Social Justice and Equity Studies respond to the growing need for individuals. The underlying values of the Ethics and Social Justice Commitment are:
· Recognition of the rights and dignity of all individuals;
· Equality of opportunity in education and employment for all;
· Enhancing diversity in gender, age, culture, beliefs, attitudes, language and social circumstance;
· Recognition of the particular place of indigenous peoples in Australia;
· Well-maintained, safe and enhanced environment.
These are important aspects that the educators are to take into consideration when dealing with English language learners as they address the concepts of social justice and equity (Fusco, c., 1995).
When children in the United States join early childhood classrooms from homes where English is not the primary language that is spoken, they become involved in the process of becoming bilingual which is a process of learning more than one language. Being bilingual gives one opportunities that may not be available to monolinguals, who are people that can speak only one language. Further, bilingualism can be advantageous for children’s early language and literacy development, for family communication and functioning, and for children’s feelings of self-worth (Chomsky, N. and Macedo, D. (editors), 2004).
In today’s early school programs and primary school classroom, the teachers are making efforts with an increasingly diverse population of young children in school whereby majority of these children come from homes where English language is not spoken. According to research, more than 9.6% of all the students enrolled in public pre-kindergarten through grade classes represent the English language learners in the United States. 67% of these students are enrolled at elementary school levels (Fusco, c., 1995). Therefore, the teachers in preschool and primary education programs in the whole country have a likely hood of having English language learners in their classrooms. However, most of these teachers do not have specialized training on how to meet the needs of these English language learners, and may lack prior experience in teaching learners from linguistically and culturally diverse backgrounds.
The young children’s first language is not fully developed in most cases. For instant, Children between the age of 5 and 10 are still acquiring the structures of the first language. Therefore, while old learners have the foundation of a fully developed first language as they learn the English language, the younger language learners are working on the two of them at the same time. Children are perfectly capable of acquiring two or more languages without any negative consequences (Fusco, c., 1995). Educators therefore must keep in mind that young children do not have a fully developed native language on which they would base the learning of the second language. This is because; the children may not have known certain vocabulary words, grammatical structures or other language features in their native language before they get to learn English.
Children need to develop their native language along with English language development. Therefore, to achieve social justice and equity, the educators must realize that the young English learners’ primary mode of communication with their siblings, the extended families and the entire community members is their native language. These young children are basically socialized into their communities, receive nurturing and develop self-esteem through interactions with their parents and families, and learn how to interact with others in socially appropriate and acceptable ways. Therefore, they need support in both their native language and English in order to fully learn the languages.
Therefore, the educators should be able to speak the native languages of the children so that it is easier for them to help them learn. However, many classrooms have children from different communities and hence speak a variety of languages, bilingual teachers are not available always. Therefore, this support may not be available always. This will be provided by the bilingual paraprofessionals or by the parents and community volunteers (Darder, A., 1991). These children should also have the opportunity to interact in both languages, including verbal interaction and reading of printed material such as books. Thus, programs for young English language learners should support the children’s native language (Freire, P., 2006). Through this, the educators will have addressed the issue of social justice and equity as they take into consideration the needs of each individual English language learner.
Learning English as an additive process
Learning English should be an additive process to the English language learners. Therefore, preschool and elementary programs for English learners should build on the premise that the native languages of the children are valuable assets to be fostered. This kind of environment is essential to social and emotional development of the children as it fosters very strong family ties as well the continued participation of the children in community. To achieve social justice and equity, this nurturing environment can be extended to the school if the teachers make collaborations with the parents and other community members.
These collaborations may include the use of parents and community volunteers in the classroom to provide native language support to the children, special workshops or classes to keep the parents aware of the importance of supporting children’s native languages at home or family literacy programs that would give the parents and the children the opportunity to learn together. These collaborations will help to ensure that children will continue to be able to communicate with their parents and the extended families (Chomsky, N. and Macedo, D. (editors), 2004).
Through valuing the native language and ensuring that learning English is an additive process for the English language programs, this would provide a nurturing, supportive environment for children that can lead to improved self-esteem which in return will have dealt with the issue of social justice and equity. This would in return help to foster a positive relationship between the parents and the community.
