To promote the successful development of intellectual abilities and competencies required to comprehend and analyze academic content, it is essential to develop and maintain strong partnerships between schools and children’s families, especially when it comes to ELLs that need additional support. As a teacher working with linguistically diverse young learners, I can use different strategies to cultivate such partnerships and enable parents to support ELL students at home. One helpful way to do it is to contact students’ parents and encourage them to support children’s knowledge acquisition by checking their homework regularly, asking children to discuss things that they have learned, and contacting the teaching staff in case of concerns (Auerbach, 2009; Breiseth, Robertson, & Lafond, 2015). By communicating with parents and educating them on the extent to which their participation is significant to children’s success in the classroom, I would manage to set the foundation for such partnerships.
Classroom events for students’ parents also remain an effective way to cultivate productive parent-school partnerships, and I might use this strategy to keep the parents of ELL students more aware of what their children do at school and what their strengths are. Such events may take different forms, including student performances attended by non-ELL and ELL families, parent workshops at school, and events to celebrate cultural diversity (Breiseth et al., 2015; Colombo, 2006). Since I work with children from dissimilar cultural backgrounds, it might be interesting to organize culture fairs to strengthen students’ connections with their families. Additionally, the strategy could be specifically beneficial to ELL students by enabling their parents to draw links between their level of English and how they communicate with peers.
Tools that allow drawing links between ELLs’ native culture and the school can also be widely used to cultivate productive school-parent partnerships throughout the school year. When it comes to Spanish-speaking ELLs, the active use of Spanish dichos or proverbs to convey simple truths about the process of learning can help their parents to feel more connected to their children’s school life (Sánchez, Plata, Grosso, & Leird, 2010). By analogy, I might include the elements of my cultural minority students’ native cultures into communication with families to demonstrate that their children are not urged to refuse their cultural identities despite having to communicate in their non-native language. The strategy might find reflection in different actions, such as expecting students to work on the tasks that would require them to learn more about their cultures. My ELL students’ parents would likely appreciate my attempts to show respect for their cultures, which would have pronounced effects on their attitudes toward parental involvement in education.
ELL students have a variety of unique learning needs since they are expected to process and understand a huge amount of new information, including academic and language content. The language that these students speak at home can have different effects on their ability to speak English fluently. On the one hand, it is possible that for some ELL students, the exclusive use of their native language at home instead of trying to practice English as much as possible can harm the speed of English language acquisition. I have seen this effect in some of my adult acquaintances migrating to the U.S. from non-English speaking countries. Hopefully, children’s essential flexible thinking allows them to switch between their home language and English without negative consequences for learning.
On the other hand, the constant use of their home language can help ELLs to better understand the structure of their mother tongue and use their ability to see language as a system to build good English literacy skills and understand academic content with ease. Some studies suggest that literacy in one’s native language increases the chances of being literate in other studied languages (Yildirim, 2013). It is perfectly logical that the development of good literacy skills and a vast vocabulary in one’s home language enables children to see mistakes in other people’s speech and can help them to be more self-conscious and careful when learning English and using it in the classroom. Proper home language literacy can be specifically helpful to English language development when a student’s native language shares certain similarities with English, and there are cognates between the two languages. Therefore, literacy in their home languages can assist ELLs in understanding the peculiarities of English and learning to use it during classroom activities.
Given that literacy in one’s native language is beneficial to ELLs’ learning, teachers are often advised to encourage literacy development in all languages that these children are supposed to speak. For instance, it is considered helpful and beneficial to encourage ELLs parents to read stories in their native language with their children (Breiseth et al., 2015). Moreover, it is widely accepted that children need extra assistance and support to “bridge their home language to school language” (Yildirim, 2013, p. 148). With that in mind, strategies to support home language literacy in ELLs can be regarded as an important resource and an opportunity to improve these students’ learning.
Auerbach, S. (2009). Walking the walk: Portraits in leadership for family engagement in urban schools. The School Community Journal, 19(1), 9-31.
Breiseth, L., Robertson, K., & Lafond, S. (2015). Encouraging and sustaining ELL parent engagement. Web.
Colombo, M. W. (2006). Building school partnerships with culturally and linguistically diverse families. Phi Delta Kappan, 88(4), 314-318.
Sánchez, C., Plata, V., Grosso, L., & Leird, B. (2010). Encouraging Spanish-speaking families’ involvement through dichos. Journal of Latinos and Education, 9(3), 239-248.
Yildirim, O. (2013). Family literacy and second language literacy research: Focus on language minority children. Journal of Language and Linguistic Studies, 9(1), 145-159.