Parent Education Instructional Strategies
English language learners come from a variety of cultural backgrounds and have a variety of approaches to learning. It is important that adult education and family literacy program staff new to working with English language learners understand the impact of culture on learning in order to best serve learners' needs. Programs can enhance parents' learning by incorporating learners' prior knowledge and experiences into the curriculum, thereby providing a culturally responsive learning environment. Teachers can help parents by recognizing and positively affirming the role of culture in learning. To begin this section, some general considerations for adult education family literacy practitioners are listed.
Implementing programs of sufficient duration to enhance learner progress. This is particularly important with adult English language learners, because they may need time to understand American school culture and expectations while they are increasing their literacy skills.
Building on parents' language and literacy. Many immigrant parents have literacy skills in one or more languages other than English. Others are not literate in any language. Researchers and practitioners are exploring the value of learning to read in a first language other than English both for its own sake (i.e., as a vehicle for passing on culture and knowledge) and to facilitate becoming literate in English.
Respect parents' cultures and ways of knowing. Immigrant parents are eager to understand U.S. culture in general, and specifically, the complexities and expectations of school. Family literacy practitioners and parents themselves need to understand that telling stories and sharing cultural traditions with children in any language help prepare children to do well in school, even when the language is not English, and even when this is done orally rather than through print (Weinstein & Quintero, 1995).
Immigrant parents enter education programs with many strengths. Their knowledge about learning and child rearing may be different, but not deficient. By understanding this, adult education and family literacy practitioners can learn about and respect these parents and their cultures, which often include strong, intact, multigenerational family structures. These parents want to learn, but they also have much to teach (National Center for ESL Literacy Education, 2002). The variety of cultural backgrounds may be seen in the following areas.
Culture and Family. In some cultures, family is the first priority. Children are celebrated and sheltered, the wife fulfills a domestic role and family mobility is limited.
Culture and Education. Teachers/tutors may find that parents come from countries in which the education culture is based on memorizatio n with a lot of emphasis on theory and a rigid, teacher-centered, curriculum.
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