Back to {Bilingual} School

{Photo by: Phil Roeder}

Editor’s note: We’re dedicating this whole week to Back to {Bilingual} School. We have a variety of posts that we hope will make the transition easier regardless of what your kids’ schooling situation is. We hope you come back all week to read the posts by our amazing guests and to enter the awesome giveaways we’ve put together for you!  Today´s post is must-read advice from a dual language program.

Every Fall, monolingual parents ask me how they can support their children in learning their second language in our Dual Language program.  I always give them the same answer, “Give them all of the support you can in their first language and don’t worry about their second.”  I know that this is hard for anxious parents who want to see “results” in their child’s second language learning, but I believe my own advice as the parent of Dual Language 2nd grader and as a Dual Language Spanish kindergarten teacher.

Back to {Bilingual} SchoolChildren have an intuitive sense of the utility of language.  They use it when they have to.  Dual Language programs work because the child must speak the language.  In a Dual Language classroom, the child can only speak the target language, the teacher is the expert and in their eyes the authority, students are given strategies to communicate if they don’t speak the language (gesture, point, try to say it or get a friend to translate) and the entire class operates in that language. Now, that, is a good reason to learn and attempt to produce in your second language. The children buy into it.  Attempt to duplicate that in a contrived situation and they don’t go for it.

It is also for this reason that children do well in foreign countries in a true immersion situation.  They have no choice but to learn the new language and attempt to produce in that language.
A quality Dual Language program knows how to build on transferability.  When students are strong in skills, vocabulary and oral language in their first language, this all transfers into the language they are learning.  Teachers will draw out the child’s prior knowledge, explicitly name that knowledge in the context of the academic content and then efficiently explain what it looks like and how it works in the second language.

All of the read-alouds, travel with family, counting, drawing and writing you have done at home will pay off in their second language classroom.  The teacher will simply name all of that knowledge and experience in the second language and help your child make connections.

Send your beautiful child off to their Dual Language program. Enjoy their academic achievement in their first language and their acquisition of their second. Carry on as usual at home and consider yourself lucky that your child is part of a movement toward global citizenship!

Angelina Sáenz , M.Ed. is the lead teacher for the Aldama Elementary Dual Language Program in LAUSD. She has taught Spanish kindergarten for the last four years. She has specialized training in Guided Language Acquisition, the Columbia University Teacher’s College Reading and Writing Project, Cognitive Guided Instruction in Math and Early Childhood education. Dual Language programs are her hope for a democratic and peaceful future.

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