Welcome to Benton, a small urban community situated near two of the most populous cities in its region. Like a lot of places in the United States over the past twenty-five years, Benton has undergone a dramatic population shift as growing numbers of families from culturally, linguistically, and ethnically diverse backgrounds have made their homes there. According to the most recent census, approximately 15% of Benton’s households included at least one adult or parent who was born outside of the United States. And last year, Benton became one of the first communities in its state to welcome refugees from a foreign country’s ongoing civil war.
Benton’s dramatic demographic shifts are mirrored in student enrollment at local Russell Early Childhood Center. A third-year teacher there, Mrs. Raymond has an inclusive classroom—that is, a classroom for young children both with and without disabilities—and currently has eighteen children enrolled. Though fourteen of her students were born in the United States, twelve of them live in households where languages other than English are spoken. Five of her children come from homes where no one over the age of thirteen speaks English fluently.
As a new school year approaches, Mrs. Raymond—with her teaching assistant Ms. Mansilla, one of the school’s three bilingual teachers—has been busy making plans for the children enrolled in the class. As part of their preparation, they have been consulting with Mr. Wu, one of the family liaisons from Benton’s refugee center. Mrs. Raymond wants to be more thoughtful and intentional in supporting the children in her classroom, but with the many languages, cultures, diverse learning needs, and backgrounds that the children and their families bring with them, there is so much to consider.
Here’s your Challenge:
(Opinion) Imagine you are Mrs. Raymond. What thoughts come to mind about the new school year?
What do teachers need to know about young dual language learners with disabilities?
What are some unique issues related to working with families of these children?
What strategies can teachers use to support these children?