Saturday, April 9, 2016

Teaching Multilingual Children

“Teachers must be creative and flexible, serve as a catalyst for discovery as students learn to operate effectively in their multiple worlds, be able to mediate and resolve intercultural conflicts, keep students on task, and serve as a support base”

Virginia Collier discusses the best strategies to help teachers with ESL and multilingual students, while addressing major issues within the schools when it comes to ESL.  This chapter outlines 7 ways to help better teach ESL.

  1. Be aware that children use first language acquisition strategies for learning or acquiring a second language.
  2. Do not think of yourself as a remedial teacher expected to correct so called “deficiencies” of your students.
  3. Don’t teach a second language in any way that challenges or seeks to eliminate the first language.
  4. Teach the standard form of English and students’ home language together with an appreciation of dialect differences to create an environment of language recognition in the classroom.
  5. Do not forbid young students from code-switching in the classroom. Understand the functions that code-switching serves.
  6. Provide a literacy development curriculum that is specifically designed for English language learners.
  7. Provide a balanced and integrated approach to the four language skills: listening, speaking, reading, and writing.

Reading this article, I was imagining Delpit being a big advocator for this topic. Her theory of the rules and code of culture of power in relation to teaching ESL is striking.  She wrote, “I believe in a diversity of style, and I believe the world will be diminished if cultural diversity is ever obliterated. Further, I believe strongly…that each cultural group should have the right to maintain it’s own language style” (Delpit, 39). It’s important for students to have an integrated learning experience when learning ESL because their first language is a part of who they are, they family, and their culture. It would be tragic to lose that because as Collier wrote “eradication has been tried and prove to be effective only to turn off students from schooling” (227).

Vaccaro, August, and Kennedy brought us the concept of incubators and outcubators (Safe Places, 84). I feel that the outcubator, where schools are a place that students learn new behaviors and ideas outside of their homes should incorporate some of their own culture.

Someone that I know had told me a story that I was reminded of when reading this article.  His first language was Portuguese and the majority of his family only spoke Portuguese.  He was not taught any English in the house and when he began schooling he was held back a grade because he struggled to learn the language. He began to get angry and embarrassed for being kept back a grade. He told me that when he became proficient in English he refused to speak any Portuguese. He hated the language and was angry that his family only spoke Portuguese. It took him a few years before he began to speak his family’s language but it had been a serious obstacle in his life.  I thought about what it would have been like if he had a teacher that followed colliers rules. Would he have had the same experience? Probably not…


  1. Your connection to the Portuguese student really resonates with me. Even at my school--where the majority of our students are Hispanic--we have a lot to learn about how to more transparently value students' home language. Often, at school events, Spanish translations are an afterthought. I have seen students appear visibly embarrassed by their Spanish-speaking parents. I wonder how much more empowered students would feel if bilingualism was seen as an asset, rather than an obstacle.

  2. I loved the ESL with the flags in it. I also agree that Bilingualism is probably the best way to teach, money always figures into this equation. Consider of class of 24 students, 16 who are literate in Spanish, 4 who only speak spanish and an indigenous dialect , 2 who speak Portuguese, 1 who is literate in French, and one who speaks arabic. Now you need to print at least four or five texts for each subject with translations. That runs into a lot of extra money, not to mention, how long do you speak each of the five different languages or dialects so as to keep it fair for everyone. This was what I had to do last year. It's not easy, and yes you really have to be very flexible.

  3. That's a very interesting story about your friend who spoke Portuguese. I can totally see how he would feel like that- a five year old child whose family speaks Hindu at home (and is constantly asking why he is not making progress in English) has a lot of trouble at school with English. You can see how badly he wants to fit in with children speaking English during play, but because the children can't understand him, it sometimes causes interaction issues. I'm sure this child probably feels, or will in the future, similar to your friend.

  4. Bethany, I enjoy reading your blog each week as you always do an awesome job making connection to past articles and authors. I agree with you that is important to have an integrated learning experience and like Collier said eradication turns students away from school. Why would a student want to go to school if who they are is not validated and they are forced to lose a part of themselves from the hours of 8-2.

  5. I love that you connected this reading to Delpit. I did also and it's an interesting take when you compare Delpit's idea of "cultural diversity" to how ELL feel and learn.