Everyday interactionsNeed help?
In this video, Jodi and Kelly from Stokes Valley Kindergarten and Irene and Angela from Elim International Kids ECE talk about specific ways they facilitate spoken and written literacies as part of their everyday interactions with children in their settings. They also discuss how they incorporate children’s home languages into their programmes and interactions.
Encouraging the development of spoken and written literacies
Kelly: We have a child-led curriculum. So, as teachers, it’s about ensuring that we are looking for those teachable moments, so our intentional teaching, where we’re working alongside children, thinking of those strategies that we have learned, and how to use that to enrich oral and written literacy. We’re using facilitation, especially when it comes to social situations with children. It’s about facilitating interactions with each other. Then, by doing that, we’re able to do use role-modelling, scaffolding, and helping children to enter and exit play, for example, and by using those using those rich languages – and repetition is a major one for children. For them, hearing those conversations all the time is how they’re going to acquire the oral literacy. It’s also those nappy-changing moments, or helping a child get dressed. It’s verbalising what we’re doing with them.
Jodi: It’s describing, isn’t it?
Kelly: Yeah, describing as a strategy, so making that child feel safe, because something is happening to them, so by putting words to that, it’s making them feel safe and secure in our interactions, but it’s also a rich language conversation for them, as well.
How do you promote written as well as oral language?
Angela: One of the things we do is, with the environment, making it print-rich, making those different areas of learning – domains, pockets of learning – such as having an art area where children can go and get paper and pen, and feel free to write and scribble at their own pace, as well as having a quiet area for reading if they just want space to their own, as well as an area for music, dramatic play. So just giving them lots of areas to explore and express themselves through different means.
Kelly: If we look around our environment, there is text everywhere. So, whatever area you’re working in with children, you have that opportunity to refer to that, to talk about it, to talk to it, to listen to children when they’re referring to it, as well.
How do you incorporate children’s home languages and cultures into everyday interactions?
Angela: From the first settling visit, it’s something that’s quite important to our centre, that we always ask the parents, ‘is there another language that you speak at home with the children?’ We ask for particular phrases, usually around day-to-day routines, so things like ‘sit down’, ‘time for a sleep’, ‘time to eat’ – and then we’re able to sort of incorporate it, and introduce it to the other children as well. We have a young child whose mother is from Peru, so they speak Spanish at home, and when she started asking for water, she’d always say ‘agua’. The other children have become so familiar with it, that now, whenever they ask for water as well, they say ‘agua, agua’, and everyone understands what it means, so it’s a nice shared understanding, and sharing of culture and language.
Irene: A very big activity that highlights this language would be singing, so the waiata. So, we often sing one song that would highlight the language, and it’s amazing to see children able to follow through, identify with that language. So, in Samoan we have this Le Aute song, so you can see children also like learning how to do the actions. For the Filipino song we have the ‘Tong Tong Tong Tong’ – the crab song. So, it’s something that the children really like when they hear that song, they would know already how to act out the actions.
Angela: Songs like Twinkle Twinkle Little Star – we have lots of variations of that in so many languages. We’ve got one in Fijian – ‘Kalokalo’ – as well as in Mandarin, ‘Yi Shan’, as well. So, it’s a familiar tune, but in another language that the children can learn another variation of it.
Kelly: The most important thing that we believe in is your relationships with families and parents. So, to be able to work with home languages, and promote it, we need to have those strong relationships, because we need to be able to ask families what they want from their early childhood experiences for their children, and then reciprocating it when we are the learners as well. The whole concept of ako – we’re all learning together. So, we need to be able to reach out to our families and ask them, ‘what language do you speak at home? Do you have resources? Can you support us? We have that culture within our kindergarten that we can go to people and they will share their knowledge and expertise. When that comes in, then we use it through Storypark in our assessments. We’re writing our learning stories or smaller snippets, and we will include the home language in those, for the whānau. That’s what we read out to children when we’re on the floor, or if they’re reading that at home, it acknowledges their identity, and it enhances that side of it. So, we’re really proud that we have that culture within our kindy community with our home language. When you come in here, you see it, as well. You hear it. You are greeted by the teachers in your home language, so children and whānau are hearing it, and then they’ll see it. It’s printed on our documentation through our project work. English and te reo are obviously our two major languages in our bicultural curriculum, but we will still incorporate, depending on the children that we have in our kindy at the time, so we really pride ourselves on doing that, and the whānau feedback is amazing because they see it acknowledged, and then they become enthusiastic, and they want to share. So we’re all working together to make sure that children are hearing their home languages and whānau are seeing it and hearing it as well.
Jodi and Kelly talk about supporting oral and written literacies through their child-led programme at the kindergarten. As teachers, Kelly and Jodi see it as their role to work with and alongside children to create opportunities for children to express themselves and to interpret the world around them. Kelly and Jodi also talk about using intentional strategies to facilitate rich conversations and social interactions during everyday play and care moments. They look for teachable moments, describing, role-modelling during play, and providing repetition of language as examples of intentional strategies that help to build and extend children’s oral and written literacies. Similarly, Angela and Irene talk about the importance of setting up opportunities for infants and toddlers to explore and express themselves at their own pace in different domain areas, including books, art, music, and dramatic play. Teachers in both centres refer to the importance of having a print-rich environment, where children can see written texts and refer to them.
Kelly and Jodi also describe the ways they nurture and promote the home languages of all children in their kindergarten by fostering relationships with parents and families. The concept of ako is important here, recognising that teachers are sometimes learning from parents and asking about how best to support their home languages in the kindergarten. Teachers make the effort to use children’s home language in their learning stories and other documentation shared with families.
Angela and Irene also talked about learning from families about languages used at home, and they keep a note of words and phrases relating to everyday routines such as eating and sleeping that they can incorporate and use with all the children to promote shared understandings of culture in the centre. Songs or waiata are another way to promote children’s home languages, as well as the languages of others in the early childhood setting.
Jodi and Kelly talked about using intentional strategies to support spoken and written literacies in their kindergarten. Claire also talked about some fun ideas for fostering phonological and print awareness in her video.
The teachers in the video discuss the many ways they incorporate home languages and culture into their centre, from using the Spanish ‘agua’ for water to singing in Samoan and Tagalog. What home languages and cultures do the children in your centre have? Have do you support them? Do you need help with any languages and cultures? As well as talking to the families for ideas, you are also welcome to ask your colleagues on here. We might well have an expert or two!
For further inspiration, check out following resources and the ideas on supporting phonological and print awareness in the reference list.