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Adults, Peers Play Different Roles in ELLs' School Readiness, Study Finds

Family members, teachers, and peers play vastly different roles in shaping Spanish-speaking children's school readiness and English-language skills, a study has found.

The lead author, Francisco Palermo of the University of Missouri, Columbia, found that Spanish-speaking preschoolers' exposure to English at home allowed students to learn and express new English words, while exposure to English from classmates in preschool allowed students to practice using the new words.

Palermo's research indicates that the quantity of English words teachers used in the classroom did not significantly contribute to ELL students' English vocabularies. Instead, he found that the quality and diversity of teachers' English use may play a more important role. 

Palermo said the research also highlights the importance of children's English exposure through parents' interactions, even if it isn't the primary language spoken in the home.

Although Palermo studied native Spanish speakers, he said his research could apply to all children learning English as a second language.

For the study, titled "English exposure in the home and classroom: Predications to Spanish-speaking preschoolers' English vocabulary skills," Palermo and researchers from Arizona State University, Colorado State University, and Pennsylvania State University observed more than 100 Spanish-speaking preschoolers who are English-learners in their classrooms and administered standardized assessments and parental questionnaires.

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