Mothers as First Teachers: Exploring the Features of Motherchild Interactions That Support Young Aboriginal Children’s Multilingual Learning at Playgroup

Authors

  • Janet Scull Monash University, Australia https://orcid.org/0000-0002-1772-4190
  • Jane Page University of Melbourne, Australia https://orcid.org/0000-0002-2310-4051
  • Wan Yi Lee University of Melbourne, Australia https://orcid.org/0000-0002-0861-1493
  • Lisa Murray University of Melbourne, Australia https://orcid.org/0000-0002-1751-031X
  • Dorothy Gapany Northern Territory Government, FaFT Playgroups, Australia
  • Samantha Stewart Northern Territory Government, FaFT Playgroups, Australia
  • Marilyn Murukun Northern Territory Government, FaFT Playgroups, Australia
  • Nuala Scannell Northern Territory Government, FaFT Playgroups, Australia
  • Rona Lawrence Northern Territory Government, FaFT Playgroups, Australia
  • Jonica Dhurrkay Northern Territory Government, FaFT Playgroups, Australia
  • Felicity Hayes Northern Territory Government, FaFT Playgroups, Australia
  • Verity Burarrwanga Northern Territory Government, FaFT Playgroups, Australia
  • Leah Chynoweth Northern Territory Government, FaFT Playgroups, Australia
  • Michelle Callahan Northern Territory Government, FaFT Playgroups, Australia
  • Jessica Noella Goveas Northern Territory Government, FaFT Playgroups, Australia
  • Megan L. Cock University of Melbourne, Australia
  • Susan Mentha University of Melbourne, Australia
  • Patricia Eadie University of Melbourne, Australia
  • Joseph Sparling University of Melbourne, Australia

DOI:

https://doi.org/10.21153/tesol2021vol30no1art1580

Keywords:

bilingual learning, multilingual and multimodal learning, Aboriginal languages, gesture, sign language

Abstract

For many Indigenous children living in remote communities, the prerequisites to achieving strong language and learning outcomes include the maintenance of their first languages and progress in learning English as an additional language. This paper reports on data from a Linkage study conducted with families at two Families as First Teachers (FaFT) playgroups in two remote Northern Territory communities. The data highlight the ways parents and carers encouraged very young children to engage in home languages as a foundation on which to develop skills in English during play and book reading activities. Transcripts of mother-child book reading and play sessions and reflections of FaFT Family Liaison Officers are examined to explore the language interactions and the strategies used by mothers to support children’s multilingual learning. The data highlight the importance of early childhood teaching and learning that honours children’s linguistic and cultural resources and prioritises families’ aspirations for children’s multilingual language learning.

Author Biographies

Janet Scull, Monash University, Australia

Janet Scull is an Associate Professor in Language and Literacy at Monash University. Her research interests focus on the areas of language and literacy acquisition, literacy teaching and assessment and practices that support the continuity of children’s literacy learning across early childhood settings and the early years of schooling.

Jane Page, University of Melbourne, Australia

Dr Jane Page is an Associate Professor and Associate Director, Pedagogy and Leadership Research in the Research in Effective Education in Early Childhood (REEaCh) Hub at the University of Melbourne. Jane has worked in early childhood education and university sector for over thirty years. Her research interests include child rights, coaching, assessment for learning and teaching effectiveness.

Wan Yi Lee, University of Melbourne, Australia

Wan Yi Lee is an early career researcher evaluating school improvement programs. She received an Australian Research Council (ARC) PhD stipend scholarship (2015–2018) to conduct a study nested within the ARC Linkage Project ‘Building a Bridge into Preschool in Remote Northern Territory Communities’.

Lisa Murray, University of Melbourne, Australia

Lisa Murray is a Research Fellow at the Research in Effective Education in Early Childhood (REEaCh) Hub in the Melbourne Graduate School of Education at the University of Melbourne. Lisa has broad ranging research and project management experience in the field of Early Childhood Education and Care.

Dorothy Gapany, Northern Territory Government, FaFT Playgroups, Australia

Dorothy Gapany worked as a Family Liaison Officer in Families as First Teachers (FaFT) playgroup for ten years. Dorothy’s strength is in teaching families to teach their children to be strong in language, culture and learning. She is a respected community leader who has a gift for empowering families to be the best they can be.

Samantha Stewart, Northern Territory Government, FaFT Playgroups, Australia

Samantha Stewart has worked as a Family Liaison Officer in the Families as First Teachers (FaFT) playgroup for over six years. Samantha is a respected community elder. Her passion is in supporting young mums as she knows how lonely it can be at home. She has seen babies grow into ‘big kids’ and how their engagement with FaFT has helped them.

Marilyn Murukun, Northern Territory Government, FaFT Playgroups, Australia

Marilyn Murukun is the longest-serving staff member of a Families as First Teachers (FaFT) playgroup, starting as a Family Liaison Officer when FaFT commenced as a pilot program. Murukun enjoys encouraging young mothers to use 3a strategies as their children grow and develop.

