Assessment for preschool science learning and learning environments
These booklists for children celebrate assessment for preschool science learning and learning environments wide range of cultures, languages, and experiences. They are perfect for read-alouds and bedtime stories, as well as for author studies!
Rebecca Palacios and offers information on the following components of a PreK ELL program: language instruction, curriculum, professional development, and family outreach. What Do We Know about Dual-Language Learners in PreK? Who Goes to Preschool and Why Does It Matter? Is Public Pre-K Preparing Hispanic Children to Succeed in School? PBS Show: Toddling Toward Reading, featuring Dr. How important is it for ELLs to have teachers who speak their home language? Talk about the role of assessment in preschool.
LYRIC: And I forget just why I taste/Oh yeah, I guess it makes me smile
Would you make any changes, based on the information presented in the webcast? According to the webcast, why is it important to establish good home-school partnerships? Did you learn any strategies that you might use to get your ELLs’ parents more involved? How can we best prepare teachers to work with English language learners in preschool? What kind of ongoing support do you think they need in order to be successful? What kind of mentoring and professional development, if any, have you had at your program? What kinds of training do you think would be most helpful?
How can your team collaborate with program leaders to review the possibility of implementing those ideas? What are some new ideas you learned in the webcast that might help expand services and support for ELLs at your program? Rebecca Palacios is an educator who taught preschool for more than thirty years in Corpus Christi, Texas. Palacios is also a teacher mentor, a founding member and former vice chair of the National Board For Professional Teaching Standards, and a member of the American Federation of Teacher’s ELL Educator Cadre. Part 1Why is preschool so important for young English language learners? How do professional development and parent outreach fit in? Please join me for the Colorin Colorado Webcast, Preschool for English Language Learners.
Welcome to this Colorin Colorado Webcast, Preschool for English Language Learners. In this segment of our four part program, we’re going to discuss how young English language learners, or ELL’s, develop the language skills they need to succeed. Joining me is Doctor Rebecca Palacios, an educator who taught preschool for more than 30 years in Corpus Christi, Texas. Bethanne Patrick: It’s wonderful to have you here. So first let’s talk about the big picture, why is a quality early education so important for young ELL’s and their future?
Bethanne Patrick: Which is a wonderful thing so what kinds of language skills are young children likely to develop in a good preschool program? Becky Palacios: Well they’re going to develop the basics that they’re going to need to be successful as they continue to learn to listen, speak, read and write in early childhood programs that provide a rich environment. The teachers know how to support those children, how to speak to them, how to ask leading questions, how to get them to practice their language in context. Bethanne Patrick: Wonderful, I’d love to know more about the students who were in your dual language program.
What kinds of language skills did they tend to have when they arrived in your classroom? Becky Palacios: Well when my students came into the dual language program, they had a variety of entry skills in multiple languages. Bethanne Patrick: Can you give us an example of the kind of thing that you would do to integrate those groups of children? Becky Palacios: Well one of the things that we did, because it was a dual language program and they were coming to us with different types of language skills and different types of dominance in the languages, we would give them an informal assessment and we would see where their language proficiency was stronger.
Bethanne Patrick: How did the kids respond to learning in a bilingual environment? Becky Palacios: Well it was very exciting, of course because the children were very responsive. If you have an environment that allows children to take risks in language, it’s different for adults, don’t want to look funny when we’re speaking and learning a new language. Bethanne Patrick: Excellent so let’s talk about some of your favorite, fun activities that help kids to build language skills. Becky Palacios: Well first of all, of course, you have to have a wonderful environment. You have to have materials in that environment that support the children’s play and creativity. So if you walked into my classroom, for example, you would see different learning centers, music, art, science, social studies, literacy and books in all of those different centers are available.
Bethanne Patrick: That’s something from the child’s point of view so let’s look at the topic from that, when young ELL’s arrive at preschool for the first time, what are they feeling and thinking? Becky Palacios: Well first of all they’re all crying. They walk in, and this is normal for any child who has that separation anxiety. This is their first step into school, whether they’re three years old or their four year olds. I always wear tennis shoes the first day of school, tennis shoes to run after them cause sometimes they’re gonna run after mom or dad as they drop them off to school, grandma or grandpa. Bethanne Patrick: What are the other social and emotional needs the staff needs to watch out for in these cases? Becky Palacios: Well, we always had to prepare ourselves to be able to support them, to be able to nurture them, to be very warm, very inviting.
