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Eastern preschool teacher co-presents on translanguaging at national conference

Published on January 10, 2023

Eastern preschool teacher co-presents on translanguaging at national conference

Preschool teacher Karla Alamo interacts with preschool students
Karla Alamo works with preschool children in Eastern’s Child and Family Development Resource Center (CFDRC).

Preschool teacher Karla Alamo recently presented with researchers from three universities at the National Association for the Education of Young Children in Washington, D.C. Alamo is a bilingual teacher associate at Eastern’s Child and Family Development Resource Center (CFDRC) who was invited by Eastern researchers Julia DeLapp and Jeffrey Trawick-Smith to contribute to a presentation on supporting multilingual learners.

“We had recently completed a study on emergent bilingual preschoolers at the CFDRC,” said DeLapp, director of Eastern’s Center for Early Childhood Education. “The study involved capturing and coding hundreds of hours of video footage of young children at play, and we noticed how often Karla was in the videos, facilitating positive play interactions with young children.”

The study investigated the teacher behaviors that best support peer interactions of emergent bilingual preschoolers who are learning both English and another language at the same time. Results of the study were published in the May 2022 edition of Early Childhood Education Journal. One of the study’s findings was that when teachers used a child’s home language, those children had more interactions with their peers as they played.

Preschool teacher Karla Alamo interacts with preschool students
Karla Alamo interacts with preschool students.

Alamo, who grew up in Puerto Rico and speaks English and Spanish, was frequently observed to be engaged in a practice known as translanguaging, in which speakers draw on elements of more than one language naturally during conversation. Research indicates that accepting and normalizing translanguaging practices in the classroom leads to greater communication with others, increases learning potential, and supports children to develop skills in both languages more efficiently.

“Karla is masterful at respecting children’s linguistic diversity,” said DeLapp. “She responds to and utilizes both English and Spanish in a really natural way to ensure that children get the language support they need—and that their linguistic heritage is maintained and honored. We definitely wanted her perspective included in the presentation.”

Niloufar Rezai, director of Eastern's CFDRC, added: "Teachers such as Karla Alamo are an integral part of helping the CFDRC recognize its mission to support language development of all children and especially those who are dual language learners."

When asked about her commitment to bilingual education, Alamo recounted a quote from Nelson Mandela, saying, "If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart." She further explained that, “Using a child’s home language makes them feel at home. This helps them acclimate to the classroom and develops a sense of safety.”


During the workshop, Alamo described her efforts to support children who arrive at preschool with little to no English skills, as well as her strategies to support English-only speaking children to connect with their bilingual peers. The estimated 120 participants at the workshop viewed videos that featured Alamo in the classroom, as well as children using a variety of strategies to communicate with their peers.

The workshop featured two additional researchers with research experience in multilingual education. Dr. Elena Sada of Boston College and Dr. María Arreguín of the University of Texas at San Antonio co-presented.

The study was conducted from 2019–20 by Trawick-Smith, DeLapp and students Abigail Bourdon, Kendra Flannagan and Fatima Godina. For more information on the study: