In all my years working in Early Childhood, this is my first year working with true English Language Learner (ELL) students. My morning class (3 year olds) has at least two children who do not speak English at home. Both children’s moms have talked to me about how little English their children know, and ask frequently how they are doing in school. The one boy talks all the time! He loves to sing our clean up song and others at the top of his lungs. He repeats everything, seems to understand everything we say to him, and usually responds appropriately to requests or questions. The other child is very shy. The assistant teacher and I are not sure how much English he understands. He uses very few words, and the ones he does use are usually just repeating what we say to him. He rarely participates in group activities. He has finally gotten to the point where he follows one other boy around the room, playing next to him, with minimal interaction. This week, he had a huge breakthrough! He sat at the playdough table, next to a girl, and started talking to her. We had Mr. Potato Head pieces out for them to use with the playdough, he was picking up body parts, and pointing to the same parts on himself. I wish I’d have been able to tell if the words he was using were English or his native language! I didn’t want to get too close, for fear he’d shut down, but he was clearly talking about the body parts with this girl! I was so excited for him!!
In my evening class, I have 4-5 year olds. There are several girls who are very shy. Often times, group time is the one time I can get them to really talk, sing, dance, whatever. One girl, usually doesn’t participate at all. She’s not defiant about it, she just sits or stands and watches what we are doing. The only time I can usually get her to talk, is if I ask her a question directly, and if she’s doing some sort of art. This little girl also had a breakthrough this week. We were singing the 5 Little Monkeys song, and suddenly, she started doing the actions and singing with us! I almost jumped out of my skin! I was so proud of her for participating!
It will be interesting to see if these two children continue to open up and become more involved as the weeks continue. I am hoping so!