The richness diversity brings: diverse languages and literacies in early childhood education
Both the children who attend and the teaching staff in Auckland early childhood services are increasingly linguistically diverse. The literature has established that the continuing development of the home language alongside the acquisition of English results in the most favourable educational outcomes for the child and the family.
This study investigated the teaching practice used by a group of eleven qualified early childhood teachers working in diverse mainstream English-medium centres on Auckland’s North Shore. The group included both bilingual and monolingual teachers. The project aimed to discover whether the teachers were using strategies which support children’s home languages and promote bilingualism and biliteracy. The research question was:
What teaching strategies are used to meet the language and learning needs of young children with diverse languages and literacies?
The theoretical perspective was sociocultural theory, which is based on Bronfenbrenner’s (1979) ecological-contextual model. This model showed that children’s development is best understood within the sociocultural context of the family, educational setting, community, and broader society. A qualitative methodology was used because I wanted to bring teachers together, to talk to each other, to share lived experience (Mutch, 2005), to tell me their stories.
Data collected at two focus groups and two semi-structured interviews during 2011 were coded and analysed to identify the eight emerging themes. The findings were that this group of teachers were all using a linguistically responsive pedagogy, consistent with the literature, to foster bilingualism and biliteracy. However, there were some challenges, as some parents and some other teachers they had worked with, were not convinced that the use of home languages in centres is positive for minority language children who are beginning to learn English.
As most of the research in this area has been conducted overseas, this study helps to fill a gap in the Aotearoa New Zealand literature on teaching linguistically diverse children in mainstream early childhood services.