Foundational Processes, Home-School Partnerships, and Culturally Responsive Practices for Dual Language Learners

Foundational Processes, Home-School Partnerships, and Culturally Responsive Practices for Dual Language Learners

Kristina M. Howlett (University of Arkansas, USA) and Heather D. Kindall (University of Arkansas, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-3955-1.ch001
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The purpose of this chapter is to examine the current empirical studies on foundational processes, home-school partnerships, and culturally responsive practices in regard to Dual Language Learners (DLLs) for early childhood education in order to inform teacher education programs (TEPs).
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With the continued growth of the young Dual Language Learner (DLL) population in US schools, all educators must be prepared to teach in linguistically diverse classrooms. It is critical to provide high quality teacher education programs in order to prepare teachers for the changing demographics in today’s classrooms. The term dual language learner refers to students who develop and continue to use two or more languages (Genesee, 2010). While there is substantial evidence supporting the advantages of bilingual education, our public schools remain primarily monolingual instructional settings. This mismatch between best practice and the current state of education, poses a challenge for teacher education programs (TEPs) regarding how to prepare teachers to support students’ native languages and create the best school environments that are culturally responsive.

Young DLLs range in age from birth through eight (National Association for the Education of Young Children, 2009; Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages, 2010). An estimated 25 percent—one-in-four—children in America are from immigrant families and live in households where a language other than English is spoken (Mather, 2009). The U.S. Census Bureau (2008) projects that the now ethnic and racial minority groups will become the majority by 2050. According to Ballantyne, Sanderman, and Levy (2008), most mainstream teachers currently have at least one DLL in their classroom. However, only 29.5 percent of those teachers have opportunities for professional preparation in working with their DLL population. The U.S. Department of Education released a policy statement citing a number of recommendations for early childhood programs (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2017). Among them were suggestions about promoting the learning and development of DLLs by creating a climate that is based on their strengths, recognizing the benefits of bilingualism, embracing diversity, and recognizing the importance of fostering connections with families as children’s first and most important teachers.

The number of bilingual young children continues to rise in the United States and it is necessary for TEPs to provide the knowledge, skills, and best practices to teacher candidates about how to work with DLLs. Since most states do not require general education teachers to complete courses specific to the instruction of DLLs, most preservice training programs are lacking in their preparation programs. Many teachers are underprepared to work with DLLs and report feeling unequipped to teach DLLs (Baird, 2015; Daniel & Friedman, 2005). In addition, they desire to promote home-school partnerships with DLLs, yet are unsure how to do so. The Latina/o population may be outpacing the African American population; however, combined, they will constitute 44% of the student population by 2025 (National Center for Educational Statistics, 2016). Because all teachers are responsible for teaching in a diverse society, it is critical that our TEPs provide the highest quality instructional approaches to meet the needs of our increasingly diverse early childhood population. Although there are guidelines for K-5 TEPs, there are no consistent policies and regulations in place for the caregivers and teachers responsible for those in the early childhood field (Copple & Bredekamp, 2009).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Early Childhood Education: Classrooms serving children birth through age eight.

Culturally Responsive: Developing an awareness, skills, and knowledge to respond appropriately and recognize the importance of various individuals and cultural groups.

Foundational Processes: Processes associated with child development that aid in transfer of learning.

Dual Language Learners (DLL): Individuals who develop two languages simultaneously.

Teacher Education Programs (TEPs): Higher education focused on the training of teachers.

Home-School Partnerships: Building relationships between schools and families.

Foundational Literacy Processes: Includes phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension. Also known as the five pillars of literacy.

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