The Perks and Perils of Peer Interaction: Creating a Classroom Where Linguistic and Social Aims Align

This month we published (Re)defining Success in Language Learning by Katie A. Bernstein. In this post the author explains the “double obligations” of peer interaction at school and how they can be turned into double opportunities.

Interaction is a critical part of learning a new language. It provides input in the new language, as well as chances to practice producing that language. For young language learners (emergent bilinguals), peer interaction is particularly important to this learning.

Peer interaction is also where young children construct their social worlds, navigating friendships and identities as students and playmates. For emergent bilingual students, peer interaction is therefore what Shoshana Blum-Kulka and colleagues (2004) called a “double opportunity space”: a place to learn language and a place to create social relationships.

But, as I explore in my new book, (Re)Defining Success in Language Learning, those double opportunities also mean double obligations. For young emergent bilinguals, it is impossible to only use peer interaction for language learning without simultaneously having to attend to the social consequences of those interactions.

The story of four-year-old Kritika, one of the students at the center of the book, illustrates the tensions this double obligation can produce. Kritika was a Nepali speaker learning English in a US prekindergarten. At the start of school, she quickly earned a classroom identity as a competent and authoritative playmate and student. (To find out exactly how she used all her communicative resources to do this, you’ll have to check out the book!) However, across the school year, Kritika made many fewer gains in vocabulary and syntax than some of her less socially and academically successful peers. I found that, for Kritika, the double obligation of peer interaction produced a double bind: Maintaining a social identity as a competent student and playmate was, as Philp and Duchesne (2008) put it, “at cross purposes” with taking the kinds of linguistic risks in interaction that support language learning.

Other researchers have also noticed this double-obligation at work. Rymes and Pash (2001) noted it for a first grader in their study, Rene, who was from Costa Rica and learning English in a US school. When Rene arrived in the school, he carefully mimicked his peers’ actions to establish a social identity as a competent student. But Rene then avoided wrestling productively with content or tricky language, so as not to “blow his cover”. Cekaite (2017) noticed a similar pattern with seven-year-old, Nok, a Thai speaker learning Swedish in school in Sweden. Nok was willing to take language risks with teachers but tried to stick to language she was confident using when talking with classmates. This strategy helped her look competent, but it also meant missing out on language learning.

What role do teachers play in creating this double bind? While teachers aren’t the only socializing force in classrooms, they are powerful shapers of the status quo. In Kritika’s classroom, her teachers often made comments connecting English to other social skills. For instance, one day, when a young emergent bilingual student named Maiya grabbed a toy from an English speaker, the teacher explained to the toy-snatching victim: ‘Maiya doesn’t speak English too good yet, so we’re gonna help her. Say, “Here, let’s share.”’ While the teacher likely meant to help the English speaker build patience and empathy for his peer, her comment also served to equate language learning with struggling socially.

So, how can teachers create classrooms where struggling with language learning doesn’t equal social and academic struggle, but is considered productive and positive?

Two ways to start:

1) Elevate the status of language learning and multilingualism: Talk about how special it is that emergent bilingual students are on their way to knowing two (or more) languages. Ask them to teach some of their languages to the class. Validate and praise students for taking linguistic risks – both emergent bilingual students and students who try out what their emergent bilingual peers are teaching the class.

2) Model productive language struggle: Work on learning the languages of the students in your class. If you already know the home language of most of your students (say, Spanish), work on learning other languages (Maya, Mam, Arabic, Somali). Model legitimate not-knowing. Model being OK with discomfort. Ask students for help. Make public mistakes and be publicly proud when those mistakes lead to learning.

It is within teachers’ power to create a classroom where peer interaction is truly a double opportunity and linguistic and social aims aren’t “at cross purposes.” Creating such a space is one key piece of supporting emergent bilingual students’ learning.

For more information about this book please see our website.

If you found this interesting, you might also like Using Linguistically Appropriate Practice by Roma Chumak-Horbatsch.

