Outcomes related to disparities in the preschool language experiences of English monolinguals and dual language learners in Head Start

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Van Pay, Craig K.
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Beecher, Constance C
Choi, Ji-Young
Abraham, William T
Peterson, Carla A
Foegen, Anne M
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Human Development and Family Studies
ECE classrooms are an important context for children’s early development. For dual language learners (DLL), ECE experiences are particularly relevant for learning English. In this study, quantitative and contingency features of the language environments of 36 preschoolers in Head Start (15 English monolingual; 21 DLLs) were estimated using automatic, child-centered recordings across a week of typical classroom activity. Zero-inflated generalized linear mixed models were used to estimate the mean number of language quantity features (teacher words heard, teacher-child conversational turns, & child vocalizations) per 5-minutes and the probability that any 5-minute segment would not have any of these language features. There were no differences in these estimates for DLLs and EMs, but different patterns emerged when examining them during classroom activities. DLLs heard more teacher words than EMs during large group activities, but fewer words during free play or centers, and DLLs vocalized more during meal/snack and outside play. DLLs had many more teacher-child conversational turns during large group activity than any other. Multiple regressions were also used to compare DLLs to EMs in four types of vocal contingencies (i.e., Teacher Responsivity, Child Responsivity, Child Vocal Reciprocity, Teacher Vocal Reciprocity). Teachers were less likely to respond to DLL vocalizations, and when teachers did, DLLs were also less likely to reciprocate back. These patterns were then used to predict academic outcomes as measured by TS GOLD at the end of the Head Start program year with an interaction of language status. Child Responsivity and Teacher Responsivity were positively associated with assessed language skills for DLLs, but not for EMs. Additionally, Teacher Vocal Reciprocity, or the likelihood of a teacher vocalizing, the focus child responding, and the teacher reciprocating, was positively associated with cognitive skills for DLLs, but not for EMs. These results suggest that there may be professional development opportunities for providing DLLs with more equitable language experiences in preschool.