Kending Column

Gumnut child care centre

Early Learning Languages Australia (ELLA) programme

 

Gumnut at Forum has been successful in applying for a NSW Government initiative to introduce teaching of languages to schools and child care centres. The program is known as Early Learning Languages Australia (ELLA). In 2015, the Australian Government provided $9.8 million for a one-year trial of the ELLA programme in 41 preschool services, nationally, to determine the effectiveness of children learning a language through apps without a proficient language teacher. A total of 35 apps, consisting of seven unique apps for each of the five languages – Arabic, Chinese, French, Indonesian and Japanese – have been developed. The trial resulted in overwhelmingly positive feedback and a high level of engagement from educators, children and families. The Australian Government has expanded the ELLA programme in 2016 and 3000 preschool services were selected. All three childcare services with CASS were successful in the application and Gumnut chose the language Chinese for the children to learn. The centre has families and children in attendance from diverse cultural backgrounds. The ELLA programme for child care services and preschools is specifically for children 4 -5 years of age.

 

What is ELLA? ELLA is a child centred programme specially aimed at children in the year before school. It includes a suite of materials, including apps, resource materials and educator support networks developed through the ELLA trial to support the effective delivery of early language learning in preschool services. The apps which have been created for the children to play and learn from are called The Polygots. The ELLA Polygots apps are play-based applications (‘apps’) custom developed for language learning on mobile tablet devices. At Gumnut the app is run from Samsung android tablets with 2 in the preschool room for the children to play with. The apps give children the opportunity to develop recognition of the different sounds and concepts of another language through play-based learning. Children are introduced to words, sentences and songs in the language and through age-appropriate experiences and practices in the language.

 

The apps have been designed to consider the needs, interests and capabilities of four year olds. They provide opportunities for children to learn through interactions with a rich variety of experiences. They encourage collaboration between peers and with educators as co-learners. There is a series of seven apps and each app contains four to five learning experiences that are aligned to the Early Years Learning Framework (EYLF). Within each app, children explore a unique space, such as a zoo, circus or birthday party, that provides opportunities for specific language use as well as building incrementally on language acquired in previous apps. For example the first app introduces greetings in Chinese, “Ni Hao”, “Wo de ming zi”**” “Xie Xie”, the second app introduces colours and the third app which has been the most recent release is set in a birthday party scenario with a focus upon numeracy where the children can learn to count in Chinese from 1 – 10. The apps are released periodically throughout 2016, enabling the children to look forward to each new app release.

 

For the educators, the ELLA apps enables those without a language proficiency in languages to deliver the ELLA programme to young children. The ELLA app has allowed a co-learning approach where children and educators learn alongside each other. At Gumnut the programme is overseen by the Preschool teacher and the Director and it has been very successful so far with 8 preschool children participating from the beginning of April 2016. The children look forward to each day to when they can have a turn on the tablets to play the different games within each app. They are timed fairly with 15minutes per session as we also need to factor in screen time requirements where children should not be in front of computer for more than 60 minutes per day. Feedback from the children’s families have also demonstrated the children’s enthusiasm as one parent stated “He speaks Chinese at home, saying all these words which we don’t understand. So it’s great.” When the older children go back to the room after having a turn on the app, their younger peers will ask them where did they go and one child had replied by stating, “I played on the ELLA app. I’m learning Chinese.” The older children can heard singing the songs from the app as they play in the classroom and whilst playing the app, mimicking Chinese words very quickly and picking it up easily. We are looking forward to the next 4 apps which will be released and for the children to build competency and awareness towards other languages and cultures.

 

To ensure the younger children also have the opportunity to learn a second language, Japanese language classes are held every Monday by Miss Yuko with a 30 minute session for the pre-schoolers and a 15 minutes session with the toddlers. The children have been learning greetings and now exploring the story “The Hungry Little Caterpillar” in Japanese by breaking it down into specific learning components such as colours, numbers, days of the week and naming different types of fruit. As it is an extremely popular children’s story the story line is already familiar to the children hence relevance and familiarity with it will make it easier to pick up new words in Japanese.

 

At Gumnut we understand the importance of respecting cultural diversity and through the implementation of ELLA and Japanese classes we hope to enhance acceptance of other all cultures.

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