4 best practices for teaching young English Language Learners

Teaching Young English Language LearnersEarly language development begins long before children say recognizable words. Linguist Patricia Kuhl notes that a six-to-eight month old baby can discriminate any sound in any language. In early language development, children naturally learn phonetically by interacting with other people. In contrast, learning another language in later years, such as in high school or at university, often includes many hours of learning through grammar, syntax, and conjugating verbs. Je suis. Tu es. Il est.
As our world becomes increasingly global, more and more parents and education professionals see the benefits of beginning foreign language education at younger ages. In fact, the French Education Minister suggested in 2011 that children begin learning English in nursery school when they are three years old.
When we developed ABC English & Me, we merged our decades of early childhood music education experience with the latest research on teaching young children another language.

Research-based best practices for young English Language Learners

  1. The “Natural Approach.” In this teaching practice, the important underlying principle is an emphasis on language “acquisition” as opposed to language “processing.” The Natural Approach encourages children to speak and think in the second or foreign language. This takes precedence over analytical processing of formal language structure and syntax.
  2. Total Physical Response. A young learner responds to language learning through body movements, which helps comprehension and fluency.
  3. English language stories. When stories are read expressively to young English Language Learners, the association of foreign words nourishes both language development and listening skills in the new language. The foreign sounds of spoken and sung English, through repetition, become recognizable at first and subsequently comprehended.
  4. Early childhood music. Finger plays, traditional nursery rhymes and songs reinforce phonemic awareness and the systematic relationship of letters of the alphabet and the sounds connected to each letter. Plus, musical instruction and experience help the brain improve its ability to distinguish between rapidly changing sounds, referred to as auditory processing. This auditory processing is critical to developing phonemic awareness, a necessary aspect of foreign language acquisition. Children who hear English words, even without grasping their meaning, will develop an ear for the language, especially if it is heard musically.

ABC English & Me - Teaching English to Children through MusicRead more about the positive impact of music and movement on young children’s acquisition of English, the research behind it, and how our ESL curriculum puts it into practice.

Music & Reading: 2 of our favorite things

Yes, it’s true. As creators of music education programs and early literacy curriculum, we love both music and reading. Study after study continues to show how music can support a young child’s early literacy and language development. As Julie Andrews would sing, music and reading are like “raindrops and roses.” It’s no wonder that music and reading are two of our favorite things. After all, research shows music supports a child’s early literacy development in many ways, including music’s impact on phonological awareness, vocabulary learning, listening skills, and verbal memory.

Musical training supports early literacy development

One of the newest studies, “The effects of musical training on the decoding skills of German-speaking primary school children”, published in The Journal of Research in Reading, strengthens the understanding of how music supports early literacy development. Led by Iris Rautenberg, the team investigated the connections between musical skills (perception and differentiation of the rhythmical and tonal/melodic patterns) and decoding skills, and the effects of musical training on word-level reading abilities.
The researchers recruited 159 German first graders. One-third of the children received musical training for nine months. One-third of the children received visual arts training and the remaining group did not participate in any special training. The music training specifically focused on rhythmic skills, tonal/melodic skills, and auditory discrimination of timbre and sound intensity. Rautenberg’s study found two ways that musical training supports early literacy development.

2 ways musical training boosts early literacy development

  1. Rhythmical abilities showed a strong positive correlation with decoding skills, both in reading accuracy and reading prosody.
  2. Children participating in the music classes performed significantly better on reading accuracy in word reading when compared with the other two groups.

Early literacy curriculum uses music as vehicle for learning

ABC Music & Me uses music and movement to teach young children early literacy and early language development. During class, children receive music instruction including active music making and kinesthetic movements to emphasize steady beat, rhythm and pitch, as well as the association of sounds with developmentally appropriate symbols.

For more information about using ABC Music & Me to teach early language and early literacy, email us at info@abcmusicandme.com.

Early language development helps toddlers manage emotions

(Source: Raisingchildren.net.au)

Make no mistake. Toddlers wear their hearts on their sleeves. No one expresses pure emotion quite like an 18 month old. From the sheer delight of enjoying the sticky goodness of an ice cream cone to the depths of despair when it’s time to leave the playground, toddlers give Oscar-worthy performances daily.

