A bold new approach to English proficency for kids: Lean on their first language.
California public schools have a woeful record of moving non-English speaking children to grade level proficiency in English. The state has been sued (and it settled), theDepartment of Justice has investigated, and tens of thousand of students have not been able to fully participate in school due to language limitations.
Now a federal grant will allow the Los Angeles Unified School District to try something new to help some of its youngest English language learners (ELLs) achieve better educational outcomes.
L.A. Unified has approximately 160,000 students whose first language is not English. The majority of those students speak Spanish as their first language.
Loyola Marymount University's school of education was awarded a $2.7 million dollar grant to collaborate with four LAUSD elementary schools with high ELL populations. LMU will train 84 transitional kindergarten through third grade teachers in a new method to get children proficient in English by utilizing the child’s first language as a literacy tool.
In an immigrant-rich city like Los Angeles, it is not uncommon for a child to arrive at preschool or kindergarten with very limited literacy in English. But according to LMU professor Magaly Lavadenz, director of the Center for Equity for English Learners (CEEL), students do come with literacy skills –they just happen to be in another language.
“They bring their home language. They know how to communicate, how to interact,” Lavandez said. “They know how to negotiate meaning in their first language.”
These skills are the building blocks of early literacy, she said.
However, these literacy skills are too often ignored in the classroom, Lavandez said. “We want to use [this foundation] as a way to add English to what they already bring.”
When a child enters school with a limited ability to understand English, the teacher’s primary challenge is to get them reading and writing at grade level in English, which is essentially their second language.
Traditionally, that effort has involved strict English-only classrooms with little A bold new approach to English proficency for kids: Lean on their first language. | 89.3 KPCC: