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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.
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!