5 Tips for Using Bilingual Books in the Classroom & Home

Bilingual books are a great resource for bridging two different languages. They offer educators the chance to teach students in the school language while providing a tool for home language development and parental involvement among dual language families.

Studies have shown that supporting a child’s home language is very important for enhancing academic performance, even in cases where the language spoken at school is not the same as the language spoken at home. Children do better in school when their parents read to them, communicate, and engage in daily tasks and activities in the language in which they are most comfortable.

Below are 5 tips on how parents and educators can use bilingual books in the classroom and at home to improve literacy skills and encourage cultural appreciation.

Read bilingual books in English and show students written text in a second language.

Teachers or parents can use bilingual stories to familiarize children with other languages that use the Roman alphabet as well as languages with different letters and symbols, such as Hindi and Korean. This way, children can better understand that written speech and letters have varied forms.

Read a bilingual book in the school language and then read it in the home language.

In addition to supporting a child’s overall language development, reading at home with parents strengthens the child-parent bond and helps the parent teach about their shared culture and language. Teachers can read a book in English at school and then lend it to a child to read at home, or parents with dual-language skills can read the book in both languages.

Read culturally relevant bilingual books.

When educators read multicultural books that show texts from other parts of the world, they are imparting knowledge about various cultures, customs and traditions. This promotes a climate of cultural diversity and tolerance.

Engage children with question and answer sessions and discussion in both the school and home languages.

Bilingual books can offer the chance to discuss the same subjects in two separate languages. Teachers can initiate communication in the school’s language, while parents can do the same in their home language. Children can be sent home with a list of suggested topics for discussion to use with parents at home.

Parents or other volunteers read a bilingual book in the non-dominant language in school.

Teachers can invite parents to participate in reading bilingual books in their home language to the class. The teacher can then read the book in the school language. This enhances the bonds between the class and the family/community. It also makes parents feel welcome and provides an opportunity for them to share their expertise. If parents are unable to come to the classroom, other teachers or community members who know the home language can be invited to read in the second language.

These are just a few examples of ways that teachers and parents can use bilingual books at school and at home. The aim is to build a child’s overall literacy and communication skills, ensure that they are proud of their culture and language, and help them become understanding, multicultural citizens.


Author: Anneke Forzani is President and Founder of Language Lizard LLC, which offers bilingual books, dual-language audio products and multilingual resources to teachers, librarians and bilingual families. Language Lizard also provides free multicultural lesson plans to promote tolerance and cultural understanding in diverse classrooms.



A Look Inside an Immersion Preschool

By Aileen Passariello-McAleer, Co-founder of Mama-LinguaMamaLingua_Header_1200

An Interview with Marytere Ciccone, Co-Founder and Program Creator of INIC International Immersion Center

 INIC International Immersion Center is a Spanish-immersion preschool in Austin, Texas. The school’s founder, Marytere Ciccone, has more than 20 years of experience in early childhood education and professional development for teachers. She opened INIC in 2012.

Marytere Ciccone’s career began in Mexico, where she worked with children with learning disabilities, including dyslexia, ADHD, ADD and language delay. When she moved to the United States, her interest in language development broadened. Here in the U.S., Marytere wanted to raise her own children in a bilingual environment, but discovered a lack of resources for bilingual education. At the same time, she observed a loss of language and culture in her new community, where Spanish was not being fostered at home, within the schools or in the community at large.


From her research and experience in education and curriculum development, Marytere knew that the earlier children are exposed to language, the better the results. As recent studies have shown, young children are wired to learn any language, especially from 0-3 years of age. Pathways that are created during this period of rapid growth continue to develop over a lifetime, and so do the chances of successful language acquisition.

“Teaching children a second language early in life is essential to brain stimulation,” says Marytere. “A second language builds brain circuits and has a major impact on overall cognitive development, logical processes and mathematics.” In an effort to take advantage of this prime period of development, and in response to the need for formal Spanish education for children within Austin, Marytere opened INIC.