You want to have activities that first few weeks of school with the staff knowing what those are so that they can come back. You want them to come back so you want to have engaging activities in the native language, in the language that they’re learning as well. Becky Palacios: And so when those kids come in you have to be ready. You have to have a very print rich, wealthy type of environment when it comes to wealth of knowledge and wealth of understanding from the teacher’s point of view, to accept the child but accept the family as well into that classroom. Bethanne Patrick: And here’s a good point to follow up with, what if they’re new to the country? Becky Palacios: That’s really important to the teacher to know who those parents are, to be able to make a bridge and a connection.
Bethanne Patrick: I’ve heard of the silent period, what is that? Becky Palacios: Well the silent period is when the children are enrolled in the classroom and as you’re teaching and as you’re providing examples and you’re working through curriculum and your instruction, those children are just there like sponges. And just because they’re not participating or answering those questions in the language, that doesn’t mean that they’re not learning. In your program, what do the teachers, staff and administrators do to make students feel welcome? Becky Palacios: Well we have quite a variety of activities.
Of course one of the first things that we did after we realized that parents needed something other than just a meeting to remember so many details of the new program and maybe new schooling environment. Maybe some of these parents had never been in school before and never finished school, we created a very simple handbook. We took pictures of all the staff. We put them in the handbook. We also had throughout the year, to sustain parent’s knowledge of the school and school setting and things that they could do at home, we had orientation meetings throughout the year on different school subjects, art, music, science, social studies, math, reading and we had the parents come in and participate. Parents that worked during the day couldn’t come in you know during that daytime period, we had them at night.
Bethanne Patrick: And if bilingual language support isn’t an option, what are some strategies that staff can use to communicate with the ELL’s? Becky Palacios: Well it all depends on how the program is structured. There’s a variety of programs for English language learners. 10 in other languages, we’ll talk about later. 50 model which is half and half, which is what I work in. Bethanne Patrick: And you mentioned visuals a bit but how about gestures as well?
Let’s talk about those two things. Becky Palacios: Exactly, you can see my hands moving so I’m just very in tune with that. A lot of manipulatives and gestures and touching your face and talking about eyes or body, the main things that children learn at the very beginning, even as babies, in a native language. Bethanne Patrick: Excellent, what kind, let’s talk about assessments. What kinds of assessments will help the staff evaluate the young ELL’s language skills? Becky Palacios: Well there’s different types of assessments.
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You can have formal assessments and you can have informal assessments. And many times those formal assessments come from either the state or the school district or even that local level that comes up with certain types of formal assessments and those can be in many forms. Others are content assessments where you can look at your curriculum and your instruction and assess them directly what you taught them, cause we don’t want to pull any punches with kids and ask them questions about things they have not studied. So everything that I wrote, as far as assessments, came from the instruction that we had. Bethanne Patrick: That’s what I was going to ask you about, oral language assessments.
Becky Palacios: And part of it is, is just pictures and the things that you’re working with already as the children, for example, are sorting colors into different sets, then we can talk about what those are. And you’re using the target vocabulary of that language that you’re working with so oral assessments have to have an authentic oral type of situation. Bethanne Patrick: Excellent, excellent, what are the benefits of assessing language skills in the native language when it’s possible? Becky Palacios: Well definitely you want to know how they’re growing cognitively because we know that if a child is coming in, for example a Spanish speaker coming in and you’re asking them critical, deep thinking questions in English they’re not ready to handle yet, then you know that you’re setting them up for failure in that assessment. So especially for English language learner programs, where the children basically are coming in from multiple countries with a native language and you’re bridging them to that English, if you can have English language support in very pictorial forms where they can demonstrate that in an oral proficiency. We know that the children are going to listen to the language first and are able to point or separate or gesture, is one of the first steps. Bethanne Patrick: Well how can the information that you learn from the language assessment, guide the instruction in the classroom?
