Guest Blogger Ying Liang – Journal Sharing: Scaffolding Children’s Second Language Acquisition through Meaningful Conversations
“你要看我的嗎?” Do you want to read my journal?
I use journals in my nursery classroom to help children develop their comprehension and storytelling abilities. A personal journal provides a space where children can learn to tell a coherent story, even when that process begins with non-written materials. The journal stories students create using drawings, photos, and objects may lack structure and grammar, but they give children freedom to imagine and create. To further their learning, I also take dictation from the students to create a written document of their storytelling, giving teachers and parents a tool to enter into our children’s interior worlds.
During one recent journal sharing time, my nursery students were eager to share with each other. They told stories about the pictures in the journal, and they got very excited when they saw their own pictures appear in other students' journals. For me, journal sharing time is a great opportunity to develop meaningful conversations with my students, through which I can naturally introduce new vocabulary. We practice the use of description and narration in both formal conversations with children in big group settings, and in informal conversations with children in small groups.
Here is an example of a conversation generated during circle time journal sharing.
I point to a coin in the journal book...
Ying: 这是什麼？What’s this?
Child A: 这是一個火車硬幣。This is a train coin.
Ying: 你去哪里？Where did you take the train?
Child A: 我們長週末去海邊坐火車。We took a train ride at the beach.
Child B: 我也去過，我跟我的爸爸媽媽和妹妹一起去。I took a train before with my daddy, mommy and my sister.
Child C: 我也有，我的是很大很大的火車。I took a very big train.
Child D: 我也有。I did too.
Ying: 我知道你們都有很多關於火車的分享，但是現在你的朋友在做分享，我們先聽她的然後在輪流分享。I know you all have a lot to share about taking a train, but now it’s your friend’s turn, let her finish first and then we take turns.
Ying: 你跟誰一起坐呢？Who took a train ride with you?
Child A:我的爸爸和媽媽 My daddy and my mommy.
Ying: 你有看到什麼有趣的東西嗎？What fun things did you see?
Child A: 我們去坐火車那裡有是個公園，有很多樹，跟有很多人。We took a train ride in the park, and there are many trees, and a lot of people there.
Ying: 你長週末跟爸爸媽媽一起去海邊的公園坐火車，那裡有很多人跟很多樹。这個火車硬幣是你的紀念品。So you took a train ride in the park to the beach, and there were a lot of people and a lot of trees. So that train coin was your souvenir.
First, I started with specific questions to help the children warm up to introducing their pictures on the journal. At this stage, I will include the who, when, where, what, and how questions. Next, I summarize children’s descriptions in a narrative format, using the story structure that I’ve been using in my everyday story reading time. This helps children to build up a structure of narrative (every story has a beginning and an end – that’s why we say "the end" at the end of a story). In this stage, my role is modeling the use of narrative. Finally, I pull out the key phrases or sentence that best describe the whole story as the title of the journal piece, and let the child repeat it as she walks around the circle.
Language is more than just knowing vocabulary. The ultimate goal of second language acquisition is to help children develop a positive self-identity in the target language, so they will be able to express themselves comfortably and confidently. Children are passionate about sharing their own experiences. That’s why a journal is such a useful tool, because it connects to children’s daily lives. More than that, journal sharing encourages friendship building. As students see their friends' journals and listen to their stories, they get to know them better and they discover common interests and mutual experiences.
ISTP Nursery teacher Ying Liang is featured in the September 2016 issue of 'Young Children'. Also check out Ying's article on "Promoting Child-Centered Second-Language Acquisition in Preschool," published last year by the same organization. http://www.naeyc.org/files/naeyc/VOPLiang.pdf
*In 2020, the International School of the Peninsula (ISTP) formally changed its name to Silicon Valley International School (INTL) to better reflect its bilingual programs, location, and international values.