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A Qualitative Study of the Play of Dual Language Learners in an English-Speaking Preschool


Principal Investigator: Stefanie Dominguez
Faculty Mentor: 
Jeffrey Trawick-Smith

This study aimed to compare the interactions of dual language learners (DLLs) with their English-speaking peers during free play. Four DLLs were recorded during their free play period, and their interactions were compared to those of four English-speaking children. Units of interaction were identified, transcribed, named, and categorized, and specific interactions were studied more in depth. These qualitative findings were triangulated with a quantitative measure of children’s social participation in play.

Findings indicated that compared to their peers who only speak English, DLLs:

  • Play and talk with peers less frequently
  • Interact in less sustained and positive ways
  • Interact more with teachers and rely more on them to support their play

These findings suggest that teachers play an important role in facilitating and translating for DLLs to support their social interaction.

Publication: Dominguez, S. & Trawick-Smith, J. (2018). A qualitative study of the play of dual language learners in an English-speaking preschool. Early Childhood Education Journal, 46, 577-586.


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