Marytere co-authored the programs used in the INIC curriculum, which are based on research that shows neurological development is optimal when there’s interactivity between the right and left sides of the brain. Since each hemisphere is responsible for different processes, the curriculum ensures that children engage in multisensory activities so that whole-brain integration can occur. In early childhood education, this takes the form of integrated sensory, motor and linguistic stimuli. The curriculum is staged to meet the needs of children from 0-6 years of age, and materials are selected according to individual development.


In addition to its intensive Spanish immersion curriculum, INIC offers students an introduction to Mandarin. The school also offers Spanish-language summer camps and extracurricular activities, with instruction in swimming, soccer and gymnastics. For Marytere, parental involvement is crucial. “You get better results when parents are involved,” she says.

 While Marytere has met her community’s need for a high quality Spanish language immersion preschool, many parents want to know what to do after INIC. For her part, she’s had success with AISD’s Becker Elementary School and Sunset Valley Elementary School. Her children are enrolled in the schools’ Two-Way Dual Language program, where they study in both English and Spanish. And while Marytere recognizes that every family may not have access to similar offerings, parents who give their children an early start in a second language give a gift that (science shows) lasts a lifetime.


Bilingual babies are better at detecting musical sounds, research shows

The Conversation

Image 20161104 25319 jyry4

from www.shutterstock.com

Exposing babies to multiple languages can help them detect differences in musical sounds from an early age.

Written by: Liquan Liu, Western Sydney University

Exposure to multiple languages may sharpen infants’ music sensitivity in the first year after birth, new research has found.

Compared to infants learning one language (monolinguals), those who grow up with more than one language (bilinguals/multilinguals) are more sensitive to the subtle pitch variations in language.

To understand whether such sensitivity is specific to language in nature, we further tested monolingual and bilingual infants’ sensitivity to music pitch.

Results showed that infants growing up in bilingual environments are more able to distinguish between two violin notes than their monolingual counterparts.

These findings suggest heightened acoustic sensitivity for bilingual infants. That is, infants’ multilingual experiences may make them better at detecting the small differences in sounds in the ambient environment than monolinguals, whether the sounds are coming from language or music.

It has been shown that speaking a tone language like Chinese will facilitate music perception probably due to the extensive usage of pitch on words in that language. The current research suggests that bilingual experience may yield a similar effect.

Sensitivity to sounds

When a child learns two different languages, they form a more complex, detailed system, with overlapping sounds enabling better comprehension of acoustics in general.

These infants may benefit from their experience of detecting and distinguishing subtle differences between two languages, and transfer this ability to non-speech sound perception, like music.

Infants may also pay more attention to input acoustic details than monolinguals, with the constant switching between languages serving as a frequent exercise for the ears and the brain.

Benefits of bilingualism

The effect of bilingualism is not restricted to the language domain. When bilinguals talk, all languages they know are activated by the brain.

A bilingual’s brain is constantly working on this language suppression and activation process.

Many scholars argue that bilinguals have better cognitive abilities such as executive control. This practice generates life-long cognitive benefits, and makes bilinguals think more adaptively, abstractly, and creatively.

Benefits surface early in infancy. Apart from their heightened acoustic sensitivity to language and music, bilingual infants have also been shown to outperform monolinguals in their:

Are there any drawbacks?

Regardless of anecdotes claiming that children growing up bilingually will have a slower developmental trajectory than monolinguals, researchers have found that bilingual children have the ability to separate their two languages early on, and that their pace of language development is not different from monolingual children given adequate exposure.

Whether it is learning a new language, picking up a language you used to speak, or raising your child bilingually, becoming bilingual may change your perception, cognition, learning and even brain structures.

Liquan Liu, Lecturer in Child development, Western Sydney University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Bilinguals: The Talented Workforce for the 21st Century

Human Capital Investment:

Employees who speak more than one language are becoming increasingly important in our workforce.  A recent report by New American Economy shows that the demand for bilingual jobs posted on online search engines have more than doubled over the past 5 years.  The U.S. Department of Labor estimates that Translators and Interpreters will be one of the fastest growing professions in the next several years, with an anticipated 42% growth in the private sector alone.  From a study conducted by Northern Illinois University Center for Government Studies in August, 2015, one third of the businesses surveyed were seeking bilingual employees whereas within the next five years, at least half of those businesses are expected to do so.

