Teaching and learning English as a second language at ECCs

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Chapter Two: Acquiring English as a second language in early childhood: A review of theoretical and empirical literature.

As discussed in the previous chapter, the numbers of children with home languages other than English attending English medium early childhood centres throughout New Zealand is increasing. However, very little is known about how ESL children are being supported in different types of English medium ECCs. To provide a theoretical and empirical context for this investigation, this chapter first reviews literature on first and second language acquisition and discusses bilingualism with an emphasis on early childhood. As this study is situated in the New Zealand early childhood education sector, the chapter identifies different types of early childhood centres in New Zealand and describes the bi-cultural curriculum statement Te Whaariki on which the EC programmes of all New Zealand centres are based. The three facets of an ECC environment: interpersonal, temporal and physical, are then discussed. This is followed by a review of the existing literature regarding teaching and learning English as a second language in ECCs, including the roles of the teacher, learner and peers, and the role of the temporal environment. The chapter finishes with a summary leading to the questions posed by the research study.

Home language development and second language acquisition theories in early childhood

Children acquire their first language naturally rather than through formal learning, and young children acquire a second language in much the same way (Krashen & Terrell, 1983; Nunan, 2001). This is in contrast to adults, who generally „learn‟ a second language through formal lessons involving vocabulary lists, grammar exercises, and oral repetition. This review of the literature explores the first and second language acquisition of very young children, with an emphasis on language acquisition rather than
formal language learning.

Stages of first language acquisition

Children acquiring their first language are seen to pass through recognised stages of development (Girolametto, Weitzman, & Greenberg, 2004; Halliday, 2004; Lybolt & Gottfred, 2003; Menyuk & Brisk, 2005). At around nine months of age children begin actively using sounds, actions and expressions to communicate their needs and feelings.Halliday (2004) describes this as the protolanguage stage. This system of symbols eventually becomes a spoken language with grammar and vocabulary. Between the ages of 10 and 14 months, children typically begin using one word utterances consisting of labels, actions and expressions (Menyuk & Brisk, 2005). A rapid vocabulary development then follows, and by 18 months the average child is able to produce up to fifty words and combine two or three to produce noun verb phrases for example„Mummy drink‟(McLean & Snyder-McLean, 1999). By the age of three years the length and complexity of utterances has generally increased so that the child is able to manipulate questions, and at four years he/she becomes aware of the past tense. At five years, the majority of children can use elaboration for describing events, telling stories and communicating their feelings. Stages of second language acquisition It is recognised that, as with first language, children acquiring a second language pass through a number of stages or developmental sequences (Tabors, 2008). Clarke (1992) refers to these as „phases‟. Initially the child does not realise that there is a difference between their own language and that used by others and so continues to communicate in his/her home language. Saville-Troike (1987) termed this „dilingual discourse‟. In her investigation of 40 children aged 18 months to 12 years Saville-Troike (1987) found that the younger the child is when introduced to a second language, the longer this stage lasts.


List of Tables 
Chapter One: Introduction 
1.1 Background rational 
1.2 Impact of immigration on ECCs 
1.3 Significance of this study to ECC sector 
1.4 Purpose of the study 
1.5 Organisation of the thesis
Chapter Two: Acquiring English as a second language in early childhood: A review of theoretical and empirical literature
2.1 Home language development and second language acquisition theories in early childhood
2.2 Behaviourist and Nativist theories
2.3 Bilingualism before the age of five 
2.4 Early childhood education in New Zealand
2.5 Teaching and learning English as a second language at ECCs
2.6 The ECC interpersonal environment: The role of the teacher 
2.7 The ECC interpersonal environment: The role of the learner
2.8 The ECC temporal environment
2.9 The ECC physical environment 
2.10 Chapter summary and the study research questions
Chapter Three: Method
3.1 The research study designParticipants
3.3 Measures and procedures
3.4 Chapter summary
Chapter Four: The interpersonal environment: Teacher-child participant interactions
4.1 Frequency of teacher-child participant interactions
4.2 Initiators used by teachers to initiate interactions with child participants
4.3 The length of interactions initiated by the teachers
4.4 Teacher strategies to extend interactions with child participants
4.5 Child participant strategies to gain the attention of teachers 
4.6 Chapter summary
Chapter Five: Interpersonal environment: Child participant interactions with peers 
5.1 Frequencies of interactions between child participants and their peers 
5.2 Nature of child participant interactions with peers
5.3 Language experiences with peers
5.4 Child participants strategies to gain peers attention 
5.5 Chapter summary
Chapter Six: The ECCs temporal environments
6.1 Teacher/centre organisation 
6.2 Mat times 
6.3 Free play
6.4 Chapter summary.
Chapter Seven: Child participants’ abilities in English language
7.1 Child participants‟ productive language 
7.2 Child participants‟ receptive language 
7.3 The participants‟ home language experiences at the end of the study 
7.4 A comparison of the child participants‟ home language experiences and their English language abilities 
7.5 Chapter summary
Chapter Eight: Discussion
8.1 Differences between the interpersonal environments of ECCs
8.2 Differences between centre temporal environments 
8.3 ESL children‟s abilities and progress in English language acquisition at different types of ECCs
8.4 Discussion summary: Aspects of the optimal English language environment for lone speakers of languages other than English 
Chapter Nine: Conclusions
9.1 Implications for practice and policy 
9.2 Limitations of the study and suggestions for further research 
9.3 Contributions made by the study to the field of ESL in ECCs 
9.4 Concluding comments.

Teacher and peer support of lone speakers of home languages other than English attending early childhood centres

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