Communicating with Families of Children Who Are Dual Language Learners

ECLKC Professional Development Modules

This professional development module is designed to help Head Start and Early Head Start program staff enhance their communication with families of children who are dual language learners (DLLs).

Will this module meet your professional development needs?
What are the goals and objectives of this module?
How do I complete this module?
What are some suggested follow-up resources and strategies?

Will this module meet your professional development needs?

Refer to the table below for tools you can use to determine your need for this module.


Relevant Items

Head Start Program Preparedness Checklist v. 4

  • Section 3 a: provide written communications to families in their primary or preferred language.
  • Section 3 a ii: are knowledgeable about national- and state-level interpretation and translation associations and follow recommended guidelines.
  • Section 3 a iii: provide interpretation at meetings, trainings, and other agency events to ensure that all families can understand what is being presented.
  • Section 3 a iv: have a process in place for two-way communication with families for us to communicate directly or indirectly, and for families to communicate with us and provide feedback in their home or preferred language.

National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) [PDF, 260KB]

  • NAEYC Professional Preparation Standard #2: Building Family and Community Relationships

Classroom Assessment Scoring System (CLASS)

  • Not applicable

Strengthening Operations for Learning and Results (SOLAR) Profile Competency [PDF, 1.21MB]

  • 5.1: Demonstrates respect for others by sharing information objectively and non-judgmentally and adjusting verbal and written communication strategies for different audiences
  • 5.4: Facilitates communication with others by using available technologies (e.g., fax, voice-mail, computers--e-mail, file sharing)
  • 5.5: Employs a culturally competent and flexible approach when working with those from various cultures by acknowledging, accepting, and accommodating differences (e.g. providing information in an understandable format and/or language for those who have limited/no reading skills or who are English language learners)

Your own professional assessment

  • Complete this based on your own tools

What are the goals and objectives of this module?

Goal: Participants will use a variety of communication strategies to establish positive interactions with culturally-diverse families and to support their involvement.


Upon completing this module, you will be able to:

  • Develop procedures for tracking each family’s home language and communication preferences;
  • Identify appropriate translation and interpretation resources for each home language represented in the program;
  • Create a plan for providing interpretation services or other assistance during parent meetings to ensure all families understand what's being communicated;
  • Describe communication strategies that support cultural diversity and address differences in literacy and language.

How do I complete this module?

Table 1 includes the prerequisites, activities, resources, and evaluation for each credit-hour option of this module on communication. Use the table to select the links and follow the instructions for completing the option(s) you select. You must do the options in order, beginning with Option A, but you can stop at any time and are not required to complete the remaining options.

Table 1: Prerequisites, Activities, Resources, and Evaluation for the Parent Communication Module

Option A

Option B

Option C



Option A

Option A and B


  • View Part II of the webcast Diversity and Multicultural Integration in Head Start and Early Head Start in English or Spanish
  • Use the accompanying Webcast Viewer's Guide in English [PDF, 392KB] or Spanish [PDF, 419KB] to better understand key points and messages of the webcast
  • Take notes to help in the planning process


  • Part II - Diversity and Multicultural Integration in Head Start and Early Head Start in English or Spanish(about 30 minutes)
  • Viewer's Guides in English [PDF, 392KB] or Spanish [PDF, 419KB]


  • Explain the approaches you will use to learn the language preferences of families and how they prefer to receive communication from your program
  • Describe the system you will create to track each family’s preferences
  • Read Principle 3 and answer questions 3 and 4
  • Read Principle 7 and answer questions 1 through 5
  • List five strategies you’ve learned from the materials in this module that will improve your ability to communicate with families from diverse cultural and linguistic backgrounds, and with various literacy levels.
  • Identify at least two appropriate translation and interpretation resources in your community that you may use when communicating with families of dual language learners.

What are some suggested follow-up resources and strategies?

Table 2: Follow-up Resources and Suggestions

Resources and Strategies for…


Continued Learning

Allowing Dual Language Learners to Show What They Know and Can Do

  • Substitute books in the languages of the children in the class to send home.
  • Work with a staff member or volunteer to create activities that extend learning at home.
  • Arrange times for parents or family members to visit your program to learn a child’s typical day in Head Start.
  • Use a recorder to capture children’s responses in their own language. Then you can ask parents to translate later so you can make portfolio notes about the child’s learning in various domains.

Measuring Improved Practices Related to this Module

Suggestions for looking at teacher practices before and after
completing the module:

  • Observe the teacher using techniques learned in the module and discuss.
  • View a video of these techniques being used by a teacher and discuss.
  • Make a list of items needed to implement these techniques in the classroom.
  • Use CLASS, ECERS-R, ITERS, or your curriculum’s implementation assessment to note where the techniques from the module are being used effectively and ideas for improvement.
  • Consider conducting pre- and post-module reviews of lesson plans.
  • Collect parent feedback on their child’s progress in the home language and in English.
  • Use the Head Start Program Preparedness Checklist as a guide for observing and recording program changes as a result of this module.

Parent and Family Engagement

Possible strategies to help parents and families build more
learning into reading with their children include:

  • When reading stories with your child:
    • Ask questions that have many answers rather than questions that have right or wrong answers.
    • Ask questions that get the child to think, such as “Where do you think birds sleep? How do you think a rainbow gets in the sky? Where do you think the water goes after it goes down the drain?”
  • Ask your children to act out a story you’ve read to them to help them remember the story and be creative with new ideas about it.
  • Use Fun and Learning for Parents and Children: An Activities Handbook, available on the ECLKC in English and Spanish.

See also:
     ECLKC Professional Development Modules 

Communicating with Families of Children Who Are Dual Language Learners. ECLKC Professional Development Modules. HHS/ACF/OHS. English. 2011.

Last Updated: November 15, 2016