Biliteracy Instruction: Awareness & Acceptance

An environment of emergent bilinguals is creation of a lifetime path of awareness and acceptance. This awareness becomes real in a classroom with biliteracy instruction because in that environment we accept students’ diverse backgrounds. What is learned through biliteracy instructions sets a generation of emergent bilinguals who appreciate language differences. I want these differences to be recognized as an opportunity to learn.

Biliteracy instructions begins with acceptance of all languages. The level of oral academic language is not a difference to unwelcome from students. Students who carry a background of Spanish and English knowledge are in a constant relationship between languages to collect meaning during biliteracy instruction. Therefore, when a student expresses their thinking in the language that is not the target language or up to the academic level, we should not disregard it. There’s value in author Mora’s theory of cross-language transfer because it accepts students’ backgrounds for learning success, “This theory posits that knowledge is transferred from the learners’ first language into the performance of cognitive and linguistic tasks in the second language” (Mora, 2016, p. 128). This theory has become a part of my biliteracy instruction ideology because it the repeals the common underlying rule of dual language schools: switch to English only or switch to Spanish only. I strongly believe that an emergent learner cannot simply disregard a language at a point in time because at this theory suggests, the first language develops the cognitive performance development of the second language. I want an environment in which students can express their thinking in their first language when they have yet to be exposed to the academic linguistics necessary. Until that occurs, then I will be able to check for understanding with a response in the second language for the student to make the language connections.

In addition to developing an environment of awareness where we accept students’ diverse backgrounds, I believe that students’ experiences play an essential role in learning additional content in biliteracy instruction. Students make sense of content by using the words they know and are accustomed to; whether it’s using formal or informal language. As Bennan and Urow state, “[Students] use this social, informal, and regional language along with their previous experiences in effective ways to make sense of what they are studying in the classroom and the world around them” (Beeman & Urow, 2013, p. 79). For biliteracy instruction to be successful in the classroom, teachers must validate and respond when students use informal, social, or regional language. The purpose is to include academic language in the response for the student think about the content in the formal language. Therefore, the student has meaning of content in regional, social, informal language and has been exposed to the formal language of content as well.

My ideology for biliteracy instruction is all about awareness and acceptance. I believe in an environment where we recognize the diversity of backgrounds that will develop a generation of bilinguals who will value language differences because there is always something to learn in another language.

Beeman, K., & Urow, C. (2013). Teaching for Biliteracy: Strengthening Bridges between Languages. Philidelphia, PA: Caslon Inc. Publishing.

Kerper Mora, J. (2016). Spanish Language Pedagogy for Biliteracy Programs. San Diego, CA: Montezuma Publishing.