teaching and learning of world languages and ensure the development of students’ primary languages in structured learning environments.

To begin to design robust UTK bilingual and dual language programs, we can intentionally integrate multilingual learning into our instructional design. The following instructional practices, adapted from the Center for Research and Education, Diversity, and Excellence (CREDE), support the language development of multilingual learners: 

  • Interact with students in ways that respect students’ preferences for speaking that may be different from the teacher’s, such as wait-time, eye contact, turn-taking, or spotlighting.
  • Use students’ first and second languages to provide academic instruction and activities.
  • Implement active discovery approaches to teaching and learning.
  • View dual language and bilingual programs as “gifted” programs.
  • Promote and plan frequent opportunities for student talk about familiar topics such as home and community with each other and the teacher during instructional activities.
  • Respond to students’ talk and questions, making ‘in-flight’ changes during conversation that directly relate to students’ comments.
  • Connect student language with literacy and content area knowledge through speaking, listening, reading, and writing activities.
  • Assist written and oral language development through modeling, eliciting, probing, restating, clarifying, questioning, praising, etc., in purposeful conversation and writing.
  • Encourage students to use content vocabulary to express their understanding.

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The California Department of Education (CDE), in partnership with WestEd, has been updating the Preschool Learning Foundations, now called the Preschool / Transitional Kindergarten Learning Foundations (PTKLF). As the state’s learning standards for early education programs, the PTKLF describe the knowledge and skills children ages three to five and a half can achieve in a high-quality early education program. The updates reflect recent research in the field, and a greater emphasis on diversity, equity, and inclusion. The CDE plans to release the PTKLF publication this summer 2024.

The article Practitioner Brief: Culturally Responsive Practices to Collaborate with Families focuses on culturally responsive practices for early childhood educators, emphasizing the significance of collaborating with families from diverse cultural backgrounds to support children's social-emotional learning. It provides practical strategies to address common challenges in establishing effective communication and engagement with families. Additionally, it underscores the vital role of family-professional collaboration in creating an inclusive and supportive learning environment for all children.

The San Diego County Office of Education (SDCOE) P-3 team invites district and school administrators to an institute Sep. 17 and 18 from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. where participants will develop and explore their P-3 system.

This institute provides intentional, in-depth time for participants to examine their current strengths and opportunities within their P-3 system in order to make actionable and relevant site-based changes. This exciting opportunity will foster learning, collaboration, and action-planning to build a cohesive P-3 continuum.

This meditation is designed to engage young children’s imagination, encourage mindfulness through simple breathing and movement, and instill a sense of security and positivity. When we teach mindfulness to kids, we equip them with tools to build self-esteem, manage stress, and skillfully approach challenges. Explore this guided meditation to introduce mindfulness and meditation to children—at any age.

Mindful Expression Through Art by Melissa Dormoy, is slightly adapted and curated from Green Child Magazine (2024). This mindful art resource allows for children to meditate and practice creative expression through their imagination or you can guide them through a meditative art session. This practice offers children the chance to express themselves through art. They can choose to use their imagination and visualize the creative process, or you can lead this meditation while they use art supplies to make their own art creation.

The P3 in Partnership podcast is designed to support educators around PreKindergarten to 3rd grade. Our goal is to build excitement around the opportunities a cohesive P3 system can have for our young learners. Whether you are new to P3 or a veteran educator, this podcast is for you!