The Dual Language & Literacy Pilot Project now operating at LULAC Head Start’s Mill River Center is one of 6 Early Literacy Grants from the Connecticut State Department of Education, the Graustein Memorial Fund and the Annie E. Casey Foundation. Through this pilot project, pre-school children enrolled in 3 selected classrooms receive all of their curriculum and instruction in English or in Spanish on a scheduled basis throughout each week. Parents are also a crucial part of this project. Each Friday they attend a brief bi-lingual presentation on the chosen book of the week along with props and suggestions for how the book should be presented and shared with the children. The project also provides training and support for classroom teachers.
How does the Dual Language Program work with children in the classroom?
In a Dual Language classroom, the teachers speak to all of the children in one language, English or Spanish, for the whole day according to a fixed schedule. Research has shown that hearing one language at a time supports language and literacy development and helps children learn vocabulary in each language. The teachers speak with the children in Spanish on Monday and Tuesdays. On Wednesdays and Thursdays the teachers speak with the children in English. On Friday, the teachers and children interact with each other in both languages freely. The Dual Language & Literacy Project will assess the language and literacy skills of each child at the beginning and at the conclusion of the project to measure the project’s effectiveness.
How does the Dual Language Program work with families?
Each Friday, parents are invited to a workshop on language and literacy at LULAC. Families of the children meet as they drop off their children from 7:30 to 9 AM or when they pick up their children from 4 to 5 PM. Each week, families receive a free bilingual children’s story book and learn ways to support their child’s emerging literacy skills. We are pleased that the Director of the Connecticut Children’s Museum, Sandy Malmquist, and the museum staff, Carmen Santiago and Melissa Rivera are organizing the family workshops. Each of the museum staff is an early childhood educator with experience in early language and literacy development in young children.
What are the benefits of an Early Childhood Dual Language & Literacy Program?
There has been research to suggest that both native Spanish speakers and native English speakers benefit from acquiring a second language in preschool. For children whose home language is Spanish or English, a Dual Language Program strengthens children’s home language skills by increasing their vocabulary through the use of both classroom conversations and dialogic reading of the high quality bi-lingual children’s picture and story books given to each classroom and the parents through this grant. The dual language program also provides a foundation for learning about the American and Latino cultures as well as the English and Spanish languages.
Coaching of Classroom Teachers
A strong component of the Dual Language and Literacy Project is the coaching and professional development of the pre-kindergarten teachers and support staff. All staff has been trained on first and second language acquisition, comprehensible instruction at the pre-kindergarten level, and the delivery of instruction in early language, literacy, concept development and school readiness across all areas. The bilingual instructional coach works in the classroom with the teachers to assure the delivery of effective instruction across all areas of the curriculum. The bilingual instructional coach visits each of the project classrooms two thru three times per week to observe the delivery of instruction in each language and to model effective instructional techniques. The instructional coach meets one-on-one with each teacher and in group settings to engage in the review of classroom observations and to provide ongoing professional development and long term planning with teachers.