Using Music and Literacy Activities to Support Language Development in Young English Language Learners

Hello Everyone!

Our topic for this month focuses on young children who are English Language Learners (ELLs) and how teachers might address their needs in the classroom.

Do you have children in your classroom (or have you had children in your classroom) who could be considered English Language Learners?  Most of you would probably say “yes” in response to this question, right?

In many cities and suburbs and even rural areas, more young children are coming to school from homes where English is not the spoken language.  Unfortunately, early educators often do not have the background or training to help young children who do not speak English as a first language. 

I would like to share some ideas with you that help support language acquisition for the English Language Learners in your classroom.  First, a few tips in general:

1.       Teachers need to communicate respect for the child’s background and language to the children as well as to the child’s family.

2.       Help the child feel accepted and comfortable in your classroom. Children need to feel secure before they will freely express themselves in the classroom, especially children who are just beginning to learn a new language. 

3.       Always try to communicate meaning to the child.  Use objects and pictures as much as possible to teach basic vocabulary. Use gestures and body movements to teach actions.

4.       Remember that it will take time and practice for children to acquire a new language so teachers need to praise efforts and give children many opportunities for success.

5.       Integrate the English Language Learners with native English-speaking children in the class. Plan activities that will pair or group children who speak English with ELLs. This will give the English Language Learner the opportunity to learn from his or her peers.

Here are some specific music and literacy activities that might help your English Language Learners:

·         Develop a collection of songs that are sung on a daily basis so the children can hear the words and phrases repeated over and again.

·         Use songs that ask for specific movements, such as Simon Says, so ELLs can imitate their classmates.  An early stage of learning English involves observation and imitation. 

·         Teach rhymes, poems and songs with simple words and phrases that include repetition like London Bridge, The Ants Go Marching.

·         Teach songs that will help expand vocabulary such as body parts in What a Miracle! by Hap Palmer and farm animals in Old MacDonald.

·         Select music that teaches letters, shapes and numbers so children can enjoy the activity as they become familiar with the new words.  Songs that use movement to reinforce the concepts will help children remember them.

·         Play songs for transitions to different activities.

·         Use music that includes movement activities so children can enjoy moving to the music as well as learning the words of the songs. 

·         Use a wide range of books that contain pictures and words. Point to the pictures as you read the words so that children will learn what the words mean.

What are some activities that you have used to teach young English Language Learners in your classroom?

I want to thank those of you who have been responding to the blog with your insightful thoughts and feelings about early education.

Please let me know if there are topics that you would like me to address in the future. We would love to hear from you!

Happy Spring!

Dr. Vardin

Posted in ELL/ESL, Music & Movement, What's New

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