Five Strategies to Support Language Learners in the Classroom
Did you know that Participate Learning partners with more than 80 schools to implement dual language programs? These programs provide students with immersive instruction from native speakers of Spanish and Mandarin. Dual language education is an opportunity that enriches students’ minds and their futures.
Dual language programs are at the heart of our work to unite our world through global learning. We believe that students thrive while learning about other cultures, languages, and people. Dual language educators provide students inclusive learning opportunities to challenge and inspire them. Nurturing these students as they develop into bilingual, confident problem-solvers is just the beginning.
Here are five simple, authentic strategies to support language learners in the dual language classroom.
1. Establish a welcoming learning community.
Involve your students in creating a set of classroom rules and guidelines that they all sign off on at the beginning of each school year. When students play a part in establishing and agreeing to the rules of the classroom, there will be more ownership and therefore more collective buy-in of those rules. And don’t worry if you didn’t make this at the beginning of the year—you can initiate classroom rules at any time and make edits throughout the year as you see fit!
While students can suggest different expectations, make sure to include points about acceptance of various cultures, beliefs, and values that might be important for a student’s background and identity. For younger students, you can also use morning meeting time to refer back to the classroom rules to remind students each day of how they can approach their classmates with respect and inclusion. Students who feel welcome and included in their classroom are more likely to achieve academically and socially.
2. Make learning accessible through a wide range of activities.
Students learn best when they have access to a selection of multimodal learning activities throughout the day. Some types of activities to consider incorporating are lectures, multimedia activities, small group work, short answer questions, discussions, and projects. With various senses being stimulated through auditory, visual, and kinesthetic learning, students are more likely to retain subject knowledge and the target language in the long term.
By providing variety throughout the day, you are also making your classroom more accessible to students with learning differences who might struggle with particular styles of learning such as auditory, lecture-based settings. This strategy can build confidence in students and will make them more likely to want to participate and contribute to larger group discussions.
3. Frame diversity as a strength.
Modeling a positive outlook toward diversity is great in any classroom. It can be especially helpful in dual language classrooms to help students understand the beauty of working together when everyone has different abilities. Diversity can appear in many ways in students, including through language, culture, age, socioeconomic status, race, ethnicity, and developmental level. By treating each of your students as competent and capable learners with unique abilities, you are acting as a role model for your students in how they should view each other’s special attributes that make them who they are.
By instilling in your students the belief that diversity is a strength, you are preparing them to be active global citizens outside of school and in their communities. They will be curious and empathetic toward others and gain critical communication skills that help them build cross-cultural relationships in all facets of their lives.
4. Incorporate creativity and movement through music.
Music is an engaging and fun way to learn about other languages and cultures in the classroom. It activates other areas of the brain that traditional lessons don’t always touch, and it helps in storing concepts in the long-term memory of students. When you think back to your childhood, can you still remember certain lyrics to your favorite songs?
You can also use music as an opportunity for students to move their bodies and get their blood flowing through dance. By intentionally using this time as a break from sitting, students will be able to focus better for the rest of the day and get in touch with their creative side. When exploring new music, students are also gaining a better understanding and appreciation of the cultures that speak the target language.
5. Communicate regularly with families.
Learning a new language is a challenging but rewarding undertaking. By finding ways to get family members involved in the learning process, students can continue their progress from home and feel excited to share new skills outside of school. Sending home newsletters, vocabulary words, or interactive videos can prompt conversation between language learners and their families about what they are learning at school. When providing materials, meet family members where they are at and be mindful of what communications might suit their needs best.
This strategy can also serve as a great way to start discussions between families and teachers to identify areas of growth for students. When students are receiving similar feedback and support at school and at home, they have a new opportunity to grow in their social and emotional skills as well as in their language learning in different settings.
At Participate Learning, our mission is to unite our world through global learning by implementing global education and dual language programs in our partner schools and districts. For more information about our dual language model, visit this webpage or contact us. Click here to learn more about the benefits of the bilingual brain.