What strategies can teachers use to support these children?
Page 5: Environment and Instructional Grouping
By collaborating with families, teachers gain a better understanding of young DLLs’ home language and developmental needs. With this information in mind, teachers can create supportive classroom environments and effective instructional groupings that will best meet the language and learning needs of all children and provide the foundation for implementing instructional strategies specifically designed to support young DLLs with disabilities in their classroom.
Before implementing instructional strategies, teachers should create a supportive classroom environment to make all children feel comfortable and to facilitate communication development. The spoken and unspoken messages that children receive can positively or negatively impact how they view themselves and others. Therefore, teachers should strive to create environments that are inclusive and welcoming, promote a sense of community, and are responsive to the needs of all children, including young DLL children with disabilities. To learn more about creating environments for young children, see the IRIS Module:
DEC Recommended Practices
The DEC Recommended Practices on Environments refer to aspects of the space, materials (e.g., toys, books), equipment, routines, and activities that practitioners and families can intentionally alter to support each child’s learning across developmental domains. Although all the DEC Recommended Environmental Practices broadly apply to young DLLs with disabilities, the two outlined below specifically refer to this population.
- E1. Practitioners provide services and supports in natural and inclusive environments during daily routines and activities to promote the child’s access to and participation in learning experiences.
- E3. Practitioners work with the family and other adults to modify and adapt the physical, social, and temporal environments to promote each child’s access to and participation in learning experiences.
- E6. Practitioners create environments that provide opportunities for movement and regular physical activity to maintain or improve fitness, wellness, and development across domains.
(DEC Recommended Practices, 2014)
Listen as Robert Stechuk discusses how teachers can help young DLLs who understand little or no English adjust to the classroom environment (time: 1:54).
Robert Stechuk, PhD
For Your Information
Many early childhood organizations provide resources designed to help early childhood educators establish high-quality inclusive environments. Links to a few of commonly used resources available through these organizations can be found below.
Early Childhood Technical Assistance Center (ECTA)
Technical Assistance and Training System &
Florida Inclusion Network
Technical Assistance and Training System
One component of creating a supportive environment, instructional grouping refers to how children are grouped within the daily routines of the classroom. It is important for teachers to consider the type of grouping that will best support the language and learning needs of the children, including young DLLs with disabilities, throughout the day.
- Large-group instruction: Instruction either for the whole classroom or a large group of children (e.g., circle time). Teachers should be aware that young DLLs, including those with disabilities, often have a hard time following instruction in a large group due in no small part to the challenges associated with their language differences and disabilities.
- Small-group instruction: Instruction for a small group of children selected according to their individual strengths and needs. Because teachers can more readily observe each young DLL child in small-group activities, they can better support their learning and language needs.
- Individualized instruction: Instruction that is based on a child’s unique strengths and needs. With individualized instruction, teachers can target each young DLL’s learning and language needs.
Listen as Rosa Milagros Santos discusses the importance of providing supports for young DLLs to understand their environment and to access instruction (time: 2:14).
Rosa Milagros Santos, PhD
Professor, Special Education
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
To learn more about environmental supports listen to IRIS interview:
A look inside Mrs. Raymond's classroom
Mrs. Raymond learns from Ms. Mansilla that young DLLs, especially those with disabilities, often have a difficult time following instruction and learning in large-group activities. Because of this, Mrs. Raymond dramatically reduces time spent in large-group activities. For those instances when she does consider such activities (e.g., circle time), she asks questions that promote group discussion instead of asking questions that encourage the response of a single child. During small-group activities like reading, she observes and documents what each child knows and what language supports he or she needs. Furthermore, she is intentional in selecting books that represent diversity. These observations in hand, she asks some children to point at objects in the book, and with others she reviews target vocabulary. During individualized instruction, she determines when to ask open-ended questions that allow children the opportunity to use short phrases to practice their language skills. When appropriate, she also pairs visual cues with auditory cues throughout the day, particularly during transitions.
Within the context of supportive environments and effective instructional grouping, teachers can use a variety of evidence-based strategies to support the needs of young DLLs with disabilities. Teachers can easily implement the following instructional strategies, each of which will be described in more detail on the following pages:
- Use visual supports
- Use familiar and non-stereotypical materials
- Learn and utilize some of the child’s home language
- Promote peer support and interaction
DEC Recommended Practices
The DEC Recommended Practices on Instruction refers to the practices that maximize learning and improve developmental and functional outcomes for young children who have or are at risk for developmental delays or disabilities. These instructional practices are intentional and systematic strategies to inform what to teach, when to teach, how to evaluate the effects of teaching, and how to support and evaluate the quality of instructional practices implemented by others. Although all the practices broadly apply to young DLLs with disabilities, those below most closely align to this population.
- INS8. Practitioners use peer-mediated intervention to teach skills and to promote child engagement and learning.
- INS11. Practitioners provide instructional support for young children with disabilities who are dual language learners to assist them in learning English and in continuing to develop skills through the use of their home language.
- INS12. Practitioners use and adapt specific instructional strategies that are effective for dual language learners when teaching English to children with disabilities.
(DEC Recommended Practices, 2014)