Early bilingual development in preschool and kindergarten: An ethnographic study of three Punjabi-speaking emergent bilingual learners in British Columbia

Date created: 
Early childhood education
Emergent bilingual children
Language practices

Canada’s population has been multicultural and multilingual for many years, and recently there have been changes to official language education policies, programs, and practices in public schools across the country. Unfortunately, education through the medium of an official language (often the language of schooling) has not served young bilingual children as well as it might, and many such children, especially those who come from minority language backgrounds, encounter schooling difficulties. In response to this situation, provincial and territorial Ministries of Education in Canada, along with local school districts, have invested considerable resources to support elementary teachers in adapting their instructional practices for bilingual children and their families. The purpose of this ethnographic study is to examine the language practices of three bilingual children from Punjabi language backgrounds in one school district in the province of British Columbia, Canada. I employed a variety of ethnographic methods including classroom observations, fieldnotes, and audio and video recordings of the focal children’s language practices during free play. In addition, at the end of the study, I conducted semi-structured interviews with the children’s parents, grandparents, and teachers about their literacy beliefs and how these beliefs influenced their literacy instruction. My findings revealed that the children were able to creatively use their language repertoires to actively participate in classroom activities with their parents, grandparents, teachers, and peers in two different classrooms (an early learning program and a full day Kindergarten classroom). The findings of this study highlight the opportunities for teaching and learning with bilingual children in Early Childhood Education settings.

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Kelleen Toohey
Education: Faculty of Education
Thesis type: 
(Thesis) Ph.D.