English Language Development

Elements of English Language Development | ELD on the Standards Continuum | ELD Teaching Strategies


You may have a number of students who speak a language(s) other than English in their homes. These children are sometimes referred to as dual language learners (DLL) in early childhood and as English language learners (ELL) in elementary school. Regardless of the language of instruction, TK provides these children an excellent opportunity to develop English language skills as well as conceptual knowledge in math, literacy, science and social studies. As you will see in your students, progress in learning English varies significantly, and development of specific knowledge and skills (e.g. one-to-one correspondence) does not depend on their ability to express themselves in English.

Multiple and integrated language- and literacy-rich experiences promote young students' acquisition of English through listening, speaking, reading and writing embedded in the instructional program throughout the day. ELLs in your TK class need additional supports woven into the daily activities to ensure their long-term academic and social success.

TK provides fertile ground for teachers, including monolingual English speaking teachers, to effectively implement strategies that enhance learning and development for young ELLs. As you become familiar with your students' needs and apply evidence-based practices specific to ELLs, you will give each child's journey into academic English a boost while also celebrating their home language development and cultural backgrounds.

Core Beliefs About Teaching English Language Learners

Adapted from the Preschool English Learner Guide (CDE, 2009, p. 3)

The following list of core beliefs stems from research and reflect an understanding of the challenges and rewards of educating preschool-age children, particularly English learners. Being familiar with these beliefs will help teachers implement the information, principles, and practices.

  • Understanding the English learner requires gathering as much information as possible about the child and his or her family and community. Children grow and learn in the contexts of family, school, and community that often influence one another dynamically and interactively.
  • There is an important relationship between language, culture and learning. Culture provides children with a lens that influences how they experience the world and how they learn.
  • Language is a tool for learning. Home language and English are tools children use to learn everything from the cultural practices within the home to the academic content of the classroom.
  • There are multiple paths to childhood bilingualism. Just as children's everyday experiences may differ, children may follow different paths to developing more than one language.

For full list of core beliefs and descriptions click here.

Click here to find our two-part webinar series on Culture & Language in TK
(April and May 2013)


Elements of English Language Development

In your teaching, you should both explicitly teach and embed activities that develop the early reading predictors:

  • oral language/conversation skills;
  • alphabet knowledge;
  • print rules;
  • phonological awareness; and
  • vocabulary/background knowledge.

Exposure to print, print concepts, music and movement with songs, conversation and writing are critical for all young schoolchildren in the development of early literacy skills. Multiple strategies will enhance the language and literacy experiences of all your students, including:

  • pictures and illustrations to convey meaning and to make predictions about stories;
  • words, models, and questioning strategies to help students tap into their prior knowledge, make personal connections, and express their thoughts;
  • systematic use of students' home language to develop vocabulary, comprehension and narrative skills; and
  • repeated story telling, which

      - gets children talking and using language;
      - reinforces syntax, comprehension and vocabulary;
      - develops the concepts used in narrative formats; and
      - allows for children to use their primary language in a way that promotes cognitive development.

English Language Development on the Standards Continuum

TK allows you the gift of time to move your students along the standards continuum, preparing them for a successful kindergarten year ahead. As there are no set standards for TK, WestEd and the Child Development Division of the California Department of Education developed a publication that aligns the Preschool Learning Foundations with the Kindergarten Common Core State Standards to help guide developmentally appropriate TK instruction. Find the publication here. The alignment of the foundations and the common core standards illustrates the developmental progression of TK-aged students.

The Preschool Learning Foundations in English-Language Development:

  • describe a typical developmental progression in four general categories of English acquisition: listening, speaking, reading and writing; and
  • describe a continuum of "beginning," "middle" and "later" stages of English acquisition for every foundation.

The K-12 Content Standards in English Language Development:

  • include standards in three main areas: listening and speaking, reading, writing;
  • describe standards in three levels: "beginning," "intermediate" and "advanced"; and
  • children proceed through these levels based on their individual progress in listening, speaking, reading and writing skills.

Aspects to Consider in Reviewing the Alignment in the ELD Domain:

  • The K-12 English language development standards do not represent a developmental progression from preschool to kindergarten, therefore it is not possible to align specific preschool foundations to specific K-12 standards in the ELD Domain.
  • The alignment only points to corresponding content areas (substrands) in the preschool foundations and the K-12 ELD standards, but does not identify the next level in English acquisition for children entering kindergarten.