Not all children attending early childhood education classrooms speak the same first language. What to do when children express themselves in their mother tongue, and not in the language of instruction? If we invest in the first language (i.e., the mother tongue), can we delay learning the language of instruction or, conversely, can we foster the successful development of the two languages? How to respond to immigrant or ethnic minority parents when they ask what they should do at home to promote language development in general or to promote the learning of the language of instruction?
Sophie does not want to put on her jacket and shoes to go out to the playground. She is walking around the cloakroom complaining. The teacher tries to talk to Sophie, but it only makes the girl angry. She is
“We still don’t know what the child has…”, told me a teacher about the difficulties she was experiencing with a child who demonstrated behavioural problems. That sentence kept me wondering. Gathering information about what the child “has”, i.e., trying to know “his/her” diagnosis, underlies a genuine concern. But are those difficulties due primarily to something he/she “has”? To what extent knowing the diagnosis is essential to plan interventions at home, daycare or kindergarten?
Some topics are difficult to talk about with children … – illnesses, accidents, death, violence. Most adults are afraid of taking up these themes with young children. However, as they are an inevitable part of life, each of us, including children, must get used to these issues. To help children become familiar with such topics, it’s worth showing them that you can talk about these difficult subjects. The only question is – how to do it?
Every child wants to feel that they are seen and heard; that they belong. This applies to Dutch children and also, perhaps even more, to children from different cultural backgrounds or who speak a different language at home. How do you ensure that all children have the feeling that they belong in the group?
How should we organize inclusive education? This is a key question in many European countries as they move from special to inclusive education. We would like to introduce the new Portuguese law to you as an innovative and inspiring framework, and describe some motivations behind the law.
Teacher, why is that girl so dirty? When young children make such statements, we are inclined to pass over them (‘she does not know what she is saying’), to blame the parents (‘they must have picked it up at home’) or to quickly and generally condemn these statements (‘you cannot say that, that is not nice’). We assume that children will grow up to be unprejudiced adults if we do not talk about ‘it’. Contrary to what we believe, young children are not ‘colour-blind’.
“When I have something on my mind, I just walk to the teacher. Yes, I’ll ask for suggestions like ‘how do I need to do these things at home? Do you have suggestions?’ Yes, I can always count on her..” – Batoul, parent of Dahbi (4 years old).
Conversation is crucial for language acquisition, but talking in the home context is quite different from talking in an ECEC setting. I would like to share 5 tips to enrich those conversations. 1 The type of activity matters. “Language-all-day-long” is a beautiful goal to pursue. However, in practice what really matters is what you do (a.o. Cabell et al., 2014). Excellent contexts to produce rich, language stimulating conversations have been shown to be science activities and storytelling moments. Thus, focussing on these is a first great strategy for language development.
It’s Emma’s first day of teacher training in a nursery school. She quickly observes the classroom. Where do they need me? Emma is everywhere and nowhere in the classroom; she walks – no, she runs – from one corner to another and back. She wants all toddlers to receive all the attention they need at all times… However, is that possible? And more: is it necessary?