Amy Farndale Mujema - University of South Australia

Silent Preschoolers:
Nurturing the voices of children
who are new to English.
PhD Student: School of Education :
deLissa Institute of Early Childhood and
Family Studies
Amy Farndale Mujema
Australian context
According to the AEDI (2009, p.4),
17.2% of all children in Australia speak a
language other than English (LOTE) in the home.
There is a diversity of 279 languages, other than
English, spoken by Australian children (AEDI 2011).
In South Australia, between 2010-11, 3,000 CALD
(culturally and linguistically diverse) children
received preschool bilingual support (DECS 2011,
Worldwide, bilingualism is the norm.
Languages of Australian 4- to 5-year-old children
(McLeod 2011)
Greek and
Arabic, Cantonese,
Italian, Spanish and
Vietnamese, and
Greek, African
Vietnamese, Spanish
and other
Arabic, Cantonese,
Vietnamese, Italian,
Mandarin, Greek,
Hindi, Turkish,
Assyrian and Somali
Bengali, Cantonese,
Croatian, French, German,
Hindi, Italian,
Macedonian, Russian,
Tamil and Urdu
Figure 1. Main languages spoken by Australian children aged 4 to 5 years in each state and territory
Note: The darker shade indicates 16–26% of children aged 4- to 5- years in NSW and Victoria speak languages other than
English. The lighter shade indicates 4-9% and the lightest indicates 1–3% of children speak languages other than English in
that state/territory.
Phases of English Language Learning
 1.
New to English
 2 . Early Production
Becoming familiar with English
 3. Speech Emergence
Becoming a confident user of English
 4. Intermediate Speech
Demonstrated competency as a speaker of English
(Clarke 2009, Crosse 2007, Diaz-Rico 2008 and Tabors 2008)
Phase 1: Pre-production
New to English
 May continue to speak 1st language (as if understood)
‘dilingual discourse’.
 May be socially isolated, overwhelmed, insecure
 Is an observer
 Often gives up speaking and enters a ‘silent period’
(lasting weeks to months)
 Uses gestures / body language / facial expression
 May rehearse words quietly to themselves
 Receptive language (understanding) skills exceed expressive
(productive) language.
Phase 1: Pre-production
Gather information from parents.
Involve Parents.
Use gesture, facial expression,
body language (culture?)
Seek bilingual support and support
the 1st language.*
Adjust speech – slow, basic
Learn some basic first language
vocab. (audio record)
Organise small groups and
encourage peer interaction.*
Learn correct pronunciation of
Offer interactive activities
(Total Physical Response)
Offer bilingual books
Welcome efforts, praise.
Use visuals, graphic organisers,
realia (objects)
Encourage other modes of
expression = arts, dance
Revise Revisit Rehearse Recycle
Repeat Routines*
Select appropriate levels of
questioning – yes/no, point*
Speak with running commentary.
Provide input*
Introduce mainly tier 1 or 2 words*
Marion Blank’s Levels
Level 1:
• Can you point to the ………..?
• Where is the …………?
• What is this?
Level 2:
Relationships / classifying
• What does it do?
Level 3:
Reorganising / Prediction
• What will happen next?
• Can you tell me the story?
Level 4:
• Why do you like that one?
Tiered words (Beck, McKeown & Kucan 2008)
Tier 1 - basic
• car
• big
Tier 2 – descriptive
(more in written
• gigantic
• opposite
Tier 3 –
• condensation
• pupa
Phase 2: Early Production
Goes public with talk
 Has telegraphic speech – 1-2 words to mean a sentence
 Uses formulaic speech – Uses common phrases ‘I want…’
 Hypothesises and tries out new formulations of sentences
 Uses invented words to fill gaps in English sentences
For example ‘I want mm mm apple’ (‘to eat’ = mm mm)
 May mispronounce words.
