Celebrating and Supporting Bilingual Students

It’s Celebrate the Bilingual Child Month!

October is Celebrate the Bilingual Child Month, which marks a perfect time to consider how you can empower, support, and celebrate the English Learners (ELs) in your classroom, school, or district.

English Learners face a different set of challenges than other students, and also bring a unique set of strengths to their learning communities. This requires that educators provide them with supports tailored to their specific challenges while also finding and capitalizing on opportunities to celebrate English Learners’ accomplishments, especially those that might otherwise go unnoticed.

Here are just a few ways educators can both celebrate bilingual, dual language, and EL students throughout Celebrate the Bilingual Child Month:

Create a welcoming classroom environment

Welcoming classroom environments are critical in empowering any student to learn and grow. There’s even research to show that welcoming each student at the door can increase engagement and reduce disruptive behavior. But when students are also faced with linguistic and potential cultural barriers, ensuring that each student knows that the classroom is a place where they are welcomed, celebrated, and encouraged is even more important. This resource from the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) focuses specifically on strategies for welcoming dual language learners:

Explore culturally responsive instruction

You can both celebrate and support your English learners, bilingual students, and dual language students through culturally responsive instruction. If you are new to culturally responsive instruction, then you could explore advocating for increased professional learning opportunities within your district, or do some reading on your own. If you’ve been implementing culturally responsive teaching practices for some time now, then perhaps you could work to refine your practice specific to the needs of your EL students, by celebrating their cultures in a meaningful way, or taking a second look at the cultural responsiveness of various assessments you give EL students. But those are just two small examples — find more strategies here:

Provide social and emotional instruction tailored to their needs

Just like a welcoming classroom environment, social and emotional supports are a critical component of any student’s learning experience. But not all students have the same social and emotional needs, and not each will require the same instruction or approach. In this resource, exports in social and emotional learning, learning science, and EL instruction sit down to discuss the appropriate SEL supports for English Learners, including migrant students who have undergone trauma.

Celebrate and formally acknowledge their accomplishments:

You may have already heard of the Seal of Biliteracy, a formal recognition of students who, by the time of graduation, are proficient in two or more languages. You can see if your state has an approved seal in the link below. The seal is an excellent way to formally recognize and celebrate the accomplishments of your EL, bilingual, and dual language students, but there are many other ways to reinforce the importance of the skills these students have. These acknowledgements can be smaller, interspersed throughout a student’s academic career or school day rather than formal and upon completion of their education, but are important to maintain, especially when those accomplishments may otherwise be overlooked.

Pursue professional learning opportunities

While there is still so much more to learn about how we can sufficiently provide English Learners with the academic, social and emotional supports they need to thrive in a PreK-12 environment, it’s crucial for these students that each of their educators is fully knowledgeable and trained in the information and best practices that are available. As a classroom teacher, it’s important to advocate for and pursue the professional learning opportunities you feel will address your questions and uncertainties in EL instruction. In the case of district leaders, it’s important to have an understanding of your teachers’ learning needs in tandem with your EL’s needs, so that you can provide opportunities for educators to fill their knowledge gaps and serve ELs with confidence. For more on the state of professional learning and EL instruction, see:

We hope that Celebrate the Bilingual Child Month is an empowering, celebratory, and informative time for you and your students. For further reading on the observance, we recommend the following: