TALLK provides preschool teachers with training and coaching in specific strategies for interacting with English learner children to support language acquisition. Overall, the project aims to support language development among preschoolers in their home language and in English, recognizing that skills learned in both languages will support the children’s literacy development.
According to Jenn Guerrero, English learner program coordinator for the Sonoma County Office of Education, TALLK is based on the research-demonstrated best practice of providing adult education through a combination of information sharing followed by coaching.
“In California, 57 percent of children birth through age 5 live in a household where English is not the primary language,” she says. “The TALLK Project provides our Early Childhood Education educators with the the tools and strategies needed to effectively meet the needs of these Dual Language Learners in our preschools.”
Guererro adds that through the generosity of the JJF, TALLK was able to train close to 25 coaches from across the state of California, thereby enhancing language acquisition for 250-300 preschoolers.
Participation in TALLK begins with a one-day orientation session that introduces participants to resources that will be used throughout the year. After that, over the course of the school year, a bilingual coach provides one-on-one sessions with teachers, on-site monthly staff trainings, periodic check-in meetings, and individualized support.
TALLK even doles out $200 stipends to each participant who completes the program.
At the same time, TALLK coaches also offer parent workshops at each project site, emphasizing school readiness and strategies for building a language-rich environment at home. Guererro says these workshops have a dual purpose—educating parents and training preschool staff to provide parent trainings on their own.
All told, the JJF has supported TALLK since 2017, donating $15,000 in each of the last two years. Executive Director Lisa Wittke Schaffner says she is “blown away” by how well the program has worked.
“When I visited a preschool and saw the TALLK program in action, I was riveted,” Wittke Schaffner says. “The one-on-one coaching through earphones was so powerful for kids and grownups alike—it enabled coaches and teachers to interact and respond to the questions and needs of the students immediately.”