Happy Summer (to those of you already on break)! We just got out 3 hours ago and I am already loving life just a bit more! Thus far I have posted lots of ideas and tips that I have, but I haven't really given a true explanation of my classroom. I was invited by Candis at I Teach Dual Language to join a Linky Party of dual language/bilingual teachers. While I don't teach in a pure dual language class, my class demographics and my teaching style draw many similarities. Anyway, here's a look into my wonderful bilingual class!
Like I said, I don't teach dual language; instead, I teach a multiage bilingual class. We follow the Transitional Bilingual Instruction model, which means that in my district we teach exclusively in Spanish for the first two years (kinder and first grade) and then teach half of second grade in Spanish and half transitioning into English. At this time we don't have a third grade bilingual class in my building, so students are then mainstreamed with additional push-in ELL support. So for me, I teach first grade with essentially a 90/10 Spanish to English ratio, and second grade with 50/50 ratio.
Many people ask me how I can run two different grades with different language requirements at the same time in one room; the easy answer: with lots of help. I have an absolutely incredible paraprofessional in my room (shout out, Arenia!) who helps with the craziness of having two separate grades in one room. Also, I utilize a lot of centers and small group work in order to rotate around students and divide my time evenly. As far as the breakdown of dual language instruction, it looks something like this:
- Literacy Instruction - 1 hour in the morning in Spanish, but switches to English for the second graders in January. This is specifically used to teach new information through direct instruction and group discussion. I teach the first and second graders separately (with lots of help from my beautiful assistant :)This is the time where I introduce our guide story, teach new phonics and grammar skills, and work on modeling writing techniques.
- Literacy Centers - 1 hour in the morning in Spanish (again in English for 2nd grade come January). Students rotate through centers (we use the Daily Five) while I run my guided reading groups. My centers groups are not ability grouped, but my guided reading groups are. This means that I pull one student from each center when I do guided reading. This helps so that the students all get to work together in center time.
- Math - An hour and half or so in the afternoon. This is also taught in Spanish and is separated between first and second graders since the math curricula are so different between the two grade levels (i.e. first grade learning subtraction fact families while second grade is doing multiplication arrays). Second grade transitions to English math around March. (The time between January and March is heavily focused on connecting cognates to help bridge the Spanish to English transition)
- Science/Social Studies - A little over an hour in the afternoon in English and Spanish. I use a huge focus on cognates to teach my science and social studies curriculum. So many of the words in these subject areas are similar between the two languages, so this is a wonderful opportunity to introduce English vocabulary, make connections, and incorporate English literature that connects to our topics of study. I teach science and social studies together as one big group. I rotate through the two grade level curricula every other year, so every set of students learn both grade level materials, but not necessarily in the same order.
While I am sad that my students don't have the opportunity to continue with Spanish dual instruction beyond my second grade class, I do see the immense benefits of bilingual/dual language instruction in the three short years they have it. First of all, setting the foundations of literacy in the students' native language (Spanish) is so immensely important. Reading is so phonetic in Spanish, not to mention it happens to be the language my students think in and speak, so it's easier to learn to read. By the time I begin teaching English literacy, my students have such a strong foundation in Spanish literacy that they just breeze right into English. I love when the students shout out, "That's a cognate" or, "Hey, that's the same/that's different that in Spanish!" I know some people worry that two languages will confuse children, but I can tell you first hand that bilingual instruction is a blessing that all children should have the opportunity to experience.I know that my students will have so many more opportunities in life, for jobs, for travel, for friendships, and for cultural understanding because of their bilingual education. Skeptics are and always will be a challenge, but my students are the proof that there is nothing better than being bilingual!