Diverse Learners

“Members are dedicated in their care and commitment to students. They treat students equitably and with respect and are sensitive to factors that influence individual student learning. Members facilitate the development of students as contributing citizens of Canadian society.”
(Ontario College of Teachers)

As a teacher, a professional standard I fully embrace to is a commitment to all students and student learning. It is an honour to spend my days teaching children who have a diverse range of experiences and abilities.   Some students arrive at school as dual language learners (DLL). Other children enter kindergarten with unique special needs.  All students however, benefit from strategies that aim to involve families in their child’s learning and require teachers to be intentional about their learning goals and environments.

A wonderful analogy shared with me many years ago is to consider automatic doors at a large grocery store.  For some, having doors that open automatically is a necessity.  They may have mobility difficulties or a gaggle of children and for those people, automatic doors are crucial to their shopping success.  For others, automatic doors are convenient and even though they may not require this level of support, it still benefits them as shoppers.  Planning and using strategies that support dual language learners and children with special needs is necessary for some, but beneficial to all.

In the articles Many Languages, One Teacher: Supporting Language and Literacy Development for Preschool Dual Language Learners and Including Children with Special Needs, the authors spent time cultivating a number of strategies that support student learning.

Their strategies include:

Families First
Teachers and families meet in person and early in the school year.  This meeting allows parents to share about their family and their child.  Teachers gain insight into the child’s confidence with their native language, and/or their interests and strengths.  Meetings like these promote relationships between home and school and ensure that families understand how much teachers value working with parents to support students.

Environmental Supports
A welcoming classroom encourages students to feel safe to explore their surroundings and emerging language abilities. Everyone needs to feel safe to take risks.  Also, as teachers and students create labels for materials or centres, both the English word and their fist language word is included.  It’s important to have a variety of books and materials that showcase all types of abilities, languages and cultures so that everyone recognizes how diversity is something we celebrate. For children with special needs, the physical environment needs to be considered so that they can actively participate in all areas of the program.

Instructional Supports
By sharing your intentional message or learning goal with students, they understand what they will be learning about during a lesson.  The authors suggest that pre-teaching some of the vocabulary might be helpful so that students can form deeper connections to the learning at a later time.  Other strategies they suggest include using anchor texts with pictures as well as using gestures and visual cues. Finally, through the use of songs, poems and chants, students will have multiple chances to practice interacting and understanding the material in a fun, engaging way.

Helpful Websites: 

Supporting English Language Learners in Kindergarten

Click to access kindergartenELL.pdf

This guide provides useful information and concrete strategies about the best way to support dual language learners.  It explains how children adapt to learning new language and what to expect as they become more confident in speaking and understanding English.

Inclusive Education Canada

This website helps support administrators and teachers develop schools, classrooms and activities so that all students can participate and learn. Check out their “resources” section for a huge list of articles on a variety of topics related to inclusion.

The AWARE Challenge


I am fortunate to work with a dedicated teacher whose passion is to provide insight into the daily experiences of others.  Through his AWARE videos, Mr. Heer asks students (and adults) to attempt different challenges that require specific adaptations.  These challenges provide a glimpse into what life is like for people with differences.



Magruder, E., Hayslip, W., Epinosa, L., & Matera, C. (2013). Many languages, one teacher: Supporting language and literacy development for preschool dual language learners, p. 8-15. Young Children.
Retrieved from: https://d2l.educ.queensu.ca/d2l/le/136022/discussions/posts/6100392/ViewAttachment?fileId=3288142

Watson, A., & McCathren, R. (2009). Including children with special needs are you and your early childhood program ready?, p. 20-21. Young Children. Retrieved from: https://d2l.educ.queensu.ca/d2l/le/136022/discussions/posts/6100392/ViewAttachment?fileId=3288143


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