Behind the Books: Learning and Not Learning in the Heritage Language Classroom

Kimberly Adilia Helmer speaks about her new book Learning and Not Learning in the Heritage Language Classroom with Mark Amengual.

Learning and Not Learning in the Heritage Language Classroom is available now on our website. Enter the code BTB30 at the checkout to get 30% off!

Behind the Books: Dual Language Bilingual Education

Kathryn I. Henderson and Deborah K. Palmer have produced a series of videos for our Behind the Books series in which they discuss a variety of issues raised in their recently-published book Dual Language Bilingual Education, including critical consciousness in dual language bilingual education, tensions between bilingual education and monolingual accountability systems and multiple and contradictory ideologies in dual language. You can watch the first video below and the rest can be found in the Behind the Books playlist on our YouTube channel.

Dual Language Bilingual Education is available now on our website. Get 30% off with code BTB30.

Dual Language Bilingual Education Implementation in Unprecedented Times: Issues of Equity Amidst the Coronavirus Pandemic

This month we published Dual Language Bilingual Education by Kathryn I. Henderson and Deborah K. Palmer. In this post the authors discuss the effects that the COVID-19 pandemic is having on dual language bilingual education.

Weeks ago when we agreed to write this blog post, we knew we wanted to connect the core messages of our book about teachers implementing dual language bilingual education (DLBE), to current issues of equity and the role of the educator at their heart. In our book, we describe the shift of DLBE implementation in the United States from small-scale, often grass-roots efforts to large-scale, including state-led and district-led, initiatives as ‘unprecedented.’ We had no idea that the COVID-19 pandemic was going to take DLBE – and public education in general – into an entirely new and unprecedented time. Under the circumstances, it seems impossible for us to discuss anything but the new and very rapidly unrolling reality of shifting DLBE curriculum and instruction online on a massive scale, and the role of teachers in navigating this uncharted terrain. We will share three potential issues of equity in DLBE implementation that we believe are more important than ever in this new and shifting online terrain: a) ensuring access, b) centering marginalized students, and c) engaging a critically conscious curriculum.

Ensuring Access

Access to DLBE, including access to both programs themselves and to the curriculum in them, is always a central equity issue. The shift to distance learning magnifies this issue. How do we provide equitable education in an online medium under circumstances of extreme disparity of access to reliable internet and technology tools, potentially through languages not understood by adults in households? The educator is at the heart of this issue. Teachers and school leaders around the world are asking themselves as they struggle to reach families: Do all our students have access to reliable internet? What devices will they be working on? How much support will they have? How do we provide equitable access to technologies, resources, and support in all the languages our families require?

Centering Marginalized Students

The rapid increase in DLBE programs across the United States through new large scale initiatives has, in some cases, led to processes in which the linguistically and culturally diverse emerging bilingual students that these programs were designed to serve are no longer the focus. Scholars have dubbed this the ‘gentrification’ or ‘whitening’ of dual language. As educators grapple with transitioning to distance learning, this dynamic is more visible than ever: it is imperative that the choices we make online center our most vulnerable students, in terms of expectations upon students (and their families) for learning to use new tools and engage in new ways, requirements for internet access, and finding multiple ways to communicate with and support families. Educators are on the front lines: because teachers engage with children every day, they may be the first to learn which families have lost income, are not eligible for government assistance, and/or are isolated. They know which families are experiencing illness. Teachers are making sure to have resources at their fingertips so they can get them to families in need.

Arguably, as DLBE teachers in a time of crisis, our time and energy are our most valuable resource right now. Where is your time and energy being spent? Are you finding you are able to focus first on the basic needs and human rights of students who need it the most?

