CHALLENGES AND STRATEGIES OF TEACHING ENGLISH IN A MULTILINGUAL CLASSROOM
Most of the research and resources related to English as a New Language (ENL) instruction apply only to bilingual, Spanish-English classrooms, but there are many classrooms full of students who come from different linguistic backgrounds and also demonstrate the need to learn English. The distinct characteristics of these multilingual classrooms have yet to be studied in depth. Because critical language learning occurs in early childhood, preschool is the ideal time to investigate this issue. The purpose of this case study is to illuminate some of the unique challenges that multilingual ENL preschool classrooms can present as well as potential strategies teachers can use to overcome them, with the ultimate goal of providing directions for future empirical research on this topic. Specifically, this study examines verbal and non-verbal interactions in the classroom and the extent to which home language and culture are incorporated in the students’ learning experience. A background interview and three classroom observations were conducted in order to obtain these insights. The findings indicate that there are many ways in which teachers can overcome the multiple-language barrier and help all of their students to improve their English, including creating a low-anxiety environment and encouraging parental participation in the learning experience. This study also found that interactions between adults and preschool-aged children of different linguistic backgrounds is in many ways similar to the ways in which parents and pre-verbal infants communicate, suggesting the need for empirical research on whether these strategies are effective for older children and how they can be applied in classrooms.