Children Learning Two Languages in Kindergarten

Written by lucie westminster
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Children Learning Two Languages in Kindergarten
Teaching children two languages in a kindergarten classroom has many benefits. (Jupiterimages/Comstock/Getty Images)

Classrooms that teach pupils in two languages are known as bilingual classrooms. Bilingual education in kindergarten has a number of benefits for pupils. The most common bilingual classrooms are those in which Spanish and English are spoken. However, dual-language kindergarten classes may also include education in other languages such as French, Chinese or Japanese.

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Benefits of Bilingual Education

Children benefit from a bilingual education. For pupils who are unfamiliar with one of the languages spoken in the classroom, they are exposed to a new language at an early age. By using this language daily along with their native language, they learn vocabulary and the use of these words in everyday situations. Pupils whose first language is not English benefit from placement in a bilingual classroom because learning in their native language improves their understanding of academic skills such as reading and writing.

Activities to Promote Two Languages in Kindergarten

Directly teaching pupils about differences improves a classroom community. Develop lesson plans that promote the acceptance of speakers of a variety of languages, even ones that may not be taught in the bilingual kindergarten classroom.To improve basic academic instruction every day, place pictures of vocabulary words around the room. Write the corresponding word in each of the two languages on the image. This helps children see the connection between the image and the words. For items you have around the classroom, make labels in each language and glue them to the object. In addition, encourage your students to read books in both languages. Try to find reading material that has words in each language in the same book.

Possible Problems in the Classroom

Though the benefits of a bilingual classroom are well documented, potential issues need to be addressed. Some pupils may not understand one of the languages used. Therefore, be sure to provide instruction in both languages, not simply one. In addition, be aware of the importance of teaching about cultural diversity in these types of classrooms. Though the focus may be on the languages, discuss the cultural differences among pupils.

Extensions to Home

Involving parents in the bilingual process helps extend the child's learning beyond school. Keep parents informed of what you are teaching, including diversity lessons and basic academic concepts. Provide parents with lists of vocabulary words and basic phrases in each language taught in your kindergarten class. Doing so gives parents the basic knowledge to converse with their child in the two languages you teach. This allows the child to practice each language at home. In addition, provide parents with access to bilingual books so they can read them along with their child.

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