Rounding Up Resources:

Helping Early Childhood Teachers Meet Multilingual Learner Needs

Sherri Eldred, Boyd Elementary, Springfield, MO

Rounding Up Resources:

Introduction

There are many resources available to support educators of English Learners (ELs), however, having access to those materials isn’t always easy. One cannot overstate the value of having resources available for teachers. We know that “without specific knowledge related to language development, even the most willing and eager teacher will struggle needlessly with understanding how to differentiate instruction and assessment for ELLs” (Fairbairn & Jones, 2019, p. 6). This project focused on rounding up resources to support the early childhood educators in our district.

Springfield Public Schools has an incredible early childhood programcomposed of twenty-four Early Childhood Special Education (ECSE) classrooms and forty-four Wonder Years (WY) classrooms. Among these classrooms are students who speak various languages and who come to school with minimal knowledge of English. As this program has grown over the last few years, the number of ELs has increased as well. Educators had more questions than answers about how to meet the needs of these students. To differentiate between the students’ needs, it was important to have a centralized place to find the answers. However, the available Early Childhood (EC) resources were few. Coordinating with our English Language Department, resources were chosen as a support to be added to each of the EC centers and hubs in our district. This met educators’ needs by providing a starting place to find information about language development and differentiated instruction.

The goal of this project was to find resources and information that would be immediately applicable and user friendly for educators. The resources consisted of a mix of books and materials from Teachers Pay Teachers (TPT). As educators encountered challenges in the classroom, the books supported further learning. The digital materials enhanced the classroom with visual instruction cards and literacy-based activities. These resources provided examples of how to break down a book into EL friendly lessons. 

Step-by-Step Plan

  • Seek approval from Directors of the Early Childhood and the English Language Department.
  • Determine the sites where resources will be incorporated.
  • Research EC resources that provide helpful and easy to use strategies for teaching ELs.
  • Research on TPT for age-appropriate resources that could be used immediately.
  • Generate a list of resources within the budget.
  • Create a short presentation for the EC staff to advocate for the use of the resources.
  • Order resources.
  • Meet with Instructional Coaches to promote the project and resources.
  • Create shared folders in the EC and site-specific Google Drives to access digital resources.
  • Add new books to the school library.
  • Distribute resources through Instructional Coaches. 

Timeline

See step-by-step plan above.

What did it look like?

Sustainability

Instructional Coaches and EL Specialists will promote and share resources with educators who have ELs in their classes. These resources will be available as needs change from year to year. As new educators arrive and positions change, these materials will continue to support teachers as they advocate for ELs.

Reflections

To kick off the year, I was able to give a short presentation about how to meet the needs of ELs in the classroom. I had not yet purchased the items at that point, but it would have been great if I had been able to have these resources available for the teachers to physically see and look through. Unfortunately, the timing did not work out based on our district’s training timelines. Creating an awareness that there are more tools educators may add to their toolbelt was important and I received positive feedback on the information I shared. 

Based on the ELs in their classrooms, educators could access these resources when needed. One of the Instructional Coaches stated, “The resources are so supportive of our students’ need for visuals to learn about their environment and the world around them. It also helps to solidify our focus on the importance of visuals for all early learners. Using the digital resource example story makes such an impact on literacy development for students and the connections they make between the vocabulary and the story.”

The digital resources provided support the development of foundational skills for ELs. Among these resources are visual cue cards featuring both Spanish and English instructions. Educators have found value in printing these cards and displaying them on easels. During instruction, teachers point to specific cues, such as eyes accompanied by the Spanish word "mira" (look), enhancing comprehension. Additionally, there are cards displaying materials with corresponding visuals, aiding students in understanding routine tasks like "cut the paper," "trace," or "draw."

The resource also offers the flexibility for educators to create custom visual cards. These have proven beneficial for activities involving fine motor skills, such as working with playdoh. For instance, a visual card may illustrate two hands rolling Play-Doh into a snake or shaping it into a ball. This approach simplifies complex instructions for ELs, allowing all students to receive auditory and visual cues for information processing.

The books I selected encourage asset-based thinking, provide strategies for teaching, and model how to create a language-rich environment. Valentina Gonzalez notes, “If we embrace the beauty of multilingualism and recognize it as a gift, students will feel affirmed and valued for who they are” (Gonzales, 2022). There are many aspects of students’ lives to incorporate into the classroom. During the presentation at the beginning of the school year, I challenged the educators to add one tool to their bilingual toolbelt at a time. The Instructional Coaches fostered a steady pace as they recommended resources.

These materials have created a foundation to be built upon in the EC department of Springfield Public Schools. Educators have these resources to utilize in addressing their needs as well as the needs of the ELs in their class. The Instructional Coaches have materials to reference when questions are raised about how to differentiate for a student who does not speak English. These challenges in a classroom have been mitigated by having materials available both digitally and hard copy. Students will continue to be positively impacted as their teacher looks for ideas and knowledge in differentiation and instruction. We know that when all students are provided with opportunities to learn based on their needs then the classroom becomes a multicultural, multilingual experience for all!

 

Bibliography

Fairbairn, S., & Jones-Vo, S. (2019). Differentiating instruction and assessment for English language learners: A guide for K-12 teachers (2nd ed.). Caslon.

Gonzalez, V. (2022, October 29). Multilinguals: 5 keys to success new teachers need to know. MiddleWeb. https://www.middleweb.com/47999/new-to-teaching-and-to-teaching-mls-try-this/

 

 

 

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