English Language Development Framework icon

This document was developed before the release of the Head Start Early Learning Outcomes Framework 2015 (HSELOF) [PDF, 9.2MB]. While information in this document is still valuable, the Office of Head Start (OHS) is in the process of updating materials to reflect the HSELOF 2015 to ensure they address the current needs of programs and reflect best practices and research. At this time, Getting Started [PDF, 703KB] provides initial guidance to programs in how to use the HSELOF.

English Language Development is the development of receptive and expressive English language skills for children who speak a home language other than English. This domain only applies to these children, often referred to as dual language learners (DLLs). Learning English lays the foundation for a successful start as children transition to public school. When children are able to understand and speak some English, they are better prepared to learn from teachers and engage with peers in English-speaking environments. Because the home language serves as a foundation for learning English, ongoing development of the home language also is essential (Espinosa, 2008).

Children who are DLLs typically go through several stages of English language development prior to becoming proficient (Tabors, 2008). The receptive skills usually emerge before the expressive skills. There may be an extended period of time when the child understands some English but relies on the home language as well as gestures and nonverbal means to communicate. During this time, the child is attending to and listening to the English language used in the learning environment and beginning to grasp the fundamentals of the language. Gradually, the child begins to use more English words and phrases, often interspersed with the home language. Over time, the child develops more complex vocabulary and grammar, moving toward English language proficiency (Chen & Shire, 2011).

How much time this process takes will vary. It may take several months or several years, depending on the individual child, the home and school language environments, motivation, and other factors. Children will be at different stages in the process when they enter a program, and therefore, the developing path of their receptive and expressive abilities will not be the same (Tabors, 2008; Nemeth, 2009; Paradis, Genesee, & Crago, 2010).

Strategies to Advance Children's Understanding of Number Concepts & Quantities

  • Build positive, warm, nurturing relationships with children learning English so that they feel safe and less anxious. Not being able to communicate creates considerable anxiety for young children who cannot learn anything well if they are stressed.
  • Speak English in ways that help dual language learners understand. For example, use simple sentences, repeat what is said, use gestures and facial expressions, point to objects, use everyday vocabulary.
  • Speak in English clearly and slowly but not loudly; simplifying language when necessary as you would for younger children who are just learning their first language. Gradually expand your vocabulary so children learning English continue to make progress in vocabulary development and are challenged.
  • Sustain investigations, themes, and projects over time to allow children from different language backgrounds to form and refine concepts and vocabulary words.
  • Help children link English vocabulary to firsthand experiences with pictures, concrete objects, and real-life events. At the beginning, talk about the here and now, until children become more proficient in English.
  • Respect and value children's home language and cultural identity.
  • Encourage children's attempts to express themselves in English. Let them know how much you appreciate their efforts.
  • Use songs to help children learn new phrases and sentences, such as, "Hello, hello, hello and how are you? I'm fine, I'm fine, and I hope that you are too."
  • Write children's own stories or audiotape them in their home language; involve volunteers, parents, and older children who speak the language.
  • Provide social support for — regular contact with other children or adults who speak their language to help support their identity and help them make sense of what is happening around them.
  • Provide lots of time and opportunities for children to talk among themselves. Pair children learning English with dominant English speakers for some activities.
  • Stick to predictable, comfortable classroom routines so children know what to expect.
  • Provide small group reading times using concept books or predictable texts, such as Brown Bear, Brown Bear, books in the Spot series, or the bilingual collection of Alma Flor Ada, with simplified vocabulary where children can clearly see the pictures and follow along.
  • Read often in small groups in order to support children who seem confused or uncertain about the story.
  • Read a book, not once, but many times — as long as children are enjoying it — so they become familiar with the story and text.
  • Offer opportunities and support for play because children's natural interest in playing and communicating with other children provides motivation for their language development.
  • Help children acquire book knowledge and appreciation, print awareness, and phonological awareness in their home language, drawing on family and community members as resources. Once acquired, these skills will transfer as children become proficient in English.
  • Include environmental print, such as signs and labels, in English and the children's home language.
  • Provide books, magazines, newspapers and other text in English and the children's home language.
  • Encourage parents to talk with and read to children in their home language and English, where possible.
  • Invite families to engage children in cultural experiences and oral traditions such as storytelling and puppetry in their home language and English.
  • Provide a listening center with stories and songs on tape in children's home languages and in English.
  • Involve children in dramatizing a story or event, encouraging children to repeat dialogue, actions and phrases together.
  • Consider using sign language in conjunction with spoken words to provide multisensory learning.