Phase 2: Early Production
Extend and expand sentences
Encourage talk about concrete
Pause – provide the child with an Continue to support the first
opportunity to respond
language (transfer concepts)
Select appropriate levels of
Focus on meaning rather than
Encourage social interaction
Select appropriate repetitive
books. Repeat the same books
but use in different ways
Encourage singing songs (both
languages) *
Focus on opportunities to talk *
Phase 3: Speech Emergence
Talks in sentences
 Has a growing expressive vocabulary, initiates more freely.
 Makes more grammatical mistakes and over-generalises rules.
Eg ‘I runned’. ‘He is a girl’.
 Uses longer more complex utterances.
 Make clarification checks – assesses own output (talk)
Phase 3: Speech Emergence
Refrain from rescuing the child
and encourage their own
speech attempts.
Promote collaborative learning.
Start introducing decontextualised language.
Employ higher levels of
questionning such as
categorisation and prediction.
Do not obviously correct
children’s mistakes, but model,
reformulate, rephrase, elaborate
and expand..
Introduce Tier 2 words.
Phase 4: Intermediate Speech
Speaking with improved grammar
 Expresses ideas.
 Engages in conversations.
 Explores complex ideas.
 Can demonstrate leadership.
 Is confident in exchanges.
Phase 4: Intermediate Speech
Focus on more abstract
Use higher levels of questioning
(prediction, causal relationships)
Introduce technical language.
(Increase Tier 2 and 3 words)
Phases of English Language Learning
• Pre-production
• New to English
• .Early Production
• Becoming familiar with English
• Speech Emergence
• Becoming a confident user of English
• Intermediate Speech
• Demonstrated competency as a speaker of English
(Clarke 2009, Crosse 2007, Diaz-Rico 2008 and Tabors 2008)
Naturally every child’s experience is unique and
these descriptions of the four phases aim to give
a general understanding of
English language learning.
takes 1-2 years to obtain BICS
(basic interpersonal communication skills)
takes 5-8 years to obtain CALP
(cognitive academic language proficiency)
(Cummins 1985)
AEDI 2009, A Snapshot of Early Childhood Development in Australia Australian Early Development Index (AEDI) National Report
2009 Re-issue, Australian Government Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations., Australia.
Clarke, P 2009, Supporting children learning English as a second language in the Early Years (birth to six years), Victorian
Curriculum and Assessment Authority, Victoria, Australia,
Crosse, K 2007, Introducing English as an additional language to young children : a practical handbook, 1st edn, Paul Chapman
Pub., London.
Díaz-Rico, LT 2008, A course for teaching English learners, Pearson/Allyn and Bacon, Boston.
Hirschler, J 1994, 'Preschool children's help to second language learners', The Journal of Educational Issues of Language Minority Students, vol.
14, pp. 227-240.
Krashen, S & Terrell, T 1983, The natural approach : language acquisition in the classroom, 1st edn, Pergamon Press ;Alemany
Press, Oxford [Oxfordshire] ;New York :San Francisco.
McLeod, S 2011, ‘Cultural and linguistic diversity in Australian 4- to 5-year-old children and their parents’, ACQuiring Knowledge
in Speech, Language and Hearing Volume 13, Number 3 pp. 112-119
Priester, MM 2011, 'Using Song Lyrics in the Preschool ESL Classroom to Assist Students' English Vocabulary Retention and Use',
Curriculum and Instruction, Caldwell College.
Shao, Q 2005, 'Social context and language acquisition: a Chinese child learning English as his second language in naturalistic
preschool settings', UMI.
Saville-Troike, M 1987, 'Dilingual Discourse: the negotiation of meaning without a common code.', Linguistics, vol. 25, pp. 81-106.
Swain, M 2005, 'The output hypothesis: Theory and research. ', in Hinkle, E (ed), Handbook of Research in second language
teaching and learning, Erlbaum, Mahwah, NJ, pp. 471-483.
Tabors, PO 2008, One child, two languages: a guide for early childhood educators of children learning English as a second
language, 2nd ed. edn, Paul H. Brookes Pub. Co, Baltimore, Md.

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