Child development research shows that parents, preschool teachers, and other caregivers can support the early language and early literacy development of young children by labeling those emotions and encouraging young children to use their words. Now, a new longitudinal study published in the journal Child Development indicates that toddlers with stronger early language skills show less anger as preschoolers.

Early language development helps preschoolers manage anger

Researchers studied 120 children starting at 18 months old until they turned 4 years old. Through home and lab visits, the research team measured children’s language development and their ability to cope with tasks that might lead to frustration, such as waiting to open a present. The team found that children with more advanced early language development skills at 18 months old and whose language abilities increased more quickly than other children expressed less anger at age 4. In addition to waiting patiently to open a present at age 3, the children with more language skills calmly sought their mother’s support while they waited. By age 4, those same children were better able to occupy themselves by talking out loud during the wait.

“Better language skills may help children verbalize rather than use emotions to convey needs and use their imaginations to occupy themselves while enduring a frustrating wait,” explained Pamela M. Cole, PhD, lead researcher, in a press release.

Early language development through music

Created by Kindermusik International, ABC Music & Me uses music to support young children’s early literacy and language development, including vocabulary acquisition. The ABC Music & Me early literacy curriculum is full of vocabulary-building opportunities. The Picture Vocabulary Cards in our preschool curriculum support unit-by-unit vocabulary, comprehension, memory, and pre-literacy skills. Plus, our stories, songs, and activities introduce students to hundreds of words and their meanings. In addition, we provide materials to increase parent involvement in early childhood education by connecting the learning from the classroom into the home.

For more information about using the ABC Music & Me early literacy curriculum in your classroom, school, or daycare, email us at info@abcmusicandme.com.

Daycare teachers promote early literacy skills with music

If Shakespeare had developed daycare or preschool curriculum instead of sonnets and plays, he may have rewritten one of his most famous lines: “If music be the food of love literacy, play on.” Research continues to prove this sentiment, including a new University of Buffalo study published earlier this month.

Training equips preschool teachers to use music

Before conducting this study, professors from the University of Buffalo knew what the research said about music’s ability to greatly impact a child’s early literacy and language abilities. With their study, however, they specifically wanted to see if early childhood teachers, with little to no music background, could be trained to use music in developmentally appropriate ways to boost early literacy development.

Led by Maria Runfola, PhD, and Elisabeth Etopio, PhD, the team recruited 165 preschoolers to participate in music activities led by 11 daycare teachers. As part of the daycare curriculum, the preschool educators leading the music classes received training in musicianship skills and specific strategies for leading preschoolers’ music development. Prior to this early literacy study, these preschool teachers did not have any music training. The researchers found that participating preschoolers experienced a boost in oral vocabulary and understanding of grammar compared to students not enrolled in the preschool curriculum. Plus, children with lower initial literacy skills saw the biggest positive impact.

“First, we found that the musicianship of the early childhood teachers improved as did their ability to guide music activities in ways that enhanced student music development,” explained Runfola in a press release, Study Finds Link Between Music and Preschoolers Reading Readiness.

Since the preschool teachers did not come from a musical background, it was not surprising that participating children did not experience a significant boost to musicality, such as rhythm-pattern achievement. However, the researchers concluded that early childhood teachers without a music background could be trained to teach a daycare curriculum that uses music as a vehicle for early literacy and language development.

“Administrators need to better understand the importance of the arts to children’s development,” Runfola concluded in the press release. “We hope this research will help music educators and childhood educators support their requests for music time for the youngest of our students.  Children need daily appropriate music activity to stimulate their neural activity to develop tonal and rhythm audiation that in turn appears to help their emergent literacy skill.”

If music be the food of literacy, then play on indeed!

Preschool curriculum helps daycare teachers use music to boost early literacy

Created by Kindermusik International, ABC Music & Me is a daycare curriculum that uses music and movement activities to boost early literacy and language skills while also cultivating turn-taking and sharing, improving coordination, enhancing creativity, and more.

Through a robust classroom kit that includes Digital Teacher Guides, ABC Music & Me provides step-by-step planned out lessons so even educators with no musical experience can begin teaching this daycare curriculum immediately.

For more information about using ABC Music & Me as a supplemental daycare curriculum, email us at info@abcmusicandme.com.

10 ways to instill a love of reading in preschool students

There are many ways preschool teachers can support the early literacy and language development of their students. Whether reading the 2013 Caldecott Medal Winner, This Is Not My Hat by Jon Klassen, making snowmen out of socks after reading about snow, or even celebrating Dr. Seuss’ birthday each March, the list of literacy activities and early childhood books seems endless. But what does the research say?