Engaging a Critically Conscious Curriculum

Who are we and who do we want to be? Do our community’s actions reflect generosity, compassion, and community well-being, or are some members of our community mired in selfishness, racism, or individualism? This historical moment brings this question – always present in DLBE schools – sharply into focus. Teachers in DLBE classrooms constantly balance the needs of families with vastly different backgrounds – racially, ethnically, linguistically, and socioeconomically. While all of our students may be experiencing stress, anxiety and a disruption to routines during this pandemic, some of our students’ families are likely struggling with much worse: food insecurity, homelessness, or a lack of healthcare. Addressing students’ and their families’ socioemotional and physical well-being must take precedence; it is unreasonable to expect any child to learn new math or reading skills in any language before these basic needs are met. Meanwhile, this moment has the potential to open up a space for deepening critical consciousness in our diverse classroom communities: the discomfort and vulnerability that even our most privileged families are feeling right now may actually support cross-linguistic, cross-cultural empathy, compassion, and critical listening. Perhaps in this moment of crisis, DLBE families can organize across difference to support one another.

In our book, we focus on teachers. We provide windows into different (actual) classrooms and the complex and multifaceted way teachers adopt, navigate, and implement DLBE in a top-down implementation context. During this crisis, we believe many of our central messages are the same – though they are certainly transformed into a new context and a heightened sense of urgency. Teachers are critical language-in-education policymakers who can engage in transformative pedagogy through centering the needs of culturally and linguistically diverse children and their families and adopting critical consciousness as a central goal. We believe more strongly than ever that this is a time to (re)invest and (re)commit to this transformative potential of DLBE. Hang in there, bi/multilingual maestr@s!

For more information about this book please see our website.

If you found this interesting, you might also like Teacher Leadership for Social Change in Bilingual and Bicultural Education by Deborah K. Palmer.

NABE 2020 in Las Vegas!

Laura receiving the NABE 2020 Exhibitor of the Year Award

I have just got back to the office from the 49th annual National Association of Bilingual Education (NABE) conference, which this year was held in glittering Las Vegas! The conference certainly got off to a sparkling start for Multilingual Matters as we were awarded the NABE Exhibitor of the Year award, which I was very excited to accept on behalf of the company at the ribbon-cutting opening ceremony. The ceremony had a bit of an Oscars/Grammys awards feel to it, as Elvis made an appearance! Fortunately, I kept my speech shorter than many heard at the Oscars! We are delighted to have been honoured with this award, having a long history of exhibiting at NABE and very much support the association’s mission of ‘advocating for educational equity and excellence for bilingual/multilingual students in a global society’.

View from Laura’s hotel at sunrise

The conference itself was a busy one and I was especially pleased at how many delegates seemed to find just the book they were looking for, to help them with their teaching, research or other work, at our stand. We are rare at the NABE conference in being an exhibitor presenting academic research to the delegates and it was nice that so many appreciated what we bring to the conference. Among the popular titles were Deborah K. Palmer’s book Teacher Leadership for Social Change in Bilingual and Bicultural Education, the 2nd edition of What Teachers Need to Know About Language by Carolyn Temple Adger, Catherine E. Snow and Donna Christian and our enduringly popular textbook Foundations of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism by Colin Baker and Wayne E. Wright. We’re hoping to get the 7th edition of this textbook out in time for NABE 2021, as it’s sure to be a big hit there. Next year’s conference is to be held in Houston, Texas and will be the 50th edition so with both our new textbook and NABE’s anniversary to celebrate, it’s sure to be a good one! We’re looking forward to it already!

Laura

The 1963 Coral Way Bilingual Program: Looking to the Past and Moving into the Future

This month we published The Coral Way Bilingual Program by Maria R. Coady. In this post the author explains how the book came together.

Among bilingual educators in the US, the name “Coral Way” is a virtual household word. Whenever scholars think about the start of dual language programs, they accurately cite the Coral Way School and its contributions to the field. Yet few know the real stories, people, and energy that went into opening the country’s first publicly funded dual language program – referred to in 1963 simply as “the bilingual program.” This book changes that.

