How Pre-K Teachers Support the Language and Literacy Development of Young Dual Language Learners: A Multi-Case Study of Four Exemplary Teachers

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This multi-case study uses an ecological theory of language learning (van Lier, 2004) as a lens to examine the teaching practices of four highly-effective teachers of young Dual language learners (DLLs). Young DLLs are children who are learning two languages, simultaneously developing their primary language and acquiring a new language. Analysis of over 150 hours of classroom observations, teacher interviews, and classroom artifacts illustrate how teachers skillfully drew upon a repertoire of instructional practices during both planned and spontaneous teaching moments to intentionally target the language and literacy development of young DLLs.

High-quality instruction linked to positive language and literacy outcomes for pre-k children likely provides a foundation for effective teaching practice for young DLLs. However, high-quality instruction must be enhanced to meet the linguistic and academic needs of children acquiring English as an additional language. Findings include the detailed and descriptive analysis of the enhanced set of practices and corresponding micro-practices teachers used with-in and across their pre-k contexts to support their young DLLs’ language and literacy development. Additional analysis of teachers’ reflection of their practice, offers insight into how teachers perceived their work with young DLLs and elucidates particular experiences that teachers believed helped to shape their current teaching practice.

Implications and suggestions for teacher education, classroom practice, and research on developmentally appropriate practice (NAEYC, 2019) are discussed.