2) How do I foster the social-emotional health and development of Multilingual Learners?
Social-emotional support is critical for all young learners, particularly for Multilingual Learners (MLs). Children who speak a language other than English may need additional support from teachers to make sure they feel comfortable and included in the classroom and to ensure they have meaningful access to all learning opportunities. Engaging with children and families in a friendly and accepting way helps foster self-confidence and family pride and conveys a message of caring and respect for the family and child.21 Inviting families to contribute to their children’s education promotes social-emotional well-being. Additionally, using the home language and incorporating their culture in classroom activities is a positive message that gives social-emotional support for young ML children. In fact, research shows that teachers’ use of the home language is related to social-emotional competence among young MLs.22 ML children should be encouraged to speak in their language of choice and educators can provide space for their full range of expression, whether this is verbal or non-verbal, and opportunities for ML children to share their own language with the class.23 Classrooms and schools should be responsive to the strengths, needs, and identities of MLs, and build upon their strengths to create a safe and affirming learning environment (see EL Roadmap, Principle One), including drawing from anti-bias training and trauma-informed practices. Teachers should make it a point to become familiar with available culturally and linguistically responsive resources in order to assist families with health, mental health, and basic needs (e.g., nutrition, housing, legal resources). Such efforts increase awareness of and respect for different languages and cultures and foster an inclusive and diverse classroom culture that celebrates the strengths and differences of all children and families.
Individual strategies across the different instructional topics are interconnected and should be implemented together, in a purposeful and connected manner throughout instruction, and not in isolation. Make sure to also consider your classroom or school’s language model when implementing the strategies and adapt accordingly.