More than words: Supporting 2nd language acquisition in young immigrant children

Interesting story out of Penn State University where researchers worked with preschool programs to help them identify strategies to support 2nd language learning in very young immigrant children.

The children were given cameras and asked to take photos of their world outside of their classrooms. Then, the children talked about the pictures they had taken with their teachers. Researchers cite improved teacher and child interactions and stronger language and vocabulary development in the children. 

From the news story:

“After the two years and final transcript comparisons were completed, the study unexpectedly found that learning English was not an obstacle to the oral expression of immigrant preschool children when compared to their native-born classmates. In fact, once invited into conversation through photo elicitation, the stories of reportedly “quiet” immigrant children proved as long as the others. And there was no statistical difference in conversational skills when American-born and immigrant children were compared and, in fact, the immigrant language complexity became superior to the native-born children.

The findings of the study also provided a caution for the teachers in the preschool. ‘The teachers have to listen to the kids,…We found the teachers had preconceived notions or myths about the children. The photo exercises changed that and they learned a great deal about the child’s world. The project turned out to be a powerful invitation for all the children to converse and they provided a place for the immigrant voice to be heard’.