Becky Palacios: Well, when we know where they are language wise and where they are content wise, then we can continue to bridge that over time. Because we know that language learning doesn’t occur in one year or even in a few months, it’s over time. And one of the things that we want to remember is that assessment needs to happen over time. Bethanne Patrick: Some of the assessment tools and strategies that you found most helpful in classrooms, what are those? Becky Palacios: Well, there’s a lot of different strategies that we use.
I thought to me, in this day in age, technology was very powerful. Using an interactive white board was one of the things that I needed to do at the very beginning because I knew children were learning in multiple ways. So wrote a grant and was able to get interactive white boards for our three and four year old classrooms. Bethanne Patrick: You’ve been talking about this but let’s go through some other guidelines for assessing such young children. Becky Palacios: Well it just depends on the program and the curriculum. We can assess them in their physical development.
It’s not just the cognitive things but can they hop, can they jump, can they throw a ball, can they do those types of things. We have language assessments as well that we just talked about. We have content assessments that are important. Bethanne Patrick: Are there things that we shouldn’t be doing? Becky Palacios: Well we know that at the three and four year old level, pencil paper tasks are not appropriate at that time. They’re not quite ready to bubble stuff in or look at things like that but they can do it in a really neat T-chart where you can put yarn out on the table and ask them to classify or sort and you break things up into groups and they can move things from one place to another. Bethanne Patrick: Excellent, now how did you differentiate instruction for children who had different language levels?
Let’s say they were insects and so learning about insects in a second language is really good because those cognits are very important in science in math for children and they’re able to transfer those words. Those words are basically the same, like “science” and “ciencia”. I’d like to wrap up by turning to the big picture and the question of language instruction. It can become very controversial and political, as you know.
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How could a preschool program decide what kind of language instruction works best for their students? Becky Palacios: And of course when we look at that and we look at programmatic issues, we need to see who those children are, who the families are. So if there’s a great abundance of especially in my situation there were a lot of Hispanic families moving in with a lot of Spanish, then a dual language program is going to be very rich because then it benefits populations of children whose families want them to learn the Spanish and are losing their heritage language. Some situations don’t work that way. You need to look at those English language learners coming in from, let’s say 30 different countries. So when you have that type of situation, diversity in your classroom, then an English language learner program is best, ESL program.
Bethanne Patrick: That’s fantastic and how about the parents? Do you survey the parents as well? Becky Palacios: We did when we initially started the program. The parents of course need to know what is going to be used for their child.
That marks the end of this segment but not our discussion. Please join us for part two of this webcast when we’ll discuss curriculum and academics in ELL preschool programs. You can learn more about early literacy for English language learners and watch the other segments of this webcast, at www. Funding for this Colorin Colorado webcast is provided by the American Federation of Teachers with additional support from the National Council of La Raza.
Part 2How can preschool programs prepare ELL’s for academic success? Please join me for Part Two of this Colorín Colorado webcast, Preschool for English Language Learners. In the previous segment of this webcast, we discussed English language instruction for young English Language Learners, or ELL’s. In this segment, we’ll discuss curriculum and the academic side of the equation.
You’ve talked about preschool being much more than naps and babysitting. What are the components of a good preschool program? Becky Palacios Well, a great preschool program will have the ability to teach children in a multiple amount of subjects, to cover them all from science to reading to social studies, art, music, health, physical education. All of those components are very important, and as well as looking at their social and emotional well-being and their physical well-being. Bethanne Patrick: So what should a well-rounded curriculum for young ELL’s include? Becky Palacios Well, one of the things that we do in our school is develop all those different subject areas into themes, and so when we look at themes and look at learning over time, one of the best ways that we have found is that if things are organized around a central theme, second language learners, English Language Learners, are more likely to understand and comprehend the instruction if it’s very well organized. Bethanne Patrick: Well what skills do we want those young ELL’s to take with them to kindergarten?
Becky Palacios Well, we definitely want to develop really good pre-reading and reading skills with young children. That’s one of the basic premises of a well rounded curriculum is that everything that you do in your environment, in your teaching, your strategies, is going to include a literacy middle part, a hub, around everything else that you teach. So, for example, if I’m working with a theme that may be a science, and we’re looking at maybe ocean animals, ocean families, then we’re going to make sure that those book we select, those books that we read, are really going to relay a lot of the fiction and non-fiction parts of learning about animals in their native environment and using a lot of that language because things that are very real to children can then be included. Bethanne Patrick: How do we help them, these young ELL’s to develop good social and communication skills?
