Celebrating the Bilingual Children in Your Classroom

October is “Celebrate the Bilingual Child Month”

October is Celebrating the Bilingual Child Month! To mark the occasion, we wanted to explore some of the approaches and strategies you can take to honor the bilingual students in your classroom.

It’s easy to focus on the challenges that bilingual children bring to the classroom, such as the increased need for differentiation. But this month is all about celebrating the strengths of bilingual children, and the unique, powerful contributions they bring to your learning community — such as fresh perspectives, exposure to new languages for your monolingual students, and remarkable resilience.

This October, focus on honoring and celebrating the bilingual children in your learning community in the following ways:

Create/provide culturally sensitive assessment and content

It’s important to consider a child’s culture — specifically, in how it guides and shapes their perspective and awareness of the world — when creating or selecting learning content and assessments. Something that may feel familiar to you, as an educator, might not be familiar to a child, which could influence their recorded learning outcome without accurately representing what they know. For example, a word problem in mathematics could be based on a scenario completely foreign to a student, and while they are perfectly capable of the mathematics, the context could cause them to miss the problem. Being mindful of cultural differences can be challenging, but it will make a world of difference for your students.

Engage their families in your learning community

Many bilingual students and/or English Learners may have monolingual parents who aren’t fluent in English. One of the best ways to guarantee full student engagement is to also secure parent engagement. Make sure to include parents in school communications by providing notes and announcements in multiple languages (even if your translation isn’t perfect — it’s the effort and the message that makes a difference). You can also host evening events for parents to get involved in their student’s learning, and use technology to overcome barriers. Find more on the subject in our piece from 2016: 5 Ways Teachers Can Make Learning Communities Accessible for English Learners

Provide opportunities to showcase linguistic abilities

If you have students who struggle with English fluency (or other academic subjects, for that matter) be sure to give them opportunities to take pride in their special linguistic abilities. That’s what this month is all about — reminding these children that their ability to communicate with people across the world is remarkable, important, and potentially influential on a global scale. Remind your class of the importance of international communication, collaboration, and connections. In some cases, language can carry social stigma, and students respond with social tension. Celebrate your students with this remarkable ability, and encourage them to foster it, never to hide it.

In the case of English Learners, maintain high academic standards

For the English Learners in your classroom, remember to always maintain high academic standards. These students need educators who believe in their ability to succeed, and recognize their language skills to be a work in progress, not a sign of a lack of intelligence. One of the best ways to communicate to your English Learners that you believe in their academic capabilities is to maintain high standards. ELs should be adequately prepared for high-stakes testing, encourages to try new things in academia, and empowered to always do their personal best, in every subject.

Provide materials available in multiple languages

Another way to celebrate bilingual students is to give them opportunities to practice academic skills and engage in learning activities in multiple languages. Allow them to chose free reads in a language they feel comfortable with, and when possible, provide instructional materials in alternate languages. By doing so, you’ll give your bilingual students an opportunity to practice a language with which they want to improve, or explore new academic content in a familiar language.

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