Children learn language best in social settings, where they can inter-
act with other children and adults to express ideas and understand
others’ ideas (Dickinson and Tabors 2001). Without such interaction,
children miss out on both language development and social develop-
ment. And when English-language learners speak incorrectly, teachers
should resist the urge to bridge communication gaps mentally (Hatch
1992). Even if adults can guess the meaning, they cannot ignore mis-
takes. Dual-language learners need gentle, direct adult intervention so
they can learn vocabulary and syntax and practice talking.
Teachers must also show excitement about language. Children benefit
most when their teachers are enthusiastic about language and integrate
new words in all their instruction (Jameson 1998). The Early Language
and Literacy Classroom Observation (ELLCO) assessment tool recom-
mends that “teachers show their excitement for words through their
playful interactions with children.” ELLCO also suggests that teachers
“model challenging language and acknowledge children’s own experi-
mentation” (Smith, Brady, and Anastasopoulos 2008).
Ms. Tammi, for example, has come up with a clever solution to her
school’s requirement for silence in the hallways. Teachers are supposed
to ask the children to “blow a bubble in the mouth” (close their mouths
and puff up their cheeks) while they walk through the halls. Ms. Tammi
wants her students to use their minds during this time. So she says,
“Girls and boys, as we walk to the cafeteria, I want you to think that the
bubble is a silent growl, just like the growl of the bear in our story. We
won’t hear it while we’re walking. But when we get to the cafeteria, we
can all growl together, okay? Let’s go!” The children set out, eyes twin-
kling in anticipation of the growling. They recall part of the book they
just read at circle time. A few let out some muffled growls and giggles.
Upon arrival in the cafeteria, they all growl together, experiencing the
new word. At the end of lunch, the children ask if they can do the same
exercise on their walk back to class. It is clear the teacher helped them
get excited about learning language.
Do Children Need to Give Up Their Home Language
in Order to Learn English?
In the past, people assumed that in order to develop fully, a second
language must replace the first language. This idea is called subtractive