Domain Element: Receptive English Language Skills

Title of Resource Type of Resource Notes
Making the Most of Assessment: What Every Practitioner Should Know About Assessing Young English Language Learners [PDF, 2.56MB] Guide Program staff can use this guide for information on planning assessment and monitoring.
Bilingual Early Language Assessment Tool Program staff can use this tool with various languages for assessment.
Part 5: Language and Literacy Development Webcast Webcast Program staff can use this webcast to enhance children's receptive and expressive vocabulary. It also is a possible resource for in-service training.
Assessing the Progress of Children Who are Dual Language Learners (DLLs) in Head Start and Early Head Start - Webcast Webcast Program staff can use this webcast, which is part of the Ready for Success series, to learn how to best assess the progress of dual language learners in Early Head Start and Head Start.
Multicultural Principle 6: Effective programs for children who speak languages other than English require continued development of the first language while the acquisition of English is facilitated [PDF, 173.53KB]

En español [PDF, 173.53KB]
Article Program staff and parents can review research that affirms the importance of children learning and maintaining their home languages. Acquisition of both languages does not interfere with children's attaining typical developmental milestones.

Domain Element: Expressive English Language Skills

Title of Resource Type of Resource Notes
Early Literacy Development for English Language Learners - Episode 32 Audio Note:
To find the audio link, scroll down on the Guide to Dual Language Learners Multimedia Resources page and select number 26 in the section called Audio Casts on Supporting DLLs.
Program staff can hear a description of the essential components of reading instruction outlined by the National Reading Panel and how they relate to young English language learners.
Literacy Development for Children Who Are Dual Language Learners in Head Start and Early Head Start Webinar Teaching teams and home visitors can review highlights of the key concepts of emerging early literacy.
Assessing the Progress of English Language Development of Children Who Are Dual Language Learners in Head Start and Early Head Start Webinar Webinar Management staff can identify key strategies and techniques that promote accurate assessment of the progress of children who are dual language learners.
Curriculum, Assessment and the Head Start Framework: An Alignment Review Tool [PDF, 703.79KB] Tool Management staff can review the requirements for aligning ongoing assessment with curriculum experiences for preschoolers.
Strategies to Support Positive Child Outcomes for English Language Learners

En Espaňol
Article-Excerpt Teaching teams can explore useful strategies across all domains to support language development of children learning their home language and English.
Assessing Young Dual Language Learners: What You Need To Know And Why (Part II) [PDF, 614.11KB] PowerPoint Teaching teams may benefit from reviewing adaptations of assessment practices that reflect sensitivity to a child's home language and stages of language development for dual language learners and children who are learning English.
Multicultural Principle 6: Effective Programs for Children Who Speak Languages Other Than English Require Continued Development of the First Language While the Acquisition of English is Facilitated [PDF, 173.53KB]

En español [PDF, 157.13KB]
Article Program staff and parents can review research that affirms the importance of children learning and maintaining their home languages. Acquisition of both languages does not interfere with children's attaining typical developmental milestones.

Domain Element: Engagement in English Literacy Activities

Title of Resource Type of Resource Notes
Rhyme Time [PDF, 62.57KB] Guided Practice Teaching teams can use ideas from this guided practice in their lesson planning and curriculum design.
Language and Literacy for All Children

 

Article Teaching teams who work with children learning English can refer to this article to better understand the many reasons for learning home languages.

 

Learning in English, Learning in Spanish: A Head Start Program Changes Its Approach [PDF, 506.85KB] Article Management staff and teaching teams can learn how inclusive classroom approaches to language learning better supports the home language of dual language learners.
Focus on Language Development: Supplementary Materials - Singable Books: Sing and Read Your Way to English proficiency (Resource)

 

Article Teaching teams can learn how picture books with songs as text can be useful to introduce and share the joys of literacy with young children.
Position Paper on Language and Literacy Development for Young English Language Learners (Ages 3-8) Article Program staff can use the recommendations in this article to help young dual language learners acquire English in early care environments where English is the principal language of instruction.
Focus on Language Development: Supplementary Materials - Foundations in English-Language Development (Resource) Article (pg. 103 to 142) Program can explore supplementary materials that may be useful to them as they design programs to support linguistically and culturally diverse communities enrolled in Head Start.
Storybook Reading for Young Dual Language Learners [PDF, 608.69KB] Article, Lesson Teaching teams can learn about the research and recommended strategies for reading storybooks to young dual language learners. An example of a storybook-reading lesson plan and daily learning experiences also are included.
Multicultural Principle 6: Effective programs for children who speak languages other than English require continued development of the first language while the acquisition of English is facilitated [PDF, 173.53KB]

