Academic journal article School Community Journal

Connecting Worlds: Using Photo Narrations to Connect Immigrant Children, Preschool Teachers, and Immigrant Families

Academic journal article School Community Journal

Connecting Worlds: Using Photo Narrations to Connect Immigrant Children, Preschool Teachers, and Immigrant Families

Article excerpt

Abstract

Increases in immigrant children to U.S. preschools have introduced unique challenges to teachers. An awareness of disconnections between a homogeneous teaching population and the increasingly diverse student population calls for additional exploration of enhancing connections to facilitate the young immigrants' learning process in the classroom. The purpose of this study was to explore how photo narrations in which preschool teachers listened to immigrant children talk about their photos of their context outside of school would provide opportunities for enhanced connections between teachers and immigrant children. The findings revealed that by using the familiar tools of photos and stories, the immigrant children were given space for their voice to be heard, the teachers found their awareness of the cultural connections and disconnections they used during their interaction with the immigrant children heightened, and connection opportunities with immigrant parents were enhanced. In essence, the teachers were given the opportunity to enter the previously unfamiliar context of the child through the bridge the photo narrations constructed between the teachers' and immigrant children's worlds.

Key words: culturally responsive pedagogy, photos, narration, immigrants, children, early childhood education, photographs, home cultures, preschools, teachers, language learners, stories, parents, diversity, connections, English

Introduction

Demographic trends around the world are changing schools. In both cities and suburbs the diversity within local preschools is increasing. Preschool teachers find their understanding of teaching and learning challenged as they are confronted with such discontinuities as English language limitations, low immigrant achievement, and seemingly low parent involvement in school (Rumbaut, 2001; Suárez-Orozco & Suárez-Orozco, 2001). The position statement of the National Association of Educators of Young Children (NAEYC), On Responding to Linguistic and Cultural Diversity (2009), clarifies the importance of teachers developing knowledge and new skills that will support all children in their classrooms, including those with diverse cultures and languages. Existing literature suggests that teachers continue to struggle to connect with immigrant children in their classrooms (Suárez-Orozco & Suárez-Orozco, 2001; Trumbull, Rothstein-Fisch, Greenfield, & Quiroz, 2001). The current academic early childhood conversation includes strategies for teachers to enhance communication and connection with this increasingly diverse preschool population. This article describes how six preschool teachers and their immigrant students used disposable cameras as tools to enhance connections between them.

Demographics

In the past decade the immigrant population entering the United States has been historically remarkable. In 2005, there were more than 10 million school-age children of immigrants (ages 5-17) in the United States, 1.3 million of whom were noted as foreign-born (Camarota, 2005). It is estimated that one out of every five children in school today are either children who have newly arrived in the U.S. or children with at least one parent who has recently immigrated (Camarota, 2005).

Likewise, the number of children in our schools who are Limited English Proficient (LEP) is on the rise. According to the U.S. State Education Agency Survey data, the number of LEP children in schools increased by 105% between 1990 and 2000, whereas the general school population grew by only 12% (Kindler, 2002). Of these children, it is estimated that in 2000, six out of seven enrolled in grades 1-5 lived in linguistically isolated households (Consentino de Cohen, Deterding, & Clewell, 2005).

The teacher population, on the other hand, is generally homogeneous and tends to be reflective of the local mainstream population. In this study, the immigrant children represented 13 countries (see Table 1); in contrast, all the teachers were White females who lived most of their lives in Pennsylvania (see Table 2, p. …

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