Supporting dual language learners, exploring large group and shared reading experiences
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According to the Center for Public Education, the face of our nation is changing, and nowhere is the change more evident than in school classrooms. Compared with the last century, we are increasingly aging and white on the one hand and young and multi-hued on the other. More and more of us were born in other nations, speak different languages, and carry different cultural traditions with us. The number of school-age children in the United States whose native language is not English is increasing. Reports on ways to accommodate these dual language learners (DLLs) cite many case studies, highlighting strategies that prove successful. In this study, the phenomenon of the whole group lesson and ways to support language learners within this context are examined. Curricular shifts and practices that make large group time more meaningful and interactive are important to accommodate both language learners and all of the learners in the group (Sancho Passe, 2013, p. 7). Over the course of the academic year, a case study of three native Russian speaking students enrolled in an English-based Montessori preschool was conducted. Observations were made of these DLL's response to and/or participation in whole group gathering, over time and given specific interventions. What we witnessed caused us to conclude that, overall, group lessons are supportive and certain strategies are more engaging than others. Not surprisingly, during periods of pure conversation the language learners all showed signs of inattentiveness. Books, songs and movement proved to be more engaging than lessons with props, except when the children were actively involved in discussion about or handling the visual aid. A slower pace, individualized support from an adult, and reinforcement and repetition resulted in engagement, participation and advancement by all of the participants.