Since parents are their children’s primary teachers, it is important for programs that serve young English language learners to build collaboration between the parents and the teachers. Therefore, the parents of English language learners should be given regular opportunities to provide input into their children’s education. Teachers should keep the parents aware of the standards, curriculum, and instructional methods that are used in their child’s class and help parents understand the results of various placement and achievement evaluation measures that are used in the classroom (Fusco, c., 1995). Therefore, the home and school should work effectively together and support one another in the job of nurturing and educating young children.
Ensuring teacher quality
It is important to have qualified and well prepared teachers in preschool and primary school programs that include the English language learners. Teachers of young English language learners need to understand their linguistic fully and other needs. This will in return help them to prepare lessons effectively that will meet these needs of the learners, provide appropriate instructions and be in a position to access how well these children are able to comprehend what they have been taught (Soto, L.D., 1996). Teachers also need a thorough understanding of the development of the child and how this may help to developmentally appropriate instructional design, skill in promoting home-school relationship, and sensitivity to the cultural backgrounds of the children and their parents. Through this processes, the educators will have addressed the issue of social justice and equity.
Providing ample opportunities for planning
In order for the teacher to provide high-quality instruction and programs to the English language learners, they require teamwork. The quality programs that are used to serve the English language learners should involve extensive coordination and planning among the staff. However, in most cases, the planning time that is given to teachers of English language learners is inadequate. Therefore, in order to coordinate goals, align curricula and ensure that there are positive transitions for English language learners as they move through a program, adequate time for planning is important which will in return lead to achieving social justice and equity (Chomsky, N. and Macedo, D. (editors), 2004).
This adequate time includes the long-range planning that considers child development. This time will help the teachers and others in the programs that serve the English language learners to ensure that the instructions and goals that they develop for these children are part of a well-articulated framework that is based upon various practices that are developmentally appropriate with long term goals and achievements in mind.
Designing developmentally appropriate instruction
The kind of planning that teachers of young English language learners should be charming in involves developmentally suitable practice that considers the cognitive and social needs of the young children. The cognitive/developmental approach is usually considered to be the most effective, as it takes into account what children may be able to do at various stages of development (Fusco, c., 1995). This approach involves diverse types of learning, such as social learning, physical learning and play, emotional learning, and intellectual and academic learning.
This approach is summarized as one in which “children are optimistic to become involved in determined and original activities with other children; to make main choices among hands-on learning activities; to set off and accomplish self-motivated tasks in a friendly environment; and to build knowledge at their own individual pace by discovering and engaging in open-ended activities that reflect all areas of their development.
This kind of approach is student centered and keeps children’s developmental needs in mind through giving them a chance to learn at their own pace and in their own learning styles (Fusco, c., 1995) . It involves a great deal of originality on the part of the teacher, who continually develops ways for children to relate in hands-on tasks and activities in which they may make their own meaning through interaction. Therefore, the teacher is able to address the issue of social justice and equity as the learners have the freedom to learn on their own in a friendly environment.
Using funds of knowledge
In addition, educators of young English language learners should make maximum use of the knowledge that parents and families possess and use this knowledge as a foundation for instruction. For example, teachers should find out the kind of literacy practices, such as storytelling that are typically used in children’s homes; the topics and subjects the child and family like discussing together; traditions that are practical; and other areas of curiosity that may be brought into the classroom so that the knowledge foundation of children’s families is appreciated and valued (Darder, A., 1991). Gathering this information can be done in a variety of ways. These include:
Ø Informal discussions between teachers and parents
Ø Eliciting or getting information from the learners themselves
Ø Visiting children’s homes so as to learn from them
Ø Enlisting the help of community volunteers who may be familiar with children’s home culture.
Once teachers have identified these various kinds of knowledge, literacy practices, and traditions that exist in children’s homes, this information may be incorporated into the classroom instruction. For example, a teacher designs thematic units that include topics that children are familiar with and utilizing literacy practices that families employ in the home (Chomsky, N. and Macedo, D. (editors), 2004)..
Within the framework of encouraging teachers who value students’ home languages and native cultures and who enthusiastically involve students’ parents in the instructional process, classrooms that make maximum use of the cognitive/developmental approach provide young English language learners an inspirational environment where they may create knowledge—including knowledge of English—at their own speed and in a way that builds on their strengths. In this way, social justice and equity are achieved, the children’s self-esteem is nurtured, and children are valued as individuals who are competent and full of potential (Fusco, c., 1995).
