Continuity and Change in Early Childhood Education
Code switching is the ability to understand and use both the commonly accepted version of English and the home language or dialect. When children are learning a second language, they often code switch, usually beginning a sentence in one language and then switching to the other as in: “I drew a picture de mi madre” or “Mi mano es dirty.” Code switching is not limited to children. In fact, bilingual people of all ages alternate between languages depending on the setting and the topic of conversation. Many bilingual individuals find that they can best ex- press their feelings and personal thoughts in their native language.
In the past, it was assumed that code switching meant that children were confused or incompetent. But now we know that the opposite is true: children are able to separate the languages in their brains and apply the differ- ent rules of grammar of each language. Code switching is actually a sign of children’s growing communicative competence. They are using all they know to communicate as clearly as they can.
So what should teachers do about code switching? First, they should expect code switching as a normal aspect of dual language learning. The most important thing is not to correct children when they mix languages. Correcting children’s language attempts sends a signal that they’ve done something wrong. They may stop trying to communicate in order to avoid making the “mistake” of code switching.
Instead of focusing on children’s “errors,” teachers should focus on understanding the child’s message. They should view code switching as a strength. As always, teachers should be good language models themselves,
using the same strategies that promote language learning in all children: listening and responding in a meaningful way, using real objects and nonverbal cues, intentionally teaching new words, and extending conversations with questions and ideas.
Sometimes bilingual teachers think that they can sup- port dual language learning by alternating languages themselves. Again, the opposite is true. Children’s brains will automatically listen and respond to the language they know best and tune out the other one. To promote dual language development, bilingual teachers can read books in each language but should do so at separate times.
Encouraging children to code switch and responding positively honors the language system that they already possess and helps them adapt to different communication requirements in different situations. And it also respects and supports their cultural identity because language and culture are inextricably linked. Teachers should always create a warm, positive classroom climate in which children feel safe to express them- selves. Capable code switchers acquire the ability to think about their own use of language, which serves them well in other learning situations and has long- lasting positive effects on language, cognition, and so- cial development.
Source: Code Switching: Why It Matters and How to Respond, by National Center on Cultural and Linguistic Responsiveness, no date, Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Head Start. Retrieved January 26, 2015, from http://eclkc.ohs.acf.hhs.gov/hslc/tta-system/cultural-linguistic /fcp/docs/code-switching.pdf.
Understanding and Responding to Code Switching
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Chapter 1 Continuity and Change in Early Childhood Education 31
Addressing Threats to Children’s Play Pediatricians and psychologists agree that too many children today experience high levels of unrelent- ing stress. Factors such as poverty and violence are the primary sources, but stress affects the lives of all children to some extent. Teachers today report that more children are aggressive and disruptive as a result of stressful events. Increasing numbers of children, especially boys, are inaccurately diagnosed as hyperactive and needlessly medicated. Childhood obesity is also endemic.
Research demonstrates that exercise and child- initiated play are effective stress-relievers. Ironically, however, a survey of child care, preschool, and Head Start teachers found that they tend to limit chil- dren’s opportunities for active play, especially out- doors, due to safety concerns and the need to pre- pare children academically for school. And children living in poverty are most likely to suffer because they have less access to safe outdoor play areas and programs feel extra pressure to focus on academic instruction to close the school readiness gap.
Part of the solution is that teachers, parents, and administrators need to understand that play and school readiness is not an either/or choice. The American Academy of Pediatrics emphasizes that play is essential for children’s physical health, emo- tional and mental well-being, social relationships, and brain development and cognition. Vigorous play develops large motor skills, and can reduce obesity. In short, play contributes to all areas of develop- ment and learning.
In an attempt to get children ready for school and protect them from injury, early childhood programs may actually be contributing to children’s stress by minimizing children’s large muscle activity and child- initiated play time. Because children spend so much time in early childhood programs and school, it may be their only opportunity to have physical activity or outdoor play.
Early educators need to draw on the support of physicians and other experts to help educate parents and policy makers about the importance of play in children’s lives and its essential role in helping chil- dren cope with stress and improve school success. They also need to advocate for funding to provide safe playgrounds and adequate spaces indoors and outdoors for active engagement. Play spaces and opportunities must be designed to protect children from injury, but protecting them from stress is equally important.
Sources: “Societal Values and Policies May Curtail Preschool Children’s Physical Activity in Child Care Centers,” by K. A. Copeland, S. N. Sherman, C. A. Kendeigh, H. J. Kalkwarf, & B. E. Saelens, 2012, Pediatrics, 129(2), retrieved from http://pediatrics. aappublications.org/content/early/2012/01/02/ peds.2011-2102.full.pdf+html; “The Importance of Play in Promoting Healthy Child Development and Maintaining Strong Parent-Child Bond: Focus on Children in Poverty,” by R. M. Milter, K. R. Ginsburg, & Council on Communications and Media Committee on Psychological Aspects of Child and Family Health, Pediatrics, 129(1), e204–e213, retrieved from http:// www.pediatrics.aappublications.org.
