Creating a Bilingual Classroom

by Rachel Stepp

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Do you have a classroom with students that speak a native language other than English? Most schools have programs for these students where they are pulled out of the classroom several times a day in order to learn English. You can help these students, and educate your other students, by creating a bilingual environment in your general classroom.

Label Your Environment:

In your classroom, you probably have simple things such as “book bags,” “paints” and “computers” labeled in English. Why not put a label next to that one in another language, such as Spanish? This is simple and will create a bilingual, text-rich classroom where students will be able to explore the sounds and spellings of words in other languages.

If you have a calendar time each day, label your calendar (days of the week and months of the year) in Spanish as well as English. Teach your children the Spanish version of the “Days of the Week” song.

Language Lessons:

Teach your students basic words and phrases in an alternate lesson and use those words on a frequent basis. Spend about 15-20 minutes once a week teaching your students new words in an unfamiliar language. You can teach them commands such as “Look at me!” and “Sit down!” so that you can use the phrases on a daily basis. You do not have to become the foreign language teacher, but you can spend a few minutes enriching your students.

Ways to Impact all of your Students:

These activities will not only be beneficial for your ESOL students, but it will also enrich your native English speakers. Talk about different cultures and diversity in your classroom. Allow students to bring in artifacts and share traditions about their families’ cultures. For the native Spanish speaker in your class, this will help them realize that their culture is important and that while learning English, they should work to preserve their native language and culture.

These ideas are just the beginning to enriching your classroom culture. If you are nervous about bringing another language into your classroom or if you need help translating something, ask your school’s ESOL teacher to help you. The ESOL teacher can also help you translate letters and announcements for parents. Embracing your community’s cultures will help to bring everyone together in a society where students are encouraged to be proud of their heritage.

Rachel Stepp is a graduate student at The University of Georgia and a regular contributor to A Learning Experience. Lucky us!



Filed under Classroom Community, Cooperative Learning, Multicultural Community

5 responses to “Creating a Bilingual Classroom

  1. Jennifer Nuss

    Having pictures with vocabulary also help a lot. This gives them a visual to look at to determine meaning as well.

  2. Connie Wiley

    This year I have students from Vietnam, Mexico, Romania, Colombia, and Austria. These students speak two languages. I love to incorporate different cultural activites within my lessons. All of my students enjoy learning about other countries and cultures. Like Rachael, I also feel this brings our community together.

  3. Susan

    We also use flash cards and ply a lot of bilingual music and videos have helped my children learn different langauges.

  4. Peggy Hernandez

    I agree with Rachel that by embracing the different cultures in your class, it brings the community together. I think another great idea is to have an International Night. This is where parents and children can dress in their native clothing, bring native food for others to taste, and set up a table with artifacts from their native country. We have done this at our school and it is a great community builder!

  5. ecossick

    Great thoughts and ideas! Connie Wiley is our random comment winner for last week. A $20 School Box Gift Card is coming your way, Connie!