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Supporting English as an Additional Language (EAL) at transition to school - Building relationships - Communication with families

Regular discussion between families and educators throughout the year assists them in understanding the progress that children are making in their language development, in both their home language and in English.

Aims of regular discussion

The aim of regular discussion between educators and families is to:

  • encourage families to share knowledge about their children, their observations, expectations and hopes
  • create a two-way dialogue and help establish a partnership between home and settings
  • establish a shared understanding that assists educators in structuring interactions that extend children’s language development.

Regular discussion also provides an opportunity for educators to explain to the family the benefits of encouraging first language:

  • Encouraging first language provides continuity between the home and the setting.
  • Encouraging first language enables the children to draw on what they know about their first language and knowledge gained through the first language.

Further information:

More languages more benefits - outlines the benefits of learning a third language

Some common fallacies about Multilingualism and Second Language Acquisition

Finding out more about the child

Finding out more about a child’s life at home adds an important dimension to the educator’s understanding of the child as a language user. Topics to be discussed with children and families include:

  • child’s knowledge and enjoyment of stories
  • some of the child’s favourite stories
  • what the parent has observed about the child’s use of language at home
  • other family members that the child regularly interacts with, and in which language(s)
  • children’s special interests at home, including favourite toys, games.

Understanding the school system

Before children start school, educators may need to assist families with limited English and/or limited understanding of the school system in Victoria. In particular it is essential that families:

  • understand the school rules and expectations
  • understand the information that is sent home and why, in some cases, permission is required and forms need to be signed.

Educators, bilingual staff members and Multilingual Education Aides (MEAs) can help the families understand the process of starting school so they can support their children by speaking to them in their home language about the process of starting school.

For example, families could find out the names of routine times used at school, such as ‘playtime’, ‘mat time’, ‘news time’ and explain these to their children in their home language.

Ideas for supporting families in understanding the transition to school

Educators can help families understand that the first few months can be difficult for children and attempts should be made to explain the routines of the school to children in their home language.

Practical ideas for supporting families in understanding the transition to school include:

  • providing bilingual parent discussion groups which can establish family perceptions of school, and what parents expect from schools
  • distributing bilingual pamphlets about transition to school
  • introducing families to each other when their children are going to the same school
  • ensuring that families understand it is good practice to continue speaking their first language at home, and explaining the benefits
  • providing bilingual material on the importance of maintaining the first/home language
  • encouraging families to read or tell stories to children at home in their first language.

For communication to be effective, it is necessary to consider the social and cultural context of children and their families.

Sometimes it is important to rely less on written communication, which assumes families can read, and use more personal or face-to-face methods of communication.