Differences in Patterns of Classroom Participation of Pre-K Spanish Speaking Students and their Monolingual Peers

Differences in Patterns of Classroom Participation of Pre-K Spanish Speaking Students and their Monolingual Peers

First Author: Esmeralda Martin -- University of California, Irvine
Additional authors/chairs: 
Jesus Alejandre Jr; Ashley Adams; Carol M. Connor
Keywords: Academic Literacy, Reading, Bilingualism, Preschool Classrooms, Student Participation
Abstract / Summary: 

Many federally-funded early education settings serve a large proportion of Spanish-speaking dual language learners (DLLs; Paez et al., 2010). Although these numbers continue to grow, Spanish-speaking students perform below their monolingual peers in language and literacy measures such as English vocabulary and language comprehension (Han et al., 2013). One proposed method of closing the gap between DLLs and monolingual peers is encouraging high-quality classroom participation (Connor et al, 2019; Valiente et al., 2008). We observed 147 participants (76 Spanish-speaking bilingual students and 71 monolingual students) from 15 preschool classrooms in Orange County (e.g. Head Start) three times during the school year using the Optimizing Learning Opportunities for Students (OLOS) observation system. OLOS is an online observation system that tracks type and amount of instruction children receive along with their participation in that instruction. By using this individualized observation tool, we were able to capture classroom instruction and participation and compare monolingual and bilingual students within the same classrooms. While all children received similar amounts of literacy instruction, Spanish-speaking students participated more than their monolingual counterparts in PreK literacy instruction and this was especially true for higher-level participation like answering questions that require reasoning. These encouraging result suggests that, although DLL children arrive to preschool with limited English vocabulary knowledge, this does not necessarily limit their ability to access the curriculum and participate in class. This study has the ability to inform teachers and parents about supporting their Spanish-speaking children’s literacy acquisition.