A Case Study of an Early Childhood Teacher's Perspective on Working with English Language Learners

By Lee, Seungyoun; Butler, Malcolm B. et al. | Multicultural Education, Fall 2007 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

A Case Study of an Early Childhood Teacher's Perspective on Working with English Language Learners

Lee, Seungyoun, Butler, Malcolm B., Tippins, Deborah J., Multicultural Education


The student population in United States early childhood education programs is becoming more diverse every year (Miller, Miller, & Schroth, 1997; Waggoner, 1994). The diversity of race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, and language is quite dramatic in some instances (Wright, Chang, & Rocha, 2000, p. 50). English as a Second Language (ESL) education-English as a Foreign Language (EFL), Language-Minority Students (LMS), Limited English Profi- cient (LEP), Potentially English Proficient (PEP), or mainstreamed students-focuses on seeking the "appropriate" approaches to facilitate English language learners (ELLs) to improve proper academic skills (Young, 1996).

Drucker (2003) indicates that 'academic proficiency' in English is "the ability not only to use language for reading and writing but also to acquire information in content areas" (p. 22.) To develop 'academic proficiency' in English takes longer than to grow 'peer-appropriate conversational skills.' 'Academic proficiency' in English includes fewer contextual clues such as body language, gestures, facial expressions, or various signs to understand meanings of texts (Drucker, 2003).

"People learn to read, and to read better, by reading" (Eskey, 2002, p.8). In order to improve ELLs' academic English, teachers can help ELLs by previewing reading text (Drucker, 2003; Chen & Graves, 1998), providing contextual clues for reading (Drucker, 2003), choral reading (McCauley & McCauley, 1992), paired reading (Li & Nes, 2001), and simultaneous listening and reading of audiotaped stories (Conte & Humphreys, 1989).

At this point, Krashen (1981) argues for the importance of "I + 1." The reading text should be provided at the level of ELLs' current learning ability and should stretch their potential literacy level. Considering ELLs' differences of conversational skills and academic skills in English, it is important to plan ELLs' reading at their academic proficiency level, not at their oral ability level.

All children should have equal learning opportunities. As Lake and Pappamihiel (2003) suggest, however, "Fair does not mean 'equal'; rather, treating children fairly means treating children differently." In order to create "fair" learning environment, teachers' instructional methods, contents, materials, and assessments vary depending on individual children's cultural and linguistic backgrounds.

However, cultural and linguistic diversity indicates something more than language and literacy acquisition. Research has shown that many of these children feel loss, unsafe, alienated, and depressed (Congress & Lynne, 1994) when struggling to adapt and adjust to the diverse languages, knowledge expectations, traditions, attitudes, and values that exist between their home environment and their educational setting (NAEYC, 1996).

As our schools and communities become more diverse, it becomes increasingly important for teachers to be well prepared for teaching and learning in cross-racial, cross-ethnic, and cross-cultural situations. Teachers who are teaching in this multicultural era need to be sensitive to the diverse sociocultural backgrounds of children and should possess socioculturally relevant knowledge, values, decision-making abilities, strategies, and actions. This is essential if teachers are to help these children learn more securely and meet their needs more equally by providing a safe, challenging, and nurturing environment.

In particular, the National Association for the Education of Young Children (1996) posits that early childhood teachers have to acknowledge the ESL learners' 'feeling of loneliness, fear, and abandonment' in educational settings that are isolated from the ELLs' home cultures and languages. Accordingly, they propose the goal of early childhood education as "equal access to high quality educational programs that recognize and promote all aspects of children's development and learning and enabling all children to become competent, successful, and socially responsible adults" (NAEYC, 1996, p.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Cite this article

Cited article

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

A Case Study of an Early Childhood Teacher's Perspective on Working with English Language Learners


Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?