At ABC Music & Me, we keep tabs on the latest early literacy research and incorporate it into our preschool curriculum. We put together a list of 10 things a teacher can do to instill a love of reading in students while also supporting phonemic awareness and early literacy and language development.

10 ways teachers can support early literacy development (and a love of reading!)

  1. During storytime, include a mixture of books that you choose as well as books that your students choose. Along with the “Line Leader” for the day, why not also pick one child to be the “Story Student” to help you pick one of the books you will read.
  2. Throughout the week, provide opportunities for students to “act out” the stories read in the class.
  3. Add eBooks to your (virtual) bookshelf. Research shows eBooks can be especially motivating to boys and reluctant readers.
  4. Involve parents. Early literacy development begins at home so why not invite parents to be mystery readers in the classroom each week. Be sure all parents know about the importance of not only reading to their children 20 minutes each day but also the value of letting children see them reading for pleasure.
  5. If a new vocabulary word is introduced in a story, tell preschoolers what it means and then re-read the page substituting the new vocabulary word with the definition. This increases comprehension and vocabulary acquisition.
  6. Incorporate sight words into your reading. Ask children to listen for the sight word of the day (or week). Invite children to raise their hands when they hear the word and select a child to find the word on the page.
  7. Listen to audio stories. After preschool, children will spend up to 75 percent of classroom time listening. Listening to favorite audio stories supports emerging literacy and active listening—vital skills needed for early academic success. Kindermusik International offers audio stories available for download here.
  8. Clap or tap to the beat of favorite nursery rhymes. This helps preschoolers tune into the rhythm of spoken words.
  9. Ask open-ended questions during storytime, such as “what will happen next?” or “how do you think the character felt when that happened?”
  10. Participate in a music class. Phonological awareness, vocabulary acquisition, listening skills, and verbal memory can all benefit when children become actively engaged in a music class. Plus, research even shows that children who participate in music classes are more likely to score higher on reading comprehension tests.

    Supplemental preschool curriculum uses music to support early literacy

    Created by Kindermusik International, ABC Music & Me is a standards-based supplemental daycare curriculum. All three levels of our toddler curriculum and preschool curriculum boost early literacy and language development while also cultivating turn-taking and sharing, improving coordination, enhancing creativity, and more. Plus, ABC Music & Me involves parents by providing materials for families to use together at home where a child learns best.

    For more information about ABC Music & Me as a supplemental daycare or preschool curriculum, email us at info@abcmusicandme.com.

    12 musical books for early literacy teachers and parents

    We agree with Lloyd Moss: “It’s music that we all adore.” At Kindermusik International, we love music for music’s sake and for its ability to touch the hearts, souls, and minds of young children and families. Music can support early language development, increase phonemic awareness, and even profoundly impact children with special needs.

    So make a resolution to gather your children together—whether at home or in the classroom—for musical story times that will support early literacy development and their love of music! Below you will find some of our favorite musical stories, including a Caldecott Winner, Reading Rainbow selections, audio story, and even a book written by a Kindermusik educator.

    12 musical books to support early literacy and language development

    The Sweet 16 for Early Literacy Development Fans

    College basketball fans no longer can lay claim to the only Sweet 16. Thanks to Harvard University’s Lead for Literacy Initiative, early literacy development teachers and administrators can access 16 one-page memos written specifically for leaders committed to children’s literacy development. This “Sweet 16” for early literacy and language development includes:

    The Prevention Plan

    • Program Design for Impact
    • Early Identification and Intervention Practices

    Literacy and Leadership

    • What Leaders Need to Know and Do
    • Literacy Unpacked: What Do We Mean by Literacy Rates?

    Literacy Assessment

    • The Importance of Early Literacy Assessment
    • Comprehensive Assessment: Towards a More Complete Picture of Literacy
    • Comprehensive Assessment: Making Sense of Test Type and Purpose

    Professional Development

    • Designing Professional Development for Instructional Change
    • Implementing Professional Development for Instructional Change

    Family Partnerships

    • Designing Family Partnerships That Make a Difference
    • Implementing Family Partnerships That Make a Difference

    Volunteer Programs

    • Designing a Volunteer Program Focused on Literacy
    • Implementing a Volunteer Program Focused on Literacy

    Literacy Curricula

    • The Importance of Using a Literacy Curriculum
    • Selecting a Comprehensive Literacy Curriculum
    • Implementing a Comprehensive Literacy Curriculum

    Each memo includes common pitfalls that early literacy educators and administrators encounter along with key research-based strategies to address these challenges. You can read the Lead for Literacy memos here. The last three memos are scheduled for release this Friday.

