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Supporting Children LearningEnglish as a Second Language inthe Early Years (birth to six years)November 2009Dr Priscilla Clarke OAM, Early Childhood Consultant

This Discussion Paper was commissioned by the VCAAas a supporting document to the Victorian Early YearsLearning and Development Framework, 2009. Victorian Curriculum and Assessment Authority 2009No part of this publication may be reproduced except as specified under theCopyright Act 1968 or by permission from the VCAA. For more informationgo to: ght.htmlThe VCAA provides the only official, up-to-date versions of VCAA publications. Details of updates can be found on the VCAA website:www.vcaa.vic.edu.auThis publication may contain copyright material belonging to a third-party.Every effort has been made to contact all copyright owners. If you believe thatmaterial in this publication is an infringement of your copyright please emailthe Copyright Officer c/o: ght in materials appearing at any sites linked to this document restswith the author of those materials, subject to the Copyright Act. The VCAArecommends you refer to copyright statements at linked sites before usingsuch materials.ISBN 978-1-921702-17-4

Dr Priscilla Clarke, OAM wasformally Executive Directorof FKA Children’s Services,which includes the MulticulturalResource Centre. She is currentlyan early childhood consultantspecialising in the Second Languageacquisition of young bilingualchildren. Priscilla has conductedprofessional development for earlyyears professionals in Australia,New Zealand, Thailand, England,Scotland, Northern Ireland andIreland. She is the author of manypublications including a bookwritten jointly with Professor IramSiraj-Blatchford and published byOpen University Press.In 2003, Dr Clarke was awardedan Order of Australia Medal forher significant contribution to thebilingual preschool education ofimmigrant and refugee children.3

Supporting Children Learning English as a Second Language in the Early Years (birth to six years)ContentsBackground and purposeIntroductionRelationship with the Victorian Early Years Learning and Development Framework (VEYLDF) birth to eight yearsWho are learners of English as a second language?The importance of language for young childrenPartnerships with parentsThe importance of maintaining the first or home languageWhy is it important to be bilingual?Maintaining the first language in children under threeMaintaining the first language in years prior in children age three to six yearsLearning English as a second or an additional languageBabies and toddlersChildren in the years prior to schoolIdentity and wellbeingDo children need to be fluent in English before going to school?Children new to English in the early years of schoolStages of ESL development for children in the years prior to entering school and the early years of schoolThe importance of oral English language developmentStages of second language acquisitionUse of the home languageOral English language development – an overview of stages between three to six years of ageStage 1 – New to EnglishStage 2 – Becoming familiar with EnglishStage 3 – Becoming a confident user of EnglishStage 4 – Demonstrated competency as a speaker of EnglishRates of acquisitionProvision of inclusive environmentsImportance of playThe role of early childhood professionalsDeveloping listening skillsUse of contextualised languageUse of decontextualised languageSupporting language comprehension and productionSustained shared communicationAssessing outcomesAchieving outcomesLanguage delayAppendix 1Resources and supportBooks, CDs and resources reflecting diversity of culture and languageReference material for early childhood professionalsAppendix 2References and further 222222424242424252526272828292930305

Supporting Children Learning English as a Second Language in the Early Years (birth to six years)6Background and purposeIntroductionThe Victorian Early Years Learning and DevelopmentFramework (VEYLDF) (Victorian Framework) birthto eight years, has been developed in partnership withthe Office for Children and Portfolio Coordination,Department of Education and Early Childhood Development (DEECD) and the Victorian Curriculumand Assessment Authority (VCAA). The VEYLDFwas launched November 2009 for implementation in2010.The Victorian Framework describes five Learningand Development Outcomes for children from birthto eight years. It links the learning outcomes from theEarly Years Learning Framework for Australia to theVictorian Essential Learning Standards (VELS) Levels 1 and 2. The Outcomes provide a shared languagefor all early years childhood professionals and families to use when planning for children’s learning anddevelopment.This document, Supporting Children LearningEnglish as a Second Language in the Early Years(birth to six years) is the first in a series of Implementation guides designed to support families and earlyyears professionals . It has a particular focus on children in the three to six years age group and supportschildren’s transition into school.The Victorian Framework recognises that children’s learning and development takes place in thecontext of their families and that families are children’s first and most important educators. Familiesprovide children with the relationships, the opportunities and the experiences which shape their learningand development.The Victorian Framework acknowledges that thefamilies and communities in which children live arediverse; and that children’s learning and developmentis enhanced when they experience relationships withearly childhood professionals that respect their culture and ways of knowing and being. In particular theframework recognises and respects Aboriginal andTorres Strait Islander cultures and the unique placeof these as a valued part of Victoria’s heritage andfuture. Learning about and valuing the place of firstnations people will enhance all Victorian children’ssense of place in our community.The Victorian Framework recognises that everychild will take a unique path to the five Learning andDevelopment Outcomes. Children will require different levels of support, some requiring significantlymore than others.In Australia at the present time there are many children starting kindergarten or child care for whomEnglish is not their first or home language. Someearly childhood settings have a diversity of languagesspoken, while others have only one or two childrenwho do not speak English. Early childhood professionals working with these children need to ensurethat the support they provide benefits all the childrenin their program.The five Learning and Development Outcomes inthe Victorian Early Years Learning and DevelopmentFramework (VEYLDF) birth to eight years are accessible to all children. However, the pathways to theseoutcomes will vary for different learners. This document provides information about the second languagelearning development of young children from birthto six years of age and intersects with the advice offered in the Victorian Essential Learning Standards(VELS), English as a Second Language (ESL) companion.Honouring diversity, respecting and promoting theuse of languages other than English and also ensuringall children acquire English as a second language, isfundamental to securing the rights of all children toan early childhood program that meets their needsand provides them with educational and social outcomes that assist them in attaining a high standard ofeducation and a responsible life in the future.Cultural and linguistic diversity has been a feature of Australia for more than 40 000 years. Prior tocolonisation currently more than 250 Indigenous languages were spoken throughout Australia. The VEYLDF recognises family diversity and children’s rightsto maintain their culture, language, faith, religion andspirituality.

