I have 60 Preschool English learners from diverse backgrounds. The majority speak Spanish, but I also have speakers of Chinese and Arabic. They all come from low-income families; most parents have to work two or three jobs, and as a result, they do not get to spend much time with their children.
Due to their academically and socially poor home environment, their age, and the fact that for most of them it is their first time in school, they come to us speaking very little to no English and are at a stage called the silent stage.
At this stage, regardless of the first language they speak, children are acquiring language mostly from their environment, so their classrooms need to be a visually and aurally rich. Having them participate in singing songs, interactive read alouds - in which they look closely at pictures, words, and start developing pre-reading skills- and playing games, are considered best teaching practices to keep them engaged, promote learning, language development, and overall the development of the whole child.
Developing language and pre-reading skills are one of the most important goals in preschool. For English learners, to engage during read aloud times and literacy activities is difficult not only because of their age but because of the language barrier.
Big books are a powerful resource to engage preschool English learners in literacy activities; their big colorful pictures really attract their attention and engage them in stories and literacy activities.
Big pictures also promote pre-reading skills, such as looking closely at pictures for details and build background knowledge. Because of their large font, they can also be used for word work (letter and word matching), and promote vocabulary acquisition.
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