Biliteracy instruction includes students learning two languages as they learn content material and build experiences. This balance across language requires flexibility on behalf of educators and a holistic approach within the classroom. While teachers should have thoughtful lesson plans, we are also lifelong learners and should be receptive to our students’ questions and needs. “But now, as they teach, not as bureaucrats of the mind but reconstituting the steps of their curiosity- the reason their conscious bodies, sensitive and touched, open up to the students’ guesses, their innocence and their discrimination- teachers who perform as such have a rich moment of learning in their teaching.” (Freire, p. 32). This embodies being open, while maintaining a sense of purpose and consistency. With my student teaching experience I felt insecure and restricted to my detailed lesson plans at first, but realize now that the lesson plans are a guide not a rule. Because teaching requires adapting to my students at any particular moment and being open to those unique teachable moments that can add something more to my already thoughtfully prepared lesson plan, and potentially take it a step deeper.
In a biliteracy classroom we have access to a variety of learners with different experiences and backgrounds, and need to create opportunities that will help us access their backgrounds and celebrate our diversity, creating a classroom that truly represents our students and community. As we continue to build our relationship to our students, we are also responsible for presenting material in a way the can be applied to real life, or present day. By doing this we can raise student engagement and guide them in finding their own answers. This requires for students to have multiple opportunities to communicate and collaborate in order to construct knowledge learning through language and create real purpose for listening, where the focus is on listening for meaning (Gibbons, pg. 204). When students are working together to find the answers, the engage in a struggle, a struggle that potentially makes learning more memorable and will give students ownership over their education. (Jay Mctighe & Grant Wiggins, p. 3).
This leads me to what a biliteracy classroom should look like. If it is representing our students, it should proudly display student made projects and have walls that are filled with images and resources. Students desks should be arranged in groups for collaboration, and if possible offer 21st century seating. In the past student desks were typically arranged in rows all facing the same direction, all facing the teacher. The teacher in this format is the single most important person in the classroom, the beacon of knowledge positioned disperse wisdom onto their audience. By changing the arrangement, the focus moves to the groups, where the message is that students can gain knowledge from one another. The classroom is a place where students can learn and practice life skills that will allow them to gain confidence, and autonomy.
Freire, P. (2016). Literacy: reading the word and the world. Place of publication not identified: Routledge.
Gibbons, P. (2015). Scaffolding Language Scaffolding Learning: Teaching English Language Learners in the Mainstream Classroom. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann Publishing.
Wiggins, G. P., McTighe, J., Kiernan, L. J., Frost, F., & Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development. (1998). Understanding by design. Alexandria, Va: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.