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Global Education

Three Ways to Integrate Global Themes into Your Dual Language Program

The most successful dual language (DL) programs are those that have demonstrated a clear commitment to not only biliteracy and bilingualism but also to intercultural competence. In these programs, language learning becomes a tool through which students are taught to become active contributors to the world and not merely observers of it.

When we invited Participate Learning ambassadors Yanela Ferrer and Flor Guida to share their strategies for building intercultural competence in their Spanish DL classrooms during the September United We Teach LIVE session, they both emphasized the following point—in addition to Spanish language proficiency, another important part of their end goal is teaching students how they can use their language skills to make the world a better place. To this end, they both bring the outside world into their classrooms on a daily basis by incorporating global themes and issues into their instruction. Let’s take a look at a few of the dual language and global strategies they mentioned during their presentation.

1. Harness the power of students’ natural desire to help and contribute to increase their engagement with both the language and the global aspects of a dual language classroom.

Student engagement is key in any education environment, including in DL classrooms, as students build proficiency and confidence in the target language. In a dual language program, students learn most of their academic content in the target language. In a DL program that also emphasizes intercultural competence, students will also use the target language to learn about current events, the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and other cultures.

Both Flor and Yanela believe that student engagement is organic when you ignite their desire to make the world a better place. Below are a few tips they shared for tapping into this and keeping students engaged:

  • Encourage healthy debate. Promote discussion by assigning sides/perspectives on a controversial issue.
  • Change the scenery. Get out into the real world and move around. Using the target language, have students talk about what they observe.
  • Make it personal. Have students connect global issues to their local communities and develop campaigns to tackle problems and challenges in their cities, towns, and neighborhoods.

Take a listen here to how Flor approaches real-world learning in her language classroom.

2. Incorporate global issues and current events into your language and academic instruction.

Incorporating global topics into your DL classroom is an important strategy to make students feel confident about their language and academic skills. Flor and Yanela use the global framework of the Sustainable Development Goals as the lens through which they teach language and content. This global structure also opens students’ minds to perspectives and cultures throughout the world and greatly enriches their classroom experience. Integrating these topics can be challenging, but it ultimately enhances student understanding and makes them feel like empowered global citizens. Below are a few practical ideas from Flor and Yanela:

  • Model global competencies in the classroom. Remind students that the classroom is a little society. The rules and expectations for the classroom provide them with tools, such as kindness and empathy, that are key to global citizenship.
  • Approach your planning with a global framework in mind. Always think about how to connect curriculum objectives to the real world. In reading, for example, DL teachers can choose material that connects to global issues and the SDGs. (Flor recommends short biographies like this one about Malala Yousafzai.)
  • Recognize and celebrate important dates. Use a classroom calendar and make note of holidays that connect with global topics, such as International Women’s Day (March 8) or any of the other international days identified by the United Nations.

Take a listen here to what drives Flor to integrate global issues into her secondary language classroom.

3. Commit to life-long learning and to seeking out, creating, and using new resources that will support the integration of global themes into your dual language classroom.

Both Flor and Yanela rely on professional development opportunities and continued learning to ensure they are providing rich global education for their students. Here are some of their recommendations on helpful tools for teaching a global framework:

Students in dual language classrooms are empowered when they have opportunities to use their second language skills in relevant ways. Integrating global themes into language and academic instruction allows them to develop as global citizens and gives them the tools they need to become changemakers in their communities and beyond.

At Participate Learning, we are committed to ensuring equitable access to quality programming for students that supports their academic success and development as global leaders. If you are interested in learning more about our dual language programs, check out our webpage and contact us.

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