In order for the process of becoming bilingual to be successful, parents and teachers need to work together to build understanding about what it means for a child to become bilingual and how becoming bilingual can be achieved under varied circumstances. In order for he teachers and parents to work together effectively so as to help the English language learners, they should:
· collect information about the children and their families
· develop a plan for children’s continued use of the home language
· develop a plan for children’s acquisition of English
Through the process of putting emphasis and support the use of home language at home and encouraging positive and stimulating learning experiences in the early care settings and in the community, caregivers are working to prevent the overall language delays that can affect future school-related academic achievement such as English language learning (Fusco, c., 1995).
Collecting Information About the Children and Their Families
This process may not be easy if the teachers and the parents do not communicate in a common language. Therefore, the teachers may be required to use questionnaires that can be translated into a language that the parents can understand or be filled in English by these parents with the help the help of community members (Freire, P., 2006).
Once teachers have gathered this information, they can begin thinking about how they want to discuss the issue of English language learning with parents. In this way, the issue of social justice and equity is addressed since the parents have equal opportunities as those of the teachers to participate in their children’s education.
Developing a Plan for Children’s Continued Use of the Home Language
The teachers should encourage the parents to maintain their home language use. This is important since children will need to continue to speak their home language if they are to learn English language fast. Communication with the family will also provide the children with necessary information about the world as they communicate in languages that they feel more comfortable (Chomsky, N. and Macedo, D. (editors), 2004).
The teacher should also bring the home language into the classroom. For instant, the teacher would introduce new vocabulary words in English and find out what that word would be in at least one other language. This will attract the attention of the English language learners and they will not forget the learnt vocabulary easily (Darder, A., 1991).
Developing a Plan for Children’s Acquisition of English
The time when English language should be introduced to young children depends on whether the family speaks the language or do not use English. In classrooms where all of the children and their teachers share the same home language, English can be introduced as a foreign language. Goals for this class will be set by both the teacher and the parents.
Communication Techniques to Help Children Who Are Learning English
When teachers use English with children who are just learning English, it is important to ensure that they are understood. For this reason, teachers depend on techniques like buttressing, repetition, and referring to objects and activities in plain view of the children. Teachers often talk about what they are doing while they are doing it and are careful to expand and extend any words or phrases that a child uses in English (Darder, A., 1991). Finally, teachers also use a technique called “upping the ante” in which they encourage children to respond in English when they are ready. Thus, at the end of it, they would have addressed the issue of social justice and equity as the teacher takes into consideration the needs of the learner and addresses them in the best manner.
Classroom Organization to Help Children Who Are Learning English
Classrooms with repetitive routines are extremely helpful for young children who are learning English. They come to know what to expect and begin to navigate the classroom successfully. By using small groups for activity work and by making sure that the English learners are included in those activities, it is possible to bring the use of English to the ability level of individual children. It is also possible to establish a buddy system, where children in the classroom who are already proficient in English pair up with English learners. Finally, it is important to have places in the classroom where English learning children can sit quietly or use manipulative or look at pictures or play alone. These places can be thought of as safe havens in an otherwise demanding classroom situation (Soto, L.D., 1996)
Therefore, for the educators to be able to address the issue of social justice and equity as they help the English language learners, as young English language learners enroll in preschool and primary school programs in record numbers, teachers must frequently endeavor to provide effective, nurturing environments and developmentally and linguistically suitable instruction for all learners. This instruction should take into concern the characteristics of young English language learners and their language development, the learning situation that are most effective for them, and the kinds of instruction that best meet their needs.
Darder, A. (1991).Culture and power in the classroom: A critical foundation for bicultural education. Greenwood Publishing
Chomsky, N. and Macedo, D. (editors) (2004). Chomsky on Miseducation. Rowan and Littlefield
Freire, P. (2006). Teachers as cultural workers: Letters to those who dare teach. Westview
Soto, L.D. (1996). Language, culture, and power. SUNY Press
Fusco, c. (1995). English is broken here: Notes on Cultural Fusion. The New Press.