Strategies for Caregiver Involvement in TEYL
By Serindit Indraswari
[NOTE: English is a second language for Indraswari.]
Learning is a complex process that involves various skills and strategies. Learning must be carefully nurtured and should include strategies for involving parents or caregivers. Parents and caregivers should give their children the opportunity to be exposed to English in daily life; even if the caregivers can not speak English, they can be motivators and facilitators.
In a country like Japan, where English is not written any where, and rarely spoken; teachers and caregivers are the most important persons children can rely on to increase their English acquisition. However, lack of confidence due to their own English skills, make some caregivers limit the exposure their children get from English language resources (daily communication, TV programmes, story books reading, singing, etc.). Caregivers prefer to transfer the role of helping their children's English learning process to the English teacher. If this situation continues, it will likely lower the young learner's motivation to learn English because the children do not find any English usage in their daily lives. Strategies to gain the caregiver's participation are very important to increase motivation and the young learner's learning rate.
The Study: Caregivers' expectation of children's English acquisition
The research was undertaken in Tsukuba, Ibaraki prefecture, Japan, on January 20 to February 10, 2005. A fact-finding survey was used by distributing Japanese translated questionnaires to 35 respondents, who are parents of English lesson participating child (Appendix B).
The questionnaires were designed in closed and open ended format, and were centred around the child's English lesson, the caregivers' bilingualism, and the caregivers' opinion of their child's English acquisition. The first three questions were to collect data about child's age, duration of participation in English lessons, and their interest in the lesson. The purpose of Question 4, about the caregiver's bilingualism, was to identify respondents' language skills, which have a potential influence on the children's attitude to language learning process. Questions 5 and 6 were asked to find out the caregivers' expectations of their child's English lesson. Questions 7, 8, 9 and 10 were focused on the caregivers' opinion of and participation in the learning process. The information which is gained from those six last questions (Questions 5 to 10), will be used to formulate strategies for getting caregivers involved in the young learner's English learning process.
[Data in Appendix A]
The majority of respondents had children from kindergarten to second grade. They had been participating in English lessons for more than 18 months and enjoyed it very much.
Question about bilingualism were answered "no" by 63.9% of respondents, and 27.8% of repondents answered "yes but not fluently". Among bilingual respondents, 90% speak English, and 10% speak Chinese. Comparing to unilingual respondents, bilingual ones have some strong reasons to their child's English lessons, as is shown in Table 3 Appendix A.
Almost all of the reasons that were mentioned in the questionnaires were highly chosen by bilingual respondents. Caregivers reasons for deciding to encourage their child to learn English in private English course are various, but the most preferred are:
- getting their child to like and enjoy English (33%)
- making their child be able to communicate in English (21.2%)
- equipping their child with necessary skills for their future (13.6%).
- helping their child understand English lesson at school (12.1%).
Only two respondents chose reading and writing as their child's English skills priorities. However, more than twenty respondents prioritized English speaking and listening skills for their child. Most respondents were anxious that their young children will confuse Japanese characters (hiragana, katakana, kanji), which they had just learned, with the acquisition of another language.
Respondents' attitude toward language learning process was found out from their answer to "Do you think that English learning process is not only required during the English lessons?" This question was answered "Yes" by 88.6%.
51.5% of the respondents do not communicate in English to their child, because they can not speak any English or do not have any confidence in speaking English. They also thought that Japanese must be prioritized in daily communication. The other respondents (48.6%) said that they do communicate in English, by greeting their children, mentioning things about household items, food, and other items, playing games, singing, and answering their child's English questions in English. However, 94.3% of respondents were interested in participating child's language acquisition process. Their preferred participation activities were:
- communicating with their child in English, according to their own and the child's fluency
- participating in activities (season's events, games, etc.) with their child in English class
- giving learning resources at home, like books, cassettes, cards.
There were two respondents who explained their effort in repeating and evaluating some of their child's English lessons through interesting games, but that they needed to improve their own English.
This information indicates that most of respondents care about the English learning process for their children, and that they seem to have a willingness to be involved. However, lack of confidence in speaking English and limited information about child's bilingualism makes the caregiver become anxious about the possibility of English interfering with the child's L1 acquisition.
Based on the findings, some approaches can be formulated to encourage the caregivers' participation in the English learning process for their children. These approaches are basically intended to support the caregivers' willingness to participate, to provide appropriate information about bilingualism and the learning process, and to minimize the barriers in exposing children to English in their daily lives.
These approaches are:
1. Emphasis on involving caregivers as active partners in the production of educated children (Braiw and Reid. 2003).
2. Caregivers are invited to take responsibility for their child's behaviour and motivation to learn English. Montalvo (2003) stated that there are five factors will affect a child's progress in the second language acquisition process: motivation, exposure, age, personality and parents. Parents will influence their child's progress in many ways. Some caregivers who show an interest of their child's English learning, will also encourage the children to communicate in English frequently.
