Supporting ELL Students in Kindergarten
Registration and Reception
Parents of children who turn five years of age between January and December 31st of the upcoming school year register their child for Kindergarten any time after January 15 for entry the following fall at their neighbourhood school. Upon registration, parents are asked if another language is used at home or in addition to English, an ELL assessment appointment is arranged for the child. These assessments are typically done on Mondays and Fridays, from mid-January through to June, and in late August. The assessment is based on an oral interview, focusing on a conversation about the child's interests. Small toys and familiar objects are also used to stimulate discussion. A level is assigned to the child based on his/her oral language proficiency and the parents are shown the record of the assessment called the "green sheet", which is sent to the school. At the school, this sheet should be placed in the student's ELL file. *Note, a new Kindergarten child arriving during the school year may be assessed on any day of the week available as our goal is to have the child attend school as soon as possible.

During ELL Reception, parents are provided with an overview of the school system and an explanation of what ELL support will look like for their child. We tell the parent that the child will be placed in a regular classroom with sometimes two teachers working together in the room, i.e. the Kindergarten teacher and the ELL teacher. The ELL teacher is described as the language specialist who works with English language learners, providing them strategic help in developing their communication skills, language structures and vocabulary to order to access the regular curriculum.

On occasion, a parent may question why their child needs to be assessed. Often, the child may have been born in Canada and/or the family may speak English at home. We generally ask families who speak another language in the home other than English to bring their child for an assessment. If they question this, we explain that the assessment is not a test but a conversation during which the child plays with some toys and we talk. Our teachers listen to see if the child can name the toys, make simple descriptions, and talk about themselves, likes, school, family, etc. We advise parents that children who know another language or who have been exposed to another language may not know some English special vocabulary or grammar, or may get mixed up on word choice. Our goal is to provide help so that all children experience success in school. If the child is assessed and it is determined that s/he is fluent, we do not assign them for ELL. During our interviews, we also provide information to parents on our school system, community services, and suggestions for supporting their child's success. We also advise that it generally takes 4-7 years for children to fully acquire academic English. Learning conversational English is much easier but learning to read, write, and speak English fluently takes much longer.

After the assessment, we identify the level of proficiency from 1-5. Some parents may initially be confused or resentful that their child needs ELL support. Parents are informed that support means support time for their child with an English language specialist. All Kindergarten children are placed into regular classrooms and their child will not miss out on the regular curriculum instruction while receiving ELL instruction. When given the choice, most parents realize that ESL is not a negative label but an enhancement to their child's learning potential. A parent will rarely refuse the offer of ELL support but parents are given the right to make the final decision. If subsequently the child struggles, sometimes these same parents change their mind and request the offer of ELL support at a later date. If this occurs, an ELL appointment should be arranged for the family and the child should be assessed through ELL Reception at the Board OFfice, or the child may be assessed during Spring Census.

It is likely that a child's English language proficiency and social interaction skills will improve between the time s/he is assessed in the spring and when s/he enters Kindergarten in the fall. A small number of children may be shy, even intimidated, afraid or silent at the initial assessment and underperform. It is thus advisable for ELL teachers reassess the children in September, using the ELL primary oral matrix as a guide.

Supporting ELL Students In Kindergarten
ELL students possess varying degrees of first language and English proficiency. These children may be the children of non-English speaking immigrants or children born in Canada whose first language is not English. Many of these students have had daycare and/or preschool experiences in Canada or another country and are comfortable in more than one language. Others may have had limited or no exposure to English. Still others may have had daycare or preschool experience and others none. Included in the mix are some students who speak variations of English that differ significantly from the English used in the broader Canadian society. These children may also need ESL support to access curriculum.

Meeting the language development needs of such culturally and linguistically diverse students can be challenging. A supportive, child-centred environment with a focus on oral language and hands-on experiences will foster the language and literacy development of all students. Such an environment, which values and accepts students' languages, cultures and experiences provides the foundation for instruction, and thereby supports and nurtures each student's language acquisition and development. Elementary teachers who are aware of students' sociolinguistic backgrounds can assess individual linguistic competencies and assist students in developing English language proficiency in familiar and non-threatening contexts. Students are more likely to experiment with language and take risks during independent and collaborative activities if they perceive their languages, cultures and identities as significant, and if they recognize that their peers and teachers share this perception.

Background on Language Development
Initial language development begins in the home setting. Students who have learned to communicate in their first language are well equipped to apply their understandings of language processes to develop skills in learning a second language. It is essential that teachers acknowledge the importance and validity of students' first languages as they guide the development of English language proficiency. Parents should be encouraged to continue to speak in their first language with their child, making time for reading stories in both English and the first language. Teachers may observe that a few ELL students, especially our younger students, are initially reluctant to communicate orally in the classroom setting. This is a natural reaction to learning a new language and should not be interpreted as negative or as a lack of oral language skills. An initial silent period is common amongst beginning language learners as they develop receptive language. In so doing, students endeavor to understand English through observation and listening. Such "silent" learners will eventually speak in English in a learning environment founded on trust, acceptance and support.