Becky Palacios Well, we need to have them practice. You need to pair them up in really good peer learning situations. They need to have good social situations, not just in the classroom, but speakers coming in from the community to help them understand why that language is important out in the real world. Also parents coming in as language models because they’re very important in the classroom to see, “Oh, there’s my mom or my dad or my grandma coming in and sharing experience in their native language. Bethanne Patrick: So what are the pre-reaing skills that we definitely want to have young ELL’s exposed to in preschool? Becky Palacios Well, definitely phonological awareness, the understanding of how sounds and letters break up into pieces. We need to have children understand what it means to have syllables in words and how they can be segmented and clapped out, for lack of a better type of example, where children can understand that sounds make words and then words make sentences and sentences make paragraphs and then stories.
Laryngeal muscles found to be underdeveloped compared to articulatory muscles, explaining poor human singing
Bethanne Patrick: Well, speaking of their homes and communities, where does native language fit into reading instruction for a young ELL? Bethanne Patrick: Well, what are some effective ways to assess the ELL’s reading progress throughout the year? Becky Palacios Well, we look at the different types of ongoing assessments that can they clap these things? Can they find words in context? So as you use interactive white boards, as you use words and pictures labeled together, I play the game where they would cut them up and they have to put them back together. Bethanne Patrick: Well, I’m going to give you a chance to give a couple more, so I want to know about some of your favorite reading activities and the strategies in the classroom. I think just at the very beginning when I would get a book, I would just read it for fun, just read it for the joy of reading because one of the main things that we have to instill in children is the motivation to read.
What is my purpose to read this book? It’s got to be meaningful to him or her. Bethanne Patrick: You have many habits of books in your classroom. Would you tell me about them? Becky Palacios Well, over the years I have found that I’m just a bookaholic.
I love books because it really bridge children and their learning. Whenever there were difficult concepts or concepts that children wanted to learn, there’s always a book that helps to bridge that. And once you use books, you have a common experience. So what I started doing was I started collecting books, and people knew how much I loved books, so I got many gifts as books. Bethanne Patrick: And do you have those books in both Spanish and English?
And that was a really the beauty of it was that because I was one of the first dual language teachers in our district, a lot of the people that had those books or found those books or however way they would gift them to me, and so, parents in the community who have those types of books who can gift them to teachers, that’s a wonderful resource. In terms of other content areas, what kinds of concepts should young ELL’s be exposed to in preschool? The themes that we were able to write in our school district centered around social studies or science concepts. For example, everything was built around the word “families. There were ocean families, there were foods families eat, all those themes around the word “families” gave us the ability to teach over time.
Bethanne Patrick: And what about developing those very early math skills? Becky Palacios Oh, that’s another important piece, of course. Math is very important to the development of children’s learning. National standards, they’ll say that reading and math are the top two things that children need to be successful in, in a good quality preschool program to be able to carry that through into their school career. Bethanne Patrick: Would you share a favorite math activity?
There were some that we did that were really important when it came toI’m trying to think of some that were science and math together. For example, we would look at animals and try to classify what those animals were by their coverings, and so that was a very important science concept. But then I have the little manipulatives where we would say, “Ok, here’s a set of animals, and they have different types of coverings. And so, not only were we using a science concept to look at the idea of what those animals have to be able to survive in their environment, after that discussion, we were able to graph it, you know, in a big graph on the interactive white board on how many animals they had counted per set. Bethanne Patrick: Tell us about your biome activity. Becky Palacios Well, the biome activities were really great.
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We studied plants and animals in their natural habitat in the spring, and basically what we did, we looked at animals around the world, and the teachers chose different biomes to study. So some of them were the desert, some of them were the tundra, the rainforest, the arctic and so in the tundra and arctic piece we were able to walk in and you would see white in that classroom. Bethanne Patrick: How did you assess what your ELL’s were learning in other core content areas? Becky Palacios Well, all our assessments that were content assessment pieces were totally integrated in whether or not they could draw these things, whether or not they could classify, which is science and math skills, whether or not they could create words in context, whether it was in their native language or their English language learning. Bethanne Patrick: What were some of the strategies that you used to tell the difference between language difficulty and academic difficulty?
