Academic journal article New Waves

Language Environment of Dual Language Learners and the Use of Language Support Practices

Academic journal article New Waves

Language Environment of Dual Language Learners and the Use of Language Support Practices

Article excerpt


The changing demographics in the United States are causing educators to reconsider how young children are educated (McWayne, Melzi, Schick, Kennedy, & Mundt, 2013). The linguistic and cultural diversity of young children are increasing and providers of early education can expect to see continuing increases over time. The rising number of children in early childhood programs whose home language is other than English reflects this trend. These dual language learners (DLLs) are learning two languages at the same time; they are still learning to speak their native language at home while learning a new language, English, at school. Within this group, the Latinos are one of the fastest growing populations of children, so it is necessary to take a careful look at the education of this group (Barrueco, López, Ong, & Lozano, 2011).

Scaffolding with Language Support Practices

The theoretical framework for this study was sociocultural theory, specifically focusing on scaffolding. Bruner used Vygotsky's theories to explore how children learn through collaborative interaction with adults (Minick, Stone, & Forman, 1993). This work provided examples of how to operationalize certain concepts within sociocultural theory. One of these ideas was in regards to the Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD). Although Vygotsky called for teaching in the ZPD when introducing new concepts, he was not specific in how to collaborate with children in the ZPD (Bodrova & Leong, 2007; Bruner, 1996).

This issue was addressed by Bruner and his colleagues. They presented the idea of scaffolding (Göncü & Gauvain, 2011; Wood, Bruner, & Ross, 1976). Scaffolding provides support until it is no longer needed. It assists a child by breaking down a task, redirecting their focus, modeling, and by affording the child with strategies to problem-solve (Wood et al., 1976).

The tutoring process allowed researchers to more fully understand the concept of scaffolding. Wood et al. (1976) studied this process to determine the relationships between the child and the adult, with the adult being the expert who helps the child whose knowledge is less than the expert's knowledge. The conclusion was that teaching involved more than just the teacher modeling or the child imitating. The process of scaffolding included the social context because it considered both the learner and the one who is more knowledgeable. They saw that social context was important to learning and needed to be considered as well.

Bruner defined scaffolding as "referring to the steps taken to reduce the degrees of freedom in carrying out some task so that the child can concentrate on the difficult skill she is in the process of acquiring" (Bruner, 1978, p. 254). He believed that scaffolding was a process that allowed a child to go beyond his understanding by involving someone else who had more expertise. It involves helpful, structured interaction between an adult and a child for the purpose of helping the child achieve a specific goal.

One type of scaffolding is the use of language-support practices (LSPs). LSPs that are developmentally appropriate and are based on responsive teacher-child relationships, support children's language acquisition (Burchinal et al., 2008). LSPs that have been shown to be particularly helpful in language acquisition are: childoriented, interaction-promoting, and language-modeling (Bouchard et al., 2010; Girolametto & Weitzman, 2002; Girolametto, Weitzman, & Greenberg, 2006; Longtin & Fabus, 2008; O'Toole & Kirkpatrick, 2007).

Child-oriented support is used in order to have a conversation with a child. It is based on the child's interest and assists in sustaining communication. Examples of this LSP include listening to the child until he has finished his thoughts; following the child's lead, whether verbal or nonverbal; or participating in a game with the child while maintaining a non-dominate presence. …

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