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The ALERTA Program: A Multicultural, Bilingual Approach to Teaching Young Children

reviewed by Dorothy S. Strickland - 1984

coverTitle: The ALERTA Program: A Multicultural, Bilingual Approach to Teaching Young Children
Author(s): Leslie R. Williams, Yvonne De Gaetano
Publisher: Addison Wesley , Reading
ISBN: 0201200929, Pages: 326, Year: 1985
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According to its authors, the ALERTA Program offers a method for designing an educational program “that reflects and uses as vehicles for learning the collected experiences of the children within it” (p. vii). It succeeds extremely well. “Alerta” is a Spanish word meaning “heightened awareness.” It is also an acronym for “A Learning Environment Responsive To All.”

Two fundamental characteristics are predominant in ALERTA—its child—centered nature and its multicultural approach. Experiences within the program are designed to make use of the knowledge, skills, and accumulated experiences that each child brings to the classroom. The developmental and cultural backgrounds of the children are respected and valued. Most important, however, they are integrated into all aspects of the learning. The program manual is designed for use by teachers, teaching assistants, and teacher aides in early-childhood programs.

Developed through a collaboration of professionals and nonprofessionals, the manual is divided into nine levels, each dealing with specific skills and knowledge needed by parents and teachers applying the ALERTA process. Level One, “Developing Partnerships in the use of ALERTA,” establishes the collaborative nature of the program. Its focus is the role of parents and staff in transmitting cultures within the context of the community. Level Two, “Discovering the Cultures in Your Classroom,” promotes staff awareness and sensitivity to culture and its effect on what one thinks and feels, and on how one learns and teaches. Level Three, “Identifying and Using Community Resources,” emphasizes careful observation of the communities where children live from the child’s point of view and using the information learned to create learning materials that have special meaning for the children.

Level Four, “Preparing a Multicultural Bilingual Learning Environment for Young Children,” is designed to provide a classroom environment with as many reflections of the personal world of children as possible. It fosters continuity between the experiences children bring and the new learning they attain. Level Five, “Observing Children’s Interest, Developmental Levels and Language Use,” provides for training in child observation. ALERTA’s program planning is largely based on daily child observations of a personal and developmental nature. Level Six, “Planning for Learning across All Domains,” is designed to convert the collected child observations into learning activities.

Level Seven, “Integrating Strategies for Learning throughout the Total Program,” develops the use of information that has been gathered on the children’s language. Activities are designed for both first-language development and second-language acquisition. Level Eight, “Designing Opportunities for Learning,” is essentially a program evaluation component. It gives ALERTA users an opportunity to reflect on the entire program, the interrelationships among its parts, and its relation to the growing capacities of the children being served. Level Nine, “Assessing Your Progress in Using ALERTA,” offers staff members an opportunity to review their efforts in setting the program in place. It stresses a careful scrutiny of the degrees of success at each point of implementation.

Fortunately, today’s educators have a variety of models from which to select an early-childhood program. A review of the ALERTA model suggests that the following factors make it outstanding: (1) the program capitalizes on and integrates into the curriculum the collaboration of parents, children, teachers, and support staff; (2) the program is built on the underlying assumption that everyone involved is a learner, and offers programmatic support to fostering the ongoing growth of all those who participate; (3) the program is outstanding (and perhaps unique) in its effort to tap the potential of the child as an important and viable resource in the curriculum-a resource often neglected; and (4) because by its very nature the program draws on the characteristics and needs demonstrated by each community of users, the notion of ownership rather than mere adoption of the model is more likely to occur. ALERTA has much to recommend it, not only for those concerned with excellence in multicultural early-childhood education but for those who seek to apply sound principles of curriculum development at any level in any setting.


SUSAN BARNES is assistant director of the Research in Teacher Education Program at the Research and Development Center for Teacher Education, University of Texas at Austin. She has contributed to research spanning preservice, induction, and inservice teacher education. Her particular research interest is in effective teaching.

TOM BIRD is managing director of the Center of Action Research, Inc., Boulder, Colorado. With support from the National Institute of Education, he is conducting a study of instructional leadership in eight secondary schools.

FRANCES BOLIN is assistant professor of education in the Department of Curriculum and Teaching and director of the preservice program in early childhood, elementary, and middle-school education at Teachers College, Columbia University. Her interests include educational leadership, professional development of teachers, and the history of curriculum and instructional supervision in the United States.

TERRENCE E. DEAL is professor of education at Peabody College of Vanderbilt University, where he teaches organizational processes and theory, research for administrators, and symbolism in organizations. For the past ten years he has studied the role of myth, ritual and ceremony, and symbols in organizational settings.

DAVID C. DWYER, currently at Far West Laboratory for Educational Research and Development, San Francisco, directs a comparative ethnographic study of the roles of principals in instructional management. He received his Ph.D. in 1981 from Washington University in St. Louis.

MAXINE GREENE is the William F. Russell Professor in the Foundations of Education at Teachers College, Columbia University. She is now working on a book based on her John Dewey Lecture, which will be titled The Dialectic of Freedom.

GARY A. GRIFFIN is dean, School of Education, University of Illinois, Chicago Circle. His writing and research focus on teacher education, staff development, school change, and curriculum planning.

MARYELLEN C. HAM is a doctoral candidate at Peabody College of Vanderbilt University. She is finishing an Ed.D. in educational leadership while working as an instructional supervisor in a district encompassing six schools in southern New Hampshire.

A. MICHAEL HUBERMAN is professor of education at the University of Geneva. He is the author of six books and numerous chapters and articles in the areas of adult learning, dissemination and utilization of knowledge, and qualitative research.

Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 86 Number 1, 1984, p. 254-255
https://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 960, Date Accessed: 12/3/2021 2:11:22 AM

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