Bethanne Patrick: Well that’s very interesting, and how did you use technology to support instruction? Becky Palacios Well, technology was awesome because I knew that children were learning in a variety of ways, and, as I alluded to previously, interactive white boards, computers, using those types of things are very important as well as the concrete manipulatives you use every day to make things real and part of your hands-on learning, but using technology is something that these kids are going to be so used to. Bethanne Patrick: I don’t want to overlook play and creativity with young children. Why are these such an important part of the curriculum for ELL’s? Becky Palacios Well, play is so huge because it gives children the ability to be creative and to be problem solvers and to be able to come up with their own solutions to a variety of things. So, setting up the centers very much with the children was huge. Some of the things I left up all year long, like blocks.
Blocks are so important to children to be able to play with, to structure. Bethanne Patrick: How about music and puppets? Becky Palacios Oh, I love them! Of course that’s a great way to learn a language because you’re learning it authentically, and so lots of CD’s, a lot of music, a lot of dance, a lot of movement was very important to me and using that with children, and they would request, “Can we sing that again?
Can we sing that one we sang the other day? Can we sing this that we sang, you know, way back when? You’ve worked very hard to promote national preschool standards and universal preschool during your career. What’s inspired your passion in those areas?
Becky Palacios I think just knowing that as a young child, I was very in tune to wanting to go to school. I wanted to go to school, and one of the fallacies back then was that if you knew enough English you didn’t have to go to school. You didn’t have to go and pre-learn your language ability, and they gave me a step, you know, ahead in one to see what a school was. I think they just gave me an incentive. Let me give you one example. One of them was, we were doing a banana experiment where we knew that there was water in the banana, and one of the creations that my coworker and I did was we rolled that in dry Jell-O, and if you look at the banana after a few seconds, it starts to really get colorful, and it shows you that that mixture of that water that’s in the banana is making that change.
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Bethanne Patrick: That wraps up this segment, but there’s still more discussion to come. Please join us for Part Three of this webcast. We’ll discuss professional development and mentoring in ELL preschool programs. You could learn more about early literacy for English Language Learners and watch the other segments of this webcast at www. Funding for this Colorín Colorado webcast is provided by the American Federation of Teachers. Additional support from the National Council of la Raza.
Part 3Bethanne Patrick: It takes a lot of work to teach young English Language Learners well. Learn more about effective training and professional development in this segment of the Colorin Colorado webcast, preschool for English Language Learners. In the previous segments of this webcast, we discussed language and academic instruction for young English Language Learners or ELLs. In this segment, we’ll talk about what it takes to make that good instruction happen. Bethanne Patrick: Thanks for being here. You taught young children for more than 30 years. What skills and qualities does a preschool teacher of ELL’s need to succeed?
Becky Palacios: Well, you need a quality professional development. Many people start out and they become really good strong early childhood teachers that they really don’t have the training to become teachers of English Language Learners, so an important component is professional development if they’re already in the classroom. Many seek to go back and get a certification, but many can’t. Bethanne Patrick: What are some of the challenges that preschool ELL teachers face on a daily basis? You don’t know exactly where they are, cognitively or language-wise, so those are some of the challenges that are huge at the very beginning. Bethanne Patrick: How does a preschool program recruit and retain the educators that can best meet the needs of the ELLs?
Becky Palacios: Well, again, it all begins with appropriate types of training. You just can’t put any teacher in to work with English Language Learners. You have to have someone that’s highly-trained and highly-skilled and using appropriate strategies and knowledge of child learning and development when it comes to language acquisition in that classroom. Let’s imagine a preschool program with a growing ELL population and limited ELL experience.