In 2017, I began to read and revisit the early work by Dr. Richard Ruiz and Bess de Farber at the University of Arizona, who collected archival data and oral histories from former teachers, students, and “Cuban Aides” at Coral Way Elementary. An under-examined archive was housed there, but few in our field knew about it.

Coral Way School in 1963

Next I dug deep into archives that hadn’t yet been examined. I unearthed the sole dissertation on Coral Way students from 1968 by Dr. Mabel Richardson. I examined memos, notes, reports and grant applications archived in New York at the Rockefeller Dimes Archive Center on the Ford Foundation. I collected new oral histories from Coral Way teachers and students who participated in the program between 1961 and 1968. The story of Coral Way came more clearly into focus.

The journey I undertook led me across the US and Europe, to newspapers and obituaries, and to academic journals from the 1960s to today. I was astonished that the voices of our antecedents – our bilingual educator roots – remained virtually absent from current conversations, accomplishments, and challenges in bilingual education.

My goal in writing The Coral Way Bilingual Program was not only to document a legacy but, more importantly, to carry the stories of our past into the present and future. I hope this book is a start to connecting these places in time and to advancing our knowledge on behalf of bilingual and multilingual students and families.

 

For more information about this book please see our website.

If you found this interesting, you might also like Profiles of Dual Language Education in the 21st Century edited by M. Beatriz Arias and Molly Fee.

“As Diversity Grows, So Must We”: Teaching and Learning in the Multilingual Classroom

This month we published Using Linguistically Appropriate Practice: A Guide for Teaching in Multilingual Classrooms by Roma Chumak-Horbatsch. In this post the author tells us what to expect from the book.

“You can banish the mother tongue from the classroom – but you cannot banish it from students’ heads.” [1] 

Schools, early learning centres and educational programs worldwide are becoming increasingly language-rich. This means that learners in these contexts come from a variety of language backgrounds. It also means that many have little (or no) proficiency in the language of program or curriculum delivery. In response to this linguistic diversity, teachers are reviewing and rethinking their tried-and-true teaching strategies and asking the following questions:

  • What is the best way to teach learners from different language backgrounds?
  • I am not a language teacher. What do I do?
  • How do I communicate with silent newcomers?
  • How can I integrate them into the life of the classroom?
  • How can I help them learn the school language and participate in the curriculum?

This book directly addresses these questions and provides teachers with direction and concrete guidance. It builds on and extends the original Linguistically Appropriate Practice, or LAP[2], a multilingual teaching approach that upsets and challenges the traditional separation of languages, restores home languages to their rightful place as important language learning “allies”[3] and uses learners’ prior knowledge as a starting point in learning.

Here are the highlights of Using Linguistically Appropriate Practice: A Guide for Teaching in Multilingual Classroom.

  • Explains multilingual pedagogy, provides LAP basics and characterizes the LAP teacher
  • Helps readers better understand the theory-practice connection: a tree image (LAP Tree) is used to explain the link between multilingual practice and the language and learning theories that support this inclusive and open teaching approach.
  • Includes voices from the field: the numerous testimonials, journeys and classroom experiences of over 50 professionals (teachers-in-training, classroom teachers, special program teachers, school principals and a language consultant), working in language-rich schools and specialized programs in seven countries (Canada, Finland, Germany, India, Luxembourg, Iceland and Sweden) showcase how multilingual teaching plays out in real learning contexts
  • Invites teachers working in language-rich classrooms to rethink and review their current practice, shift their teaching from the local to the global and adopt Linguistically Appropriate Practice
  • Facilitates the adoption of multilingual pedagogy: the LAP guide is intended to help teachers identify, position and plan their multilingual work. Each of the six blocks of the guide includes “how to” suggestions and tips. Beginning with practice review and reflection, the LAP map guides teachers to retool their teaching, move away from monolingual practice and take the multilingual turn
  • Provides invaluable discussion about the following issues and challenges identified and raised by multilingual teachers: the “silent period”, a largely misunderstood and never-before explained behaviour of newcomer learners; engaging all children in the multilingual agenda; children’s unwillingness to use their home language in the classroom; understanding speakers of “little known” languages and partnering with families
  • Contains a treasure trove of resources: the book’s lists, websites, suggestions and ideas found in the Resources chapter and also in the Appendix will enrich and extend teachers’ multilingual agendas