3. Creating meaningful activities for both parents and children that require using English to make it more familiar and applicable in daily communication between caregiver and child. Caregivers are invited to learn and participate about what children are doing in English lesson, so that they are able to see the value of learning tools or how language is developed, practiced and learned. (Zanatta)
4. Providing information to obtain appropriate insight into the young learner's language learning process and bilingualism in order to support caregiver's comfort and confidence to communicate in English with the child.
Activities to implement these approaches are:
1. Inviting caregivers to attend short lecture with special issues in TEYL:
- advantages and disadvantages of bilingual children, for instance: "native-like" ability, ability to see two different cultures internally, have a deeper appreciation to foreign language, etc.
- a guide for caregivers to give English exposure to their child at home,
- a process for children's second language learning: without stress, fun, interactive, etc.
- how caregiver's attitudes, encouragement and interest are vital in a child's second language development.
Discussion after the lecture will allow parents/caregivers to question, and to comment, so that they become aware of teaching practices and learning objectives, and get more involved in the development and review of their child's learning process.
2. Keep caregivers regularly informed by sending home periodical lesson syllabus, hands-on and student-made learning tools. Periodical syllabus is information about the learning subject, target, and activities. To clearly inform caregivers about what is happening in English class, Zanatta in Home-School Connection, suggests setting up and organizing class time to create hands-on, student-made learning tools for students to take home regularly to show caregivers. Things like flash cards, take-home storybooks, simple hand-made puppets, game boards, personal picture dictionaries, are invaluable memory and speaking prompts for describing and explaining what students are doing and learning in English class.
3. Inviting caregivers to watch the English lesson, for specific reasons. For instance: caregivers are invited to watch teacher's reading children a story, pointing to the pictures, and talking about the story. When caregivers read stories that way in their native language they help their children build skills that children will use later in learning to read and write in English, as well as in L1.
4. Providing caregiver-child literacy activities, like a caregiver-child English reading club. After watching the teacher read stories, parents/caregivers try to practice it in the English class or at home. The child chooses the book and caregiver reads it for him or her. In turn, the child will have to re-tell it with his/her own words or drawings to his peers in class. Caregivers can assist children to find essential points or ideas of the story.
5. Inviting caregivers to be involved in special activities that need extra preparation, for instance: seasonal events such as New Year, Christmas, or Summer Festivals. Teachers, students and parents/caregivers will become a team to implement these ideas. This situation can provide a supportive language environment for both children and caregivers to express their ideas, feelings, and literacy in English. These events also become a very good means for intercultural exchanges.
Most of the respondents care about the learning process for their child, and they seem to have a willingness to get involved. However, the caregivers have barriers such as the confidence to communicate in English to a child and a limited amount of information about children's bilingualism. To minimize these barriers, caregivers must be active partners in educating their children; they must take responsibility for their child's behaviour and motivation to learn; they must become accustomed to English through creating meaningful activities for both caregivers and children; and caregivers must be given the appropriate insight of young learner's language learning process and bilingualism. Some suggested activities involve inviting parents to attend short lectures with special issues in TEYL; sending home periodical lesson syllabus, hands-on and student-made learning tools; inviting parents to watch the English lesson for specific reasons; providing parents-children literacy activities and inviting parents to involve in special activities. By involving caregivers/parents in young learners learning process, they will have the confidence and the ability to give enough English exposure to their child, so that the children will be aware of English language in their daily lives.
[Missing dates the references were retrieved.]
Braiw, Kevin. and Reid, Ivan. Constructing Parental Involvement in an Education Active Zones. Educational Studies. Vol 29(2/3). p.291-305. 2003.
Johnson, Renee and Shurts, Kristina, Bilingual Parenting in a Foreign Language. Retrieved from http://www.byu.edu/~bilingua/index.html
McGlothlin, Dough,J. A Child's First Step in Language Learning. The Internet TESL Journal. Vol III(10). Oct. 1997. Retrieved from http://www.iteslj.org/Articles/McGlothlin-ChildLearn.html
Montalvo, Luci Ann. English as a Second Language in Early Childhood Education: Understanding Parent's Perception of an ESL Program for Young Children. Pennsylvania State of Graduate School. 2003. Retrieved from http://www.gradsch.psu.edu/diversity/srop/2003sroppapers.html
Zanatta, Theresa. The Home-School Connection. Retrieved from http://www.teachingenglish.org.uk/think/resources.home_school.shtml
APPENDICES: Appendix A, Appendix B, Questionnaire (PDF-File)