As more of the ELLs enroll, how does the program address this transition effectively? Becky Palacios: Well, it all begins, I think with the administrator because, if there are children coming in with special populiticous , special needs, then the school and the administrator needs to be fully versed in what to do and what resources to go seek. So I’ve worked with those types of school systems before and what they have done is they have gone to either the state agency, or they’ve gone to a university and said, look, this is what I’m facing. What are the roles of different members of the school community while making this kind of transition? Becky Palacios: Well, all the school community use to be fully aware of who your population is. So you need to know the culture. You need to know who are those parents they facing, whether or not those parents have had any schooling, no schooling, are fearful of the American school system.
Bethanne Patrick: You’ve been addressing this, but let’s talk a little bit about how program leaders can build staff confidence while working with young ELLs. Becky Palacios: Well, I know one of the things that we’ve done before is begin with team building because, if you don’t support the program and you don’t support the changes that it’s making, it’s going to be really hard to be part of that program, and that’s one of the things that I see. Change is very hard for people. We’re used to teaching the same way, do the same things over and over but, we forget we are changing. Bethanne Patrick: What can the staff do to create and maintain high expectations for the young learners themselves? Becky Palacios: Well, I think it all begins with the discourse between the teacher and the parent.
And it’s just not a top-down kind of thing but in a two-way street kind of discussion. So maintaining high expectations and explaining to them the goals of the program, what you want them to do when it comes to the support at the home, and what they expect me to do when it comes to the support in the school because, everything to me, is not about me. Bethanne Patrick: What kind of ongoing professional development is needed for the staff while they’re dealing with this transition? Becky Palacios: There’s so many types of professional development when you’re working with English Language Learners. One of the main things that I find teachers say is I really need to know what to do. So first step in professional development is just learning about a different program model.
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You may not always be teaching to just English-speaking children. Bethanne Patrick: In general, what kinds of professional development do preschool ELL educators need? Becky Palacios: Well, they need to know, basically, about the population, about the children, about the culture, about the diversity. How to bring in resources and books that display — especially books — children in a variety of situations because, the children that are coming in need to know about themselves, how they fit in, in the school environment, and how they see themselves portrayed in literature. Bethanne Patrick: Well, what about their development in language and content areas? Becky Palacios: Well, and that’s an important piece depending on the program that we spoke again about before, whether or not it’s a dual language, a bilingual, or an ELL program.
The teacher needs to know which is going to be best. Which is the one that I’m implementing. How am I going to deliver this best? What do I need to do to create lessons that are comprehensible for children? How do I write my lesson plans out differently? Bethanne Patrick: Well, why is it so important for preservice and new ELL teachers to have a good mentor?
Becky Palacios: Well, when you’re talking about all those different strategies and skills that I think doesn’t happen overnight, if you have a teacher in a preservice teacher in the classroom, which I’ve had before, it really opens their eyes that first year. There’s no way they’re going to implement all that right away because there’s so much coming at them. There’s so many things to know and do. So then they become the ones that are doing the actual teaching and you’re questioning them and helping them. You modeled for them and work with them, and so having that type of second and third-year scaffold for them is important, and then when they become first-year teachers, having an actual mentor who can ask you questions, well, how’s it going? Bethanne Patrick: Well, so walk us through some steps, if you would, of how a mentor guides a new teacher.
Becky Palacios: Well, one of the things that they do is they talk about what is this plan? And so in mentoring and guiding teachers first of all, it’s incumbent upon me to model. I model what is good practice. We look at the standards that are available in the disciplinary areas. And we ask a lot of, I ask a lot of questions and say, why is this important? Bethanne Patrick: Well, who were your mentors? Becky Palacios: Well, I actually had some really good mentors when I first started teaching back in the seventies.
There was a program that was called “Follow-through”, was the other component of “Head-Start”. And we had teacher mentors that would come in and teach and model for us different types of lessons. Then we’d come back and watch us afterwards. Bethanne Patrick: Well, is there a teacher you mentored who stands out in your memory?
Becky Palacios: Well, I have quite a few because they have been very successful. But I have one that I had about three years ago, and her name is Denise Calera and she was also featured in another series that we did, but she was in one of my preservice teachers. She was a student teacher, and she was also the parent of one of my students. She was one of our community parents. And she was just so gung-ho about working with second language learners, English Language Learners. Beth: We’ve come to the end of this segment but there’s still more of this discussion to come. Please join us for Part 4 of this webcast when we’ll discuss parent outreach and engagement.