This is an exciting time to be a teacher! The language richness found in schools is changing the way teaching and learning happen. It is a call for action, inviting teachers to review their current practice, discover the language richness of their learners, change their teaching direction, open their hearts and their doors to languages and transform their classrooms into multilingual hubs where the languages of all learners are seen, heard and included in the curriculum. Using Linguistically Appropriate Practice: A Guide for Teaching in Multilingual Classrooms is a teaching tool that will help teachers in this multilingual teaching adventure.

Share your multilingual journey with the author:

Roma Chumak-Horbatsch – rchumak@ryerson.ca

[1] Butzkamm, W. (2003). We only learn language once. The role of the mother tongue in FL classrooms: death of a dogma. Language Learning Journal, 28, 29-39.

[2] Chumak-Horbatsch. R. (2012). Linguistically Appropriate Practice: Working with Young Immigrant Children.  Toronto: University of Toronto Press.

[3] Butzkamm, W. (2003). We only learn language once. The role of the mother tongue in FL classrooms: death of a dogma. Language Learning Journal, 28, 29-39.

 

For more information about this book please see our website.

If you found this interesting, you might also like A Parents’ and Teachers’ Guide to Bilingualism by Colin Baker.

Dual Language Immersion Programs: The Importance of Maintaining Heritage Languages

This month we published Mandarin Chinese Dual Language Immersion Programs by Ko-Yin Sung and Hsiao-Mei Tsai. In this post Ko-Yin explains the motivation behind the book.

The state of Utah, where the research described in this book was conducted, is the most ambitious state in growing dual language immersion programs, and is seen by other states as a model. However, the Utah model receives criticisms such as that it targets primarily Caucasian students for the purpose of world language enrichment, rather than for minority students to maintain their heritage languages. For example, Delavan, Valdez, and Freire (2017) and Freire, Valdez, and Delavan (2016) found that the discourse in the policy documents and promotional materials were geared toward competitiveness in the global economy, which marginalized language minority students and drew attention away from heritage maintenance.

When I learned the researchers’ findings and saw the rapid speed of the state implementing foreign language immersion programs, it worried me. Maintaining one’s ethnic identity through their language and culture is essential to help heritage learners succeed in education and life. As a trained second language acquisition researcher, a former teacher of a Chinese two-way dual language immersion program, and a mother of three young heritage learners, I felt the need to use my professional knowledge and teaching experience to examine the rapidly implemented Chinese dual language programs in Utah. My former student, Hsiao-Mei Tsai, who has been a Chinese dual language teacher in Utah, was also interested in the research topic. Together we explored many aspects of the Utah Chinese programs in the book:

(1) Parents’, teachers’, and administrators’ perspectives toward the Chinese dual language immersion programs in Utah

(2) Teacher-teacher and teacher-parent collaboration

(3) Chinese dual language immersion teachers’ teaching identities

(4) Chinese language learning strategies

(5) Learning Chinese characters through the chunking method

(6) Oral interactions between a teacher and her students

(7) Emergent bilinguals’ daily translanguaging practice

We hope that the publication of this research book, which was conducted in the rarely investigated, but quickly growing foreign language immersion programs, sends an invitational message to all bilingual education researchers to focus their attention and effort toward the research needs of the newly developed programs.

Ko-Yin Sung

References

Delavan, M.G., Valdez, V.E. and Freire, J.A. (2017) Language as whose resource?: When global economics usurp the local equity potentials of dual language education. International Multilingual Research Journal, 11(2), 86-100.