Supporting Children Learning English as a Second Language in the Early Years (birth to six years)Relationship with the VictorianEarly Years Learning andDevelopment Framework(VEYLDF) birth to eight years The recognition of the role of parents aseducators in their children’s development is vital.The Victorian Framework strengthens children’slearning and development in the critical years of early childhood. It identifies what children should knowand be able to do from birth to eight years of age.It recognises that children’s first and most importantlearning happens in the family. It supports partnerships between families and all professionals who areresponsible for a child’s learning and developmentduring this time.The five Victorian Learning and DevelopmentOutcomes in the VEYLDF relate to: children have a strong sense of Identity (Identity)Who are learners of English as a secondlanguage? children are connected with and contribute totheir world (Community) children have a strong sense of wellbeing(Wellbeing) children are confident and involved learners(Learning) children are effective communicators(Communication).The Victorian Framework will ensure that the specific learning and development needs of children fromculturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds aremet through the inclusion of the following key considerations: Bilingualism is an asset. It is important tomaintain the children’s first or home languagesas this has a significant role in shaping identity,language development and increased cognitivedevelopment. Continued development of first or homelanguages gives the children access toopportunities for learning in the early years bybuilding on knowledge and competencies that thechildren have already developed. Secure and trusting relationships betweenchildren and early childhood professionals,including those who speak languages other thanEnglish, are essential for children to feel valuedand accepted in all early childhood settings. It is important for early childhood professionalsto understand the stages of first and secondlanguage development in children.Maintenance of the first language and progress inlearning English as a second language are essentialpathways for children in achieving the outcomes.Learners as individuals will follow different pathways to achieving these outcomes.Standard Australian English is the national languageof Australia and it is essential that all children growing up in Australia have access to opportunities tobecome proficient speakers of English. Children whoare learning English as a second (or additional language) speak a language other than English and bringrich and diverse cultural and linguistic knowledge tothe early childhood and school settings.In Victoria children learning English as a secondmay be children of immigrant heritage born in Australia and other English-speaking countries and children born in a non-English speaking country.Children learning English as a second languageare a diverse group. Some children will have had littleor no exposure to English when starting child care,family day care, kindergarten or school. Other children will have been exposed to English through oldersiblings, child care or playgroup experiences or willhave been introduced to some English at home. Somevery young children will still be acquiring their firstlanguage at home, while learning English as a secondlanguage in child care or family day care.Children learning English as a second languageneed explicit modelling and language teaching, appropriate time to acquire the new language and quality exposure to English. This requires early childhoodprofessionals to be knowledgeable about the waychildren learn a second language, the stages of acquisition and the recognition that children differ in theirrate of acquisition.Children from language backgrounds other thanEnglish vary in their linguistic preferences. It is important not to assume that children who come fromhomes where English is not the main language willspeak only their first language in the home. Some bilingual parents may choose to speak English at home.However, it is essential that parents understand thebenefits of maintaining their first language and feelconfident in speaking their language at home, if thisis what they choose. It is a right enshrined in the Convention on the Rights of the Child (Article 30, 1990)to maintain the first or home language.7

Supporting Children Learning English as a Second Language in the Early Years (birth to six years)8The importance of language for youngchildrenPartnerships with parentsThe early years are recognised as the foundationyears for children’s development. In particular, thefirst six years are crucial for young children in developing their first language and cultural identity, andit is during these early years that children build uptheir knowledge of the world around them. For children from language backgrounds other than English,the language or languages of the home that have beenused since birth are the basis for developing meaningful relationships and learning about meaningfulcommunication and interaction (Siraj-Blatchford andClarke 2000).‘Language is the most powerful tool in the development of any human being. It is undeniably thegreatest asset we possess. A good grasp of languageis synonymous with a sound ability to think. In otherwords language and thought are inseparable’ (Vygotsky 1986). Language has a major role in supporting children’s process of identity formation and inhelping them understand where they fit in the newenvironment they are entering. The acquisition oflanguage is essential not only to children’s cognitivedevelopment, but also to their social development andwellbeing.For young children interaction with adults and other children is the key to the acquisition of language.For infants and toddlers their early interaction withparents and caregivers provides the basis for communication and learning in both the first or home language and in the second language (Siraj-Blatchfordand Clarke 2000).The importance of links between home, and earlychildhood settings or school is widely recognised.Parents need to participate in both the developmentof the educational program and its implementation.When children and parents start the program, theybring with them a wealth of cultural, linguistic andeconomic experience which the early childhood professional can draw upon.Strong partnerships with parents are essential, ifchildren learning English as a second language areto have positive outcomes in the early childhood setting. Partnerships with parents are primarily aboutequity. In supporting families from culturally andlinguistically diverse backgrounds, early childhoodprofessionals take responsibility to ensure fairnessand build dynamic relationships that create a sense ofbelonging for all.In early contacts with a family, early childhoodprofessionals learn as much as they can from parentsabout the home envir

Supporting Children Learning English as a Second Language in the Early Years (birth to six years) Relationship with the Victorian Early Years Learning and Development Framework (VEYLDF) birth to eight years The Victorian Framework strengthens children’s learning and development in the critical years of ear- ly childhood. It identifies what children should know and be able to do from birth to ...