Parents of ELLs: Here’s What To Look For in a Preschool Program
My goals as a preschool teacher are for all my students to:
- Feel happy and safe in my classroom, and,
- Have fun and enjoy learning even as they develop the ability to function as part of a group
This last part — that is, to function as part of a group — is one of the hardest things children need to learn when they’re in preschool. It involves suppressing the habit and urge to do what they want at any given time. There are surely constraints at home too but rarely do they involve having to share the space with a dozen other children, and following an agenda created for the group as a whole.
Learning what I’ll call “group skills” is obviously harder for English Language Learners (EELs), who don’t understand what the teacher is saying, not because they have difficulty hearing or understanding language but because they don’t speak English.
Based on my 15 years as an early childhood special education teacher, here are five general preschool program components particularly beneficial for ELL preschoolers, and specific questions to ask:
1. Structure and routines
Consistency is key for ELL preschoolers as it helps them catch on as to what’s going on and what to expect. Structure and routine involve consistent communication, which also helps ELLs’ language acquisition.
Children thrive on structure, especially in group settings. When there’s structure and routines in place, children don’t have to be told what to do throughout the day. And guess what? Nobody likes to be told what to do. From a behavioral perspective, then, consistency also makes sense.
Ask: What’s your philosophy on structure and routines?
2. Teacher qualifications
No one tells you how hard being a parent will be. In the same way, no one emphasizes how difficult it is to be a good preschool teacher. Requirements and credentials are not all that matter, yet they do indicate a standard in terms of qualification.