Working with community partners to support
English language learners and their families
Best Start was introduced by the provincial government in November 2004 asa tri-ministerial, ten-year, early years strategy aimed to ensure that childrenin Ontario will be ready to achieve success in school by the time they enterGrade 1. Part of the mandate of Best Start is to address factors that putyoung children at risk,and to promote healthy child development throughthe establishment of early learning and care hubs in local communities. Thisinitiative is one of many services available to support young children andtheir families. Many agencies have specifi c services for newcomer families.Depending on where ELLs and their families live, teachers may work with or refer families to educational partners in the community such as:
- Best Start networks;
- Ontario Early Years Centres;
- settlement workers in schools;
- Native Friendship Centres;
- child care centres;
- parenting and family literacy centres;
- public health agencies.
Sharing information about the school and
Families of ELLs will differ in their knowledge of the Ontario school system.Access to quality education may be one of the reasons for making the move toOntario, and parents will have high expectations of the school system’s ability todeliver that quality education for their children. There will also be families whoare quite familiar with the Ontario education system as they have older childrenalready registered in Ontario schools.Depending on their ages and countries of origin, some ELLs may have attendedpre-school or early primary school prior to their arrival in Canada. Others mayhave little or no experience being in large groups of children or separated fromfamily members, and Kindergarten will be their fi rst contact with school.
Given this diversity of background experience, as we begin the important conversations with families of ELLs about what and how their children will belearning, it is helpful to ask parents some questions:
- What do you already know about the Kindergarten program?
- What would you like to know about how we organize learning for children of this age?
- What does your child already know (e.g., counting, colours)?
- What would you like your child to learn in school?
Depending on answers received to these initial questions, teachers can selectwhat information needs to be shared in brief or in greater detail:
- Share routines for communication between home and school(e.g., phone calls, newsletters, permission forms, fi eld trips, bus schedules, cancellations due to weather, procedures for contacting the school). Having concrete examples of the routines, as well as having them translated, will be important for all parents and essential for some. Share features of the Kindergarten program, including the six program areas (Personal and Social Development, Language, Mathematics, Science and
- Technology, Health and Physical Activity, and the Arts). Having photographs of examples of what children will learn in each area provides a visual aid to discussion.
- Discuss the role of play as a vehicle for learning. It is critical to be clear with parents what play looks like in an educational context, and that the teacher’s planning, guidance, and verbal interaction with children as they play makes it very different from the play that children do at home.
- Discuss clothing (e.g., warm clothing for outdoor play in the winter, gym clothes and indoor/outdoor shoes). Teachers can discuss alternatives with their administrators when children’s clothing may be unsafe (e.g., childrenneeding to wear shorts on indoor climbing equipment).
- Discuss behavioural expectations for all children to be successful in the group learning environment.