Freire, J.A., Valdez, V.E. and Delavan, M.G. (2016) The (dis) inclusion of Latina/o interests from Utah’s dual language education boom. Journal of Latinos and Education, 16, 1-14.

 

For more information about this book please see our website.

If you found this interesting, you might also like Teacher Leadership for Social Change in Bilingual and Bicultural Education by Deborah K. Palmer.

Language Management in European Education Systems

We recently published Multilingualism in European Language Education edited by Cecilio Lapresta-Rey and Ángel Huguet. In this post Cecilio reflects on the inspiration behind the book.

I remember very clearly the day I met professor Ángel Huguet in a small town near Lleida (Catalonia – Spain). After coffee and an intense conversation, I joined his research group, venturing in the study of bilingual education models and multilingual management in different Spanish territories.

That coffee talk was followed by many others, but also led to an ongoing process of branching out to other contexts, thanks to research stays abroad, and hosting researchers from many regions of Europe and the rest of the world.

This was the background that pushed us to conduct a symposium titled “Managing Multilingualism in European Schools”, which brought up some questions that may seem basic yet are so important and complex to answer, such as ‘What are the differences and similarities in language management in Andorra, Asturias, the Basque Country, Catalonia, England, Finland, France, Latvia, The Netherlands and Romania?’ and ‘What are the historical, political, sociolinguistic and legislative reasons behind them?

The success of this meeting gave us the encouragement to continue further, aware that this topic was relevant enough to extend the information to many more people.

Therefore, we have put together this volume Multilingualism in European Language Education. In its chapters, renowned experts tackle language management in the educational systems of several European regions. Furthermore, historical, political, sociolinguistic and legislative factors are included for a comprehensive understanding.

Consequently, this book combines an in-depth analysis of each territory with a broader general overview of the whole, resulting in an excellent resource for anyone interested in the topic, and highly useful for professionals in the scientific, educational and linguistic domains.

That, at least, is my wish.

 

For more information about this book please see our website.

If you found this interesting, you might also like Bilingual and Multilingual Education in the 21st Century edited by Christian Abello-Contesse, Paul M. Chandler, María Dolores López-Jiménez and Rubén Chacón-Beltrán.

The National Institute of Education, Sri Lanka

We were recently approached by the Director of Bilingual Education for Sri Lanka’s National Institute of Education, G. H. Asoka, with a request to donate some textbooks to them for use in teacher development courses on bilingual education. In this post the Director tells us a bit about the National Institute of Education and how the books we’ve donated will be used.

Sri Lanka’s National Institute of Education (NIE) is the apex body of developing curriculum of Sri Lankan general education. Its role consists of four tasks: advising the Minister of Education in any succeeded government, teacher development, curriculum development and educational research. The department offers services on bilingual education and foreign languages addressing these four areas.

The books donated by Multilingual Matters will be used in the teacher development courses on bilingual education initiated islandwide and several will be kept in the library of the Institute and for the use of the Department of Foreign Languages and Bilingual Education.

The NIE is a national service with links at international level too. As the Director of Bilingual Education, I am responsible for these four tasks in line with bilingual education in addition to National Curriculum Development in general education.

There are different types of projects run under different educational disciplines. In 2019 the projects being run with regard to bilingual education are as follows:

  1. Action research programme with 40 researchers in 2019 islandwide
  2. Trainer-trainer programme on CLIL
  3. Awareness programmes for different stakeholders such as parents, principals, ISAs, teachers, directors and other stakeholders of education
  4. Five research reports on learning in bilingual education
  5. One research report on pre-service teacher development in bilingual education
  6. School and cluster based bilingual education programme islandwide
  7. Handbook on Sri Lankan CLIL
  8. Teacher Moderator Manual on CLIL
  9. Research conference in the Eastern province on Bilingual Education
  10. National Curriculum Framework on bilingual education
  11. Publishing the research journal
  12. Reviewing articles in international journals

We’re pleased to be contributing to the important work the National Institute of Education does and hope the books we’ve donated will prove useful.