Through interviews with parents and/or caregivers, teachers may wish to inquire about the students' strengths and abilities in their first language as well as in English in order to identify each student's instructional needs. For example, students with limited language proficiency in their first language may also struggle in their second language. Students with limited interaction with print may not understand that print conveys meaning. An awareness of students' competencies in a first language and English should guide instructional planning and the selection of appropriate resources and assessment procedures. ELL teachers may identify language competencies by:

  • interviewing the parents/caregivers about the student's background, the language used in the home, and the purposes for which language is used in the home (enlisting the assistance of friends and relatives as translators, if necessary). Parents may share their concern(s) with the teacher about their child's first alnague progress, comprehension , articulation and usage. ELL teachers can begin with a Language Background Questionnaire (see appendix).
  • observing and noting responses and interactions during activities.
  • using the Kindergarten matrix to check their oral language skills (see below)

The purposes and methods of assessment and evaluation are similar for ELL students and their English-speaking peers. Written comments on progress reports should be clear and concise to benefit ELL parents/caregivers. Such reports should be positive and outline students' growth and development. All students, including ELL students, should be given opportunities to participate in goal-setting and reflect on their progress through self-assessment and evaluation.

Purposeful and Meaningful Language
The daily routines of a Kindergarten classroom are ideal to building the language foundation for the ELLs in your class. Through calendar routines and interactions, the "morning message", rhymes, chants and songs, ELLs will develop a common vocabulary and set of structures useful in this setting. Nevertheless, ELLs need more than patterned language and routines. They need to experience situations where they will take risks with language and interact with others to collaborate on meaningful and purposeful tasks. With support, they will learn the language as they play, talk, and think together. Such a rich, play-based kindergarten environment supports oral language and literacy development as well as the growth of creativity, problem-solving, and social interaction.

Here are some examples of ways to facilitate meaningful and purposeful language use:
Sock puppets:

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Mystery Box

Paper bag - guess what's inside

Guidelines for Instruction and Support
  • ELL teachers should provide in-class support in Kindergarten wherever possible. Classroom centres provide an ideal setting for extending and developing language in diverse learners.
  • Respect for cultural and linguistic diversity should be modeled and students encouraged to share their languages and cultures.
  • Beginning ELL learners should be paired with "buddy ambassadors", usually older students who speak their first language to help the child understand locations in the school and various procedures such as fire drill, for example.
  • Students should be paired with fluent or near-fluent English-speaking "buddies" for collaborative projects.
  • Teacher talk should be clear and concise, providing wait time for processing and response. Demonstrations using materials and gestures are helpful.
  • Oral language is key to the development of literacy skills. Songs, poems, chants and rhymes should be part of the daily routine as they play an essential role in this foundation.
  • Students need to be involved in meaningful, personally relevant experiential tasks in order to internalize the language learned.
  • Charts, posters and visuals with print on them, students' names, printed classroom procedures, schedules, labels and environmental print should be displayed where appropriate and useful.
  • Picture files and visuals of everyday objects and events should be compiled to assist in vocabulary extension and reinforcement activities. These can be placed in labeled folders for easy access.
  • Interactive, collaborative games and play activities with real materials should be encouraged.
  • When assessing students' oral language development, the teacher should focus on meaningful communication and conceptual understanding before pronunciation.
  • Representation of students' cultures in instructional resources should be offered. Parents will often be willing to help with this.
  • Positive and motivational feedback should be modeled to develop a community of self-confident, risk-taking language users and learners.
  • Parents/caregivers, relatives, friends and SWIS when appropriate should be involved as resources and interpreters.
  • Non-English speaking parents/caregivers should be encouraged to read and share stories with their children in their first language. Reading aloud and storytelling strengthen literacy processes regardless of the language used. These same literacy skills will transfer to reading in English.
  • Audio recordings or links of familiar stories in English and the students' first languages should be shared with families.
  • The students' first languages should be recognized and utilized wherever appropriate.
  • Photographs of students' work can be shared with the student and family and provide a visual link to what is happening in the classroom. Classrooms should be set up so that there are areas where children can choose to work and play, such as a House Corner, blocks, sand table, book corner, paint easel, discovery table and more.

Full Day Kindergarten Guide

Full School Day Kindergarten

external image fdk.jpgAs Government announced in the 2009 Speech from the Throne, British Columbia is making full day kindergarten available to all five-year-olds in the province.
Schools have offered half day kindergarten for many years. Some schools have also offered full day programs for specific groups of children (Aboriginal, English language learners, and certain types of students with special needs). It has been up to boards of education or individual schools to decide whether to include full day kindergarten in their education programs.
Now, the Ministry of Education is phasing in universal access over 2 years. Full day kindergarten is currently available for over half of BC’s eligible kindergarten students. By September 2011, full day kindergarten will be available across the province.
On October 2, 2009, the Ministry of Education held a forum for education stakeholders to discuss the implementation of universal full day kindergarten in British Columbia. A summary of the discussions and ideas (PDF, 57KB) is available online.

Exemplar Videos - Full Day Kindergarten Exemplar Videos

Scholastic Literacy Place - puppets

Pamphlet in Multiple Languages in Translation:

See below or visit:

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====Full Day Kindergarten Parent Pamphlet

Full Day Kindergarten Pamphlet English Version
Full Day Kindergarten Pamphlet English Version
The Ministry of Education has developed aninformative pamphlet (PDF, 262KB) to help parents better understand the full day kindergarten program. This pamphlet includes information on the benefits of full day kindergarten programs, answers to commonly asked questions regarding full day kindergarten, and web links to find out more information. Translations of the parent pamphlet are available in a number of languages. Translations