Continuity and Change One overarching trend always affecting education is continuity and change. As the field expands and changes occur in response to new political and economic realities, many longtime early childhood professionals are concerned that the fundamental values of the field will be lost. Development, including development of professions, is characterized by both continuity and change. In this book we describe how the fundamental values of early childhood education can be retained and enhanced (thus maintaining continuity with the important tenets of the past), while also presenting what is known from new research about effective teaching practices for all children. Some ways of thinking and practicing should be cherished and held onto, whereas others may need to be updated or abandoned.
Chapter 12 Teaching Children to Communicate: Language, Literacy, and the Arts 383
Developmental Continuum Oral Language
Age of Child Developmental Expectations Birth to about 8 months
Communicate through behaviors rather than words; signal distress by crying. Caregivers need to interpret babies’ sounds and gestures.
Smile or vocalize if they want someone to pay attention or play. • Begin vocalizing vowel sounds called cooing. Soon after, they begin to babble, producing
consonant/vowel sounds such as “ba.” • Continue to babble using all kinds of sounds and will play with sounds when alone. • Begin to understand familiar names such as those of siblings or pets. • Laugh and appear to listen to conversations.
Between 8 and 18 months
Become more purposeful in their communications. • Use facial expressions, gestures, and sounds to get their needs met. (If a bottle falls from
a high chair tray, instead of just crying, the 14-month-old may grunt and wave at the floor.) • Understand many more words than they can say. • Speak in long, babbled sentences that mirror the cadence of conventional speech. • Soon start to shake their head “no” and begin to use the word me. • Usually crack the language code and begin to use their first words between 12 and
From 18 to 24 months
Experience a burst in vocabulary and begin to combine words into two-word utterances called telegraphic speech. Like old-fashioned telegrams, they waste no words in commu- nicating their message: “No nap.”
Ages 2 to 3 • Progress from using two-word combinations (my truck) to three- and four-word sentences with words in the correct order more often (Where’s my truck?).
Speaking vocabulary may reach 200 words. • Use adjectives and adverbs. (Give me my blue truck now.) • Most children’s speech becomes more understandable. Constantly ask, “Wassat?” as
they seem to want to name everything.
Ages 3 to 6 • Have a vocabulary of about 1,000 words. • Although some may still have difficulty, most are better able to articulate some of the
more difficult sounds, like s, th, z, r, and l. • Can initiate and engage in more complex conversations. • Use 1,500 to 2,000 words as vocabulary expands rapidly during kindergarten. • Usually speak clearly and are lively conversation partners with adults and other children.
The primary grades • Language development continues at a rapid pace. • During these years, children need a large vocabulary to learn to read and to comprehend
what they read. Explicit teaching of vocabulary needs to be an instructional goal. • At the same time, the more children read, the more words they learn because the lan-
guage of books is more elaborate than everyday conversation. Some researchers estimate that children need to learn 3,000 words a year throughout the elementary school years.
Sources: Based on Assessing and Guiding Young Children’s Development and Learning, 6th edition, by O. McAfee, D. Leong, and E. Bodrova, 2015, Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson; Learning Language and Loving It: A Guide to Promoting Children’s Social, Language, and Literacy Development in Early Childhood Settings, 2nd edition, by E. Weitzman and J. Greenberg, 2002, Toronto: The Hanen Centre.
Connections between Curriculum and Child Development Unlike many early childhood texts that focus on child development only, this text shows how child development and curriculum content knowledge are connected.
In the Developmental Continuum feature, the text provides an overview of the continuum of learning in the areas of language, literacy, mathematics, and cognitive, social, emo- tional, and physical development and describes how child development is linked to curriculum planning for children from birth through age 8.
Chapters 12 to 15 help early childhood teachers understand right from the start that there is content in the curriculum for young children. They describe the goals for young children’s learning and development that predict success in school and life. Each of these chapters includes examples of effective strategies such as teach- ing children of diverse abilities in inclusive classrooms or ways to promote dual language learning.
A new feature, Promoting Play, presents new research on the important role of play in development and effective strategies to help children learn through play or protect their right to play. These features address play across the full age range, from birth through age 8. Discussions of play are also integrated in each chapter throughout this book as an effective means to support all domains of development and promote learning in all cur- riculum areas.
Today many people are concerned about how the standards movement is negatively impacting play. We often hear statements such as “We can’t let children play because we have to teach literacy,” or “We don’t have time for outdoor play in primary grades because we have to get children ready for stan- dardized tests.” Play should not be treated as a separate part of an early childhood program or day that can be cut if someone deems it unimportant. Therefore, you will find a discussion of play in every chapter of this book.
The emphasis on implementing effective curriculum reflects current trends such as the goal of aligning prekindergarten and primary education, NAEYC accredita- tion and CAPE professional preparation standards, and enhanced expectations for teacher qualifications as described in the 2015 report, Transforming the Workforce for Children Birth through Age 9: A Unifying Foundation by the Institute of Medicine and the National Research Council.