Getting familiar with the Language Learning Project and the Personalized Oral Language Learning (POLL) Strategies


The Origin of the Language Learning Project

In 2016, a group of Early Childhood Education (ECE) providers from multiple agencies in Fresno, California, came together to better address the needs of young Dual Language Learners (DLLs) and their families. They established a strong commitment to linguistic and cultural diversity, family engagement, and support for both home language and English. From this initial commitment they collaboratively built a professional development model based upon a research based, concrete approach that supports language learning in all environments, particularly for dual language learners (DLLs.) This approach, known as Personalized Oral Language Learning (POLL), was originally developed by DLL experts Dr. Linda Espinosa, Dr. Carola Oliva-Olson, and Elizabeth Magruder in 2010.

The Science of Dual Language Learning

A report by the National Academy of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, Promoting the Educational Success of Children and Youth Learning English offered a comprehensive review of relevant research and provided much-needed guidance on best practices in supporting the academic success of young Dual Language Learners (DLLs). The findings and conclusions from this report include:


All children are capable of learning more than one language from the earliest months of life and benefit from early exposure to multiple languages.


High levels of proficiency in both the home language and English are linked to the best academic, social, cultural, and economic outcomes.


The earlier young DLLs are exposed to a second language the greater are their chances for full bilingualism and the associated cognitive benefits.


Young DLLs entering English-speaking ECE settings, frequently lose their home language, which subverts the possibility of full bilingualism and may place the child at risk for healthy family relations including estrangement from their cultural heritage.


Young DLLs’ language development is enhanced when adults provide frequent, responsive, varied language interactions that include a rich array of diverse words and sentence types. For most DLL families this means they should continue to use their home language in everyday interactions, storytelling, songs, and book readings.


All Early Childhood Education (ECE) providers can and should learn specific practices and instructional strategies that promote early bilingualism and high academic achievement.

Personalized Oral Language Learning (POLL) Strategies

Personalized Oral Language Learning (POLL) is a set of research based, concrete approaches that support language learning in all environments, particularly for dual language learners (DLLs.) POLL focuses on developing children’s vocabulary, oral language, and comprehension skills through strategic planning for language experiences.

POLL helps Early Care and Education providers understand the importance of bilingualism and provides guidance and a range of strategies that all providers, including those who are monolingual, can implement to strengthen both children’s home language and English.

The three main components of Personalized Oral Language Learning (POLL) are:

Developmentally Appropriate Practice for Dual Language Learners

POLL Strategies are based on current knowledge of effective practices for young DLLs within this context of Developmentally Appropriate Practice. Developmentally appropriate practice (DAP) is intentional teaching that adapts for the strengths, experiences, interests, and abilities of individual children and is responsive to the social and cultural context in which they live, helping them meet challenging and achievable goals. The foundation of developmentally appropriate practice is early childhood educators’ knowledge of how children develop and learn. DAP alone is necessary but not sufficient to effectively promote the development of Dual Language Learners (DLLs). For young DLLs, this means that educators must understand the process of second language acquisition and what typical development looks like for children growing up with more than one language.

To ensure their practices are effective and developmentally appropriate, educators need to be intentional in everything they do and be able to adapt for the specific needs of young DLLs. Three fundamental considerations guide educators in making informed, intentional decisions about developmentally appropriate practices for their children.


What is currently known about the development and learning of children within a given age range?

Such knowledge helps educators make general predictions about environments, materials, interactions, and experiences that will be safe, interesting, and engaging for children and best promote their learning and development.

For DLLs, this means that ECE educators need to understand the process of second language acquisition during the early years and how it is similar to and different from monolingual English-speaking children.


What do educators learn about each child as an individual through relationships, observation, documentation, and culturally and linguistically appropriate assessments?

This knowledge supports educators in individualizing and meeting the needs of each child. As they continually observe and gather information, they adapt their teaching to help each child make continued progress.

For DLLs, this means that program staff need to continually assess DLLs’ academic progress and language proficiency in both of their languages.


What do educators learn about the social, cultural, and linguistic contexts in which children live?

Knowledge about each family’s traditions, talents, and history, values, expectations, and language(s) of children’s families and communities allows educators to create learning environments and experiences that are meaningful, respectful, and supportive of every child.

For DLLs, this means that all ECE programs need to actively outreach and partner with families to learn about the child’s early language learning experiences as well as the family values, customs, and preferences.

Further information on the alignment of Developmentally Appropriate Practice and the POLL strategies can be found in the sections of the website describing each strategy.