    Early literacy development and music

    At ABC Music & Me, we continue to implement the latest research on how to best engage young children and families in early literacy development.  Our research-based early literacy curriculum uses music to help children build early literacy and language skills. Music can help children hear speech sounds and naturally divide words into sounds. Plus, early language development research indicates that music skills correlate significantly with both phonemic awareness and reading development.

    For more information about using ABC Music & Me to boost early literacy and language development, email us at info@abcmusicandme.com.

    Word learning and early literacy development

    Source: Teachmama.com

    In. It. Me. He. Unless you work in the early literacy and language development arena, those four little words are, well, just four little words. However, early childhood teachers recognize them—and 90 plus more—as “Kindergarten High Frequency Words” in conjunction with the common core state standards. According to the Common Core Language Arts, children in Kindergarten will learn to read these words by sight.

    Early word recognition and lifelong reading skills

    Even people outside the early literacy field recognize that children and adults read differently. Early readers depend on phonemic awareness to carefully sound out each word. Eventually, children learn words by sight and can read without delay. Now early literacy development research indicates that early word acquisition can lead to better reading skills as an adult. By measuring the age at which children learn words, Dr. Tessa Webb wanted to uncover why the reading patterns of children differs from that of adults.

    “Children read differently from adults, but as they grow older, they develop the same reading patterns,” Dr. Webb explained in a press release. “When adults read words they learned when they were younger, they recognize them faster and more accurately than those learned later in life.”

    In Dr. Webb’s early literacy research, 300 children read aloud both familiar and unfamiliar words. Fifty percent of the words followed spelling to sound rules, whereas the other half did not. Dr. Webb’s research showed that children in the early school years read words differently from adults, but by age 10, children’s reading patterns mirrored that of an adult. Dr. Webb sees this research as an important first step in connecting word learning age to both early literacy success and later reading abilities as adults.

    Music, early literacy development, and the Common Core

    ABC Music & Me uses music to help children build early literacy and language skills, including vocabulary acquisition. The stories, songs, and music and movement activities introduce students to hundreds of words and their meanings. In this common core curriculum, the picture vocabulary cards support unit-by-unit vocabulary, comprehension, and memory.

    For more information about using our standards based curriculum, ABC Music & Me, to boost early literacy and language development, email us at info@abcmusicandme.com.

    E-books can put the “E” in early literacy development

    Supporting early literacy development in a classroom of preschoolers takes many different tools and tactics. Some children immediately walk into the classroom and head over to the book corner each morning. Those children seem to eat phonemes for breakfast. Children on the other end of the early literacy development spectrum may not engage in reading and literacy activities as eagerly. Recent literacy research from Kansas State University

    implies that e-readers can be used to motivate less enthusiastic students.

    E-readers can interest children in reading

    In her research, Assistant Professor Lotta Larson used Kindle readers with second-graders. At the time, the version of the e-reader used allowed children to make the text audible, increase or decrease font size, and let them make notes while reading.

    “It’s interesting to see the kinds of things these kids have been able to do,” Larson explained in a press release. “As a teacher, I know a student understands the book if she’s talking to the characters. If you take a look at those notes, it’s like having a glimpse into their brains as they’re reading.”

    While research continues to emerge about the impact of e-readers and e-books on early literacy and language development, we compiled current best practices for early childhood teachers to use in the classroom.

    Early literacy development through music and technology

    At Kindermusik International, we share a commitment to follow, participate in, and integrate the latest research on how children learn best, including educationally appropriate ways to include digital formats of music and books. Our standards-based early language and literacy curriculum, ABC Music & Me, uses music as the vehicle for learning in preschools, daycares, and public schools while also appropriately implementing technology into the process. We’d love to schedule a demonstration to show you firsthand how to use music, technology, and the latest research to teach children early language and literacy, including at risk students who may also be reluctant readers.

    For more information about using ABC Music & Me to boost early literacy and language development, email us at info@abcmusicandme.com.