When English Is A Second Language
Little Learners Nursery, based on a large University campus, has a high percentage of children with English as an additional language. We embrace all the languages that our children, parents and early year’s practitioners use and try and implement them into our everyday practice.
When a family first visits our setting they are greeted by a bilingual staff team who, where possible, are available to assist parents with transitions of information, support when filling out important documents and feedback on their child. The staff are then also available for the child if needed. For example through support during play, at story time, during mealtimes, routine changes or when the child is feeling unsure. We believe this offers a great support service for both the children and their parents.
Within all of our rooms there are bright, colourful visual routines for the children to follow. This is an excellent way of explaining the daily routine without the need for spoken language. As the child becomes more familiar with the routine, language will build up and they will be able to talk through the different parts of the day. There are different visual routines in different areas of the nursery including hand washing, potty training, snack times, what to do at mealtime and the full daily routine. There are also welcome boards displaying parent’s examples of the languages that are spoken within that room and at home.
To support the child we have a data base of common words used in 15 languages. We also ask the parents for any other words that they feel the child and key person may need while at nursery. This gives the key person some simple understanding and so being more aware if the child is asking for something or trying to explain something. This also helps the key person to build a relationship with the child.
Throughout the year we hold special events where parents can take part and become involved in their child’s time at the setting. We also encourage parents to come in and read stories and play with the children in their home language. The children enjoy new and different experiences and are often intrigued when parents visit and use dialects they are not familiar with or ones that they use at home. We are aware of how important it is to encourage the use of both languages at home and at nursery and the benefits that can be gained for the child.
So that we can provide the best possible care and education for each child we ask parents to come in and have a Watch me grow appointment where we give the parents feedback on their child’s progress and development while at nursery. This is also an excellent time for the child’s key person to discuss the child’s level and understanding of English, their use of their home language at nursery and their use of English at home. During this time the key person may have some questions on how the child is progressing at home. These can be important as if the child is using little or no English at the setting it is harder to know their level of development. We believe good relationships with parents helps to aid our knowledge of the child and so provide them with the best possible care and education.
Within the setting we have many resources and techniques that support children who speak additional languages. These include dual-language books, posters of familiar scenes that may encourage the use of language, a list of simple songs in different languages that all the children can learn, practitioners who can sit with children during story times to help point out key features and give explanations, practitioners who can produce flashcards for the children to use to encourage language.
Bookstart is a national programme that encourages all parents and carers to enjoy books with their children from as early an age as possible. Health professionals will give babies a bookstart baby pack before their first birthday. Either health professionals or early year’s practitioners will send out a bookstart+ pack to children aged between 18-30 months and a treasure chest to children aged between 3-4 years. Bookstart provides dual language books and guidance material that are available in 28 languages.