SEEL in Real Life: Teaching English AND Spanish Early Literacy

 

Jolie Hill, an early literacy specialist and former SEEL team leader, designed an initiative that uses SEEL activities to support Spanish-speaking kindergarten children who were struggling to acquire English literacy skills. To provide extra support, Jolie offered additional in-school instruction to the children in both English and Spanish and involved students' family members in helping them learn to read in both languages.

Jolie taught SEEL lessons in small groups and sent home literacy materials students could review with a parent or an older sibling. The materials included a simple description of the in-class activity, some hands-on props, and a text that highlighted the phonic pattern being taught. For example, the Pig Wig Jig English lesson, which focuses on teaching the short i vowel, has children pretend to be pigs that wear big wigs and do jigs, then engages them in interactive reading and writing about their experience. Once the at-home activities were completed, family members sent back information about their child's participation and reading.

Jolie also supported the children's literacy in Spanish. She arranged for BYU students to provide supplemental, small-group literacy instruction using Spanish SEEL lessons. As with the English activities, the texts and props were sent home so that a parent or an older sibling could practice reading with the child and then return their observations. 

In addition to the in-school efforts to support the students' literacy skills, Jolie also hosted family literacy events with demonstrations of the English and Spanish lessons that students encountered in school. Parents had opportunities to interact with their children during lesson activities in Spanish while being guided by a Spanish-speaking member of the SEEL team. Jolie also shared instructional principles and involved parents and children in lesson activities in English. Just as Jolie had done with each at-home activity, she solicited parents' feedback on their children's performance at home.

By involving children in SEEL activities at home and at school, children made noticeable gains in acquiring literacy skills and in meeting curricular expectations. Parents were generally consistent in conducting the activities and provided positive feedback and observations about their children's enthusiasm and performance in the literacy activities.