Nuala Scannell, Northern Territory Government, FaFT Playgroups, Australia

Nuala Scannell worked in a Families as First Teachers (FaFT) playgroup as a Family Educator and was Abecedarian Research Coordinator for six years. She has over 30 years teaching and family support experience and is passionate about early years teaching. With strong cultural knowledge, Nuala brings integrity, and awareness to her work to support Aboriginal families in their early learning journey.

Rona Lawrence, Northern Territory Government, FaFT Playgroups, Australia

Rona Lawrence has worked in a Families as First Teachers (FaFT) playgroup as a Family Liaison Officer for six years. She brings strong cultural knowledge to the early learning program and is committed to engaging families in FaFT. Rona is a mother, who has passion for supporting Aboriginal parents and children in two-way learning.

Jonica Dhurrkay, Northern Territory Government, FaFT Playgroups, Australia

Jonica Dhurrkay grew up in Galiwin’ku and after working with the Arnhem Land Progress Aboriginal Corporation, she decided that she would like to work with children and families. As a Research Officer, Jonica enjoyed using her strong English skills to reach Yolnga Matha speakers and help them find new ways to teach their children using the Abecedarian Approach Australia (3a) in a multicultural learning context.

Felicity Hayes, Northern Territory Government, FaFT Playgroups, Australia

Felicity Hayes has worked as a Family Liaison Officer for nine years in a Families as First Teachers (FaFT) playgroup supporting Aboriginal families in their two-way learning journey. Felicity is a mother with strong knowledge of Indigenous languages and a commitment to encouraging families to use these languages with their children.

Verity Burarrwanga, Northern Territory Government, FaFT Playgroups, Australia

Verity Burarrwanga is a Yolngu woman from the Gumatj clan in East Arnhem Land. She is a mother of three children and her first formal job was as a Playgroup Leader with the Families as First Teachers (FaFT) playgroup. She moved later into a Research Officer position for the Abecedarian Approach Australia (3a) study. Verity enjoyed learning how 3a can help Indigenous families add to their cultural knowledge to give children the best start to life.

Leah Chynoweth, Northern Territory Government, FaFT Playgroups, Australia

Leah Chynoweth has worked in the Families as First Teachers (FaFT) playgroup as a Family Educator for over eight years. She has built strong relationships with families and enjoys sharing her educational knowledge and experience with remote communities across Arnhem Land in the Northern Territory.

Michelle Callahan, Northern Territory Government, FaFT Playgroups, Australia

Michelle Callahan has worked in remote Aboriginal communities for eleven years and has worked as a Family Educator and Integrated Services Leader for nine years. She completed a Bachelor of Education [Early Years] to value add her Primary Teaching and Learning Support degrees. Michelle brings responsive and appropriate early years learning and family support, in consultation with community agencies, to building on the strengths of community and families.

Jessica Noella Goveas, Northern Territory Government, FaFT Playgroups, Australia

Jessica Noella Goveas has worked as a Family Educator and Research Associate for four years. She has over eight years’ experience working in the education setting in remote Aboriginal communities. Noella’s strength is her cultural knowledge of community and building capacity in families to benefit young children’s development.

Megan L. Cock, University of Melbourne, Australia

Megan Cock’s career brings together interwoven skills of medical research, health promotion, early childhood education and research management. Megan was a Family Educator in Families as First Teachers (FaFT) playgroups for five years, before joining the Abecedarian Approach Australia (3a) research project. She brings her lived experience in her role at FaFT with research expertise to the program.

Susan Mentha, University of Melbourne, Australia

Dr Sue Mentha has worked in the early childhood field for twenty- three years in preschool and Higher education. Sue teaches into the Master of Education and Master of Teaching (ECE) at MGSE and is a member of the Research in Effective Education in Early Childhood (REEaCH) Hub.

Patricia Eadie, University of Melbourne, Australia

Patricia Eadie is Professor and Director of the Research in Effective Education in Early Childhood (REEaCh) Hub, Melbourne Graduate School of Education, University of Melbourne. Tricia’s research focuses on young children’s learning and developmental pathways, educator-child interactions and professional learning that enable educators to implement high quality intentional teaching practices.

Joseph Sparling, University of Melbourne, Australia

Joseph Sparling is the Board Chair of the Abecedarian Education Foundation (international), a Senior Scientist Emeritus at the Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute at the University of North Carolina (USA), and Honorary Professorial Fellow at the Melbourne Graduate School of Education of the University of Melbourne (Australia).

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Published

2021-11-30

How to Cite

Scull, J., Page, J., Lee, W. Y., Murray, L., Gapany, D., Stewart, S., Murukun, M., Scannell, N., Lawrence, R., Dhurrkay, J., Hayes, F., Burarrwanga, V., Chynoweth, L., Callahan, M., Goveas, J. N., Cock, M. L., Mentha, S., Eadie, P., & Sparling, J. (2021). Mothers as First Teachers: Exploring the Features of Motherchild Interactions That Support Young Aboriginal Children’s Multilingual Learning at Playgroup. TESOL in Context, 30(1), 33–60. https://doi.org/10.21153/tesol2021vol30no1art1580