New training for California preschool teachers to help bilingual children prepare for kindergarten
When Joyce Ponce used to teach Head Start preschool programs in Santa Clara County, she taught in English, though many of the children in her classroom spoke Spanish or Punjabi at home.
“I noticed the kids who did not understand English were just sitting off to the side, but the moment the assistant would come and speak their language, they blossomed, their eyes opened up,” Ponce said.
Ponce, now a coach for other Head Start teachers, is one of hundreds of preschool teachers and supervisors across California who are getting training this year on how to support children whose families speak a language other than English at home. These students account for 60 percent of children under 5 years old in the state and are often referred to as “dual-language learners” because they are learning two languages as they grow — their home language and English.
For the first time, this fiscal year the California Department of Education awarded $5 million through the Dual Language Learners Professional Development Grant to six organizations to train preschool teachers who work with dual-language learners. Most training for teaching bilingual children in the past has been focused on elementary, middle and high school teachers.