6) How can I support bilingualism in the context of a dual language or bilingual classroom?
In addition to the effective language and literacy strategies presented in Questions 4 and 5, teachers in dual language or bilingual classrooms must be strategic in their use of the two languages. To do so involves promoting home language development, as well as English, with the goal of developing proficiency in both languages. Exposing children to both languages in early education settings can help them experience the benefits of being bilingual, including cognitive, social-emotional, and linguistic advantages.36 Research shows positive effects of instructing Multilingual Learners (MLs) in two languages on their skills in each language, as well as other learning domains.37 In fact, evidence also shows that fostering the home language supports the development of English—often called cross-language transfer.38
Learning in dual language / bilingual classrooms builds upon what children know and have learned in one language to support high levels of learning in the other language, and vice versa.39 It is not teaching the same thing in two different languages, but rather providing strategically coordinated and aligned instruction in both languages with language-specific scope and sequence. Content is integrated with language and literacy development and is used as a bridge across languages. In dual language programs, teachers can provide and promote opportunities for active bilingualism, biculturalism, and building sociocultural competency. Bilingualism should be actively celebrated and promoted, and teachers should provide extra support and affirmation for languages other than English. It is important to provide language-choice time where children can determine which language (or mix of languages) they wish to use for expression. The guidance below can be followed in the context of different dual language and bilingual models to promote home language and English language development.
Individual strategies across the different instructional topics are interconnected and should be implemented together, in a purposeful and connected manner throughout instruction, and not in isolation. Make sure to also consider your classroom or school’s language model when implementing the strategies and adapt accordingly.