En español [PDF, 157.13KB]
Article Program staff and parents can review research that affirms the importance of children learning and maintaining their home languages. Acquisition of both languages does not interfere with children’s attaining typical developmental milestones.
Supporting Language Development for Children Who are Dual Language Learners in Head Start and Early Head Start Webcast Webcast Program staff can view this webcast, which is presented in both English and Spanish, to learn about oral language development. This webcast is the third installment of the Ready for Success professional development series.
Dual Language Learning Institute Webcast Part 5: Language and Literacy Development Webcast Program staff can use this webcast on dual language learning to enhance children’s receptive and expressive vocabulary.
Head Start Bulletin #78: English Language Learners [PDF, 1.43MB] Articles Program staff can benefit from the case studies and strategies that support children maintaining their home language and learning English.
Head Start: An Avenue To Revitalize A Language Article-Excerpt Program staff and teaching teams can learn about strategies to support and maintain native language and cultures through this example of Cherokee language revitalization. Information fosters an awareness of the importance of the home language to children’s Native American culture and family values.
Dialogic Reading that Who Are Dual Language Learners and their Families: ECLKC Professional Development Modules Training (Professional Development) Program staff can use this professional development module as they learn how implement the dialogic reading strategy an effort to support early literacy in children who are dual language learners (DLLs).
Using Splat the Cat to Promote Dialogic Reading Strategies Guided Practice Teaching teams may use this example of "Splat the Cat" as they learn about the dialogic reading strategy.
Using "Tough Boris" to Promote Dialogic Reading Strategies Guided Practice Teaching teams can use the “Tough Boris” example as a way to introduce dialogic reading.
Using Mariposa Mariposa (Butterfly Butterfly) to Promote Dialogic Reading: A Powerful Way to Encourage Language Development in One or More Languages Guided Practice Teaching teams can learn techniques for encouraging language development in one or more languages. Additional dialogic reading resources are also included.
 

References for Evidence-Based Practice for the English Language Development Domain of the 2010 Early Learning Framework

The body of research that focuses on early education intervention as a key contributor to children's school readiness and successful achievement has grown significantly since the creation of Head Start in 1965. In order to highlight the significance of this research across the outcome domains of the Early Learning Framework, we include a variety of references that describe various levels of evidence in the research base. Specifically we include levels of evidence that support the scientific believability of approaches, strategies, instructional practices, and outcomes. These levels of evidence include results of large scale research studies, documentation of evidence-informed practices, and/or replicable practices that effect children's progress toward outcomes, or may hold merit for future research.

English Language Development

Chen, J. & Shire, S. (2011). Strategic teaching: fostering communication skills in diverse young learners. Young Children, 66 (2), 20-27.

Espinosa, L. (2008). Challenging the Common Myths About Young English Language Learners, Policy Brief Advancing PK-3 no. 8. New York: Foundation for Child Development.

Nemeth, K. (2009). Many languages, one classroom: teaching dual and English language learners. Beltsville, MD: Gryphon House Publishers.

Paradis, J., Genesee, F. & Crago, M.B. (2010) Dual language development and disorders (2nd ed.). Baltimore, MD: Paul H. Brookes Publishing.

Tabors, P. (2008). One child, two languages (2nd ed.). Baltimore, MD: Paul H. Brookes Publishing Co.

Castro, D.C., Gillanders, C., Machado-Casas, M. & Buysse, V. (2006). Nuestros Niños: early.language and literacy program. Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina, FPG Child Development Institute.

Collins, M.C. (2010). ELL preschoolers' English vocabulary acquisition from storybook reading. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 25 (1), 84–97.

Collins, M.C. (2005). ESL preschoolers' English vocabulary acquisition from storybook reading. Reading Research Quarterly, 40 (4), 406–8.

Gersten, R., & Geva, E. (2003). Teaching reading to early language learners. Educational Leadership, 60 (7), 44–49.

Gillanders, C. & Castro, D. (2011). Storybook reading for young dual language learners. Young Children, 66 (1), 91-95.

Howes, C. & Wishard, A. (2004). Linking shared meaning to emergent literacy. Zero to Three, 25 (1), 10-14.

Lewis, C. (2002). Lesson study: A handbook of teacher-led instructional change. Philadelphia: Research for Better Schools.

Lugo-Neris, M., Wood Jackson, C. & Goldstein, H. (2010). Facilitating vocabulary acquisition of young English language learners. Language, Speech & Hearing Services in Schools, 41 (3), 314–27.

National Early Literacy Panel, (2008). Developing early literacy: Report of the National Early Literacy Panel. Washington, DC: National Institute for Literacy.

Nemeth, K. & Brillante, P. (2011). Solving the puzzle: Dual language learners with Challenging Behaviors. Young Children, 66 (4), 12-17.

Parlakian, R. (2004). Early literacy and very young children, Zero to Three, 25 (1), 37-44.

Wesley, P. W., & Buysse, V. (2001). Communities of practice: Expanding professional roles to promote reflection and shared inquiry. Topics in Early Childhood Special Education, 21 (2), 114–23.

Last Reviewed: June 2015

Last Updated: June 19, 2015