The majority of businesses surveyed reported that bilingual skills were:

  • critical for success (Korn/Kerry International Executive Recruiter Index, 2005);
  • important for customer satisfaction and retention,
  • improved business competitiveness
  • enabled businesses to engage with new suppliers and conduct business in other countries. (Study by Northern Illinois University Center for Governmental Studies, August 2015).

Drivers in Demand for Bilinguals in the Workforce:

The key factor in the increase demand for bilinguals in the workforce is primarily the human factor — human engagement and interaction that cannot be automated by machines. The need for high quality human interaction and engagement is important in all levels of business and across industries, especially where high levels of interaction is required across diverse groups of people. Why bilinguals over monolinguals?  Bilinguals provide a more enriched level of engagement with others from diverse backgrounds than can monolinguals.  To better understand this, we have identified three key drivers for the growing demand for bilinguals in the workforce:

  • Growing Immigrant Population
  • Global Economy
  • Cognitive and Social Benefits

These driving forces are not necessarily mutually exclusive; but rather overlap and intersect in multiple facets.

Growing Immigrant Population:

Today, more than one fifth of the families in the United States speaks another language other than English at home.  The majority of those families (13% of U.S. population) speaks Spanish.  However, Mandarin, French, Vietnamese, Arabic and many other languages are also commonly spoken.  In Texas, more than one third of households speak a language other than English, with more than 80% of those families speaking Spanish.

Consequently, the majority of the online job posts for bilinguals often tend to be where the majority of families whose primary language is something other than English live.  To give an example of this, below is the U.S. Census Data for where Spanish speakers live in the United States and the data by state for online job posts for bilinguals (NEA report).  You can see from the data below that the majority of bilingual online job posts are located in states with a larger concentration of Spanish speakers.

The demand for bilingual jobs to serve families whose primary language is other than English are found in a large cross section of industries and across all skill levels.  Predominant industries that seek bilinguals include:

  • Education
    • Demand for teachers is to increase by 13% through 2018, demand bilingual teachers to increase at even a faster rate (Geteducated.com)
  • Legal
    • Demand in foreign language skills, especially Spanish, is a top trend in hiring legal staff & law enforcement agencies. “Foreign Language Skills See High Demand in Legal Market” by Charles A Volkert at Robert Half, Job Recruitment agency.
  • Medical
    • Patient care and outcome is directly proportional to ability of medical staff and patient to communicate.
  • Banking
    • The highest number of online job postings for bilinguals are now in this sector per the NEA Report.
  • Telecommunications
    • Minority groups are high consumers smart phones and serving this population requires staff with bilingual skills per the NEA Report.
  • Call Centers
    • Up to 20% of staff are bilingual, Society for Human Resources Management
  • Retail
  • Government
  • Construction
  • Social Services

While job demand for bilinguals is increasing across all skill levels, the fastest growing demand is in the those jobs that require a higher skill level.  Please see below from the NEA Report:

The Global Economy:

Global integration across industries and supply chains has increased the demand for a  bilingual and multicultural workforce who can work well with others from diverse cultural and linguistic backgrounds. Consequently, Spanish has grown to become an important language in global trade since it is a language that covers a significant global territory, including some of our most important trading partners. For example, enrollment in a popular Spanish language learning program, the Instituto Cervantes, located in 87 cities worldwide, quadrupled between 2003 and 2013. Notwithstanding, China has also become more aggressive in encouraging Spanish as  a second language as China continues to expand its influence in foreign investment and capital in Europe and the Americas (Per the Chinese National Coordinator for Spanish, Lu Jingsheng, at the Foro Internacional del Español, 2015 and China’s Investment in Latin America, David Dollar from Foreign Policy at Brookings).

Spanish is not the only language business and industry leaders are learning.  Many articles have been written highlighting the value of learning Mandarin, French, German and Arabic  for success in the global economy.

How Many Foreign Languages Do Executives Speak?  An interesting website based survey conducted by Korn/Ferry International, an Executive Recruitment Firm based in LA revealed that a significant number of executives speak at least least more than one language.

  • 36% – One language
  • 31% – Two languages
  • 20% – Three languages
  • 9% – Four languages
  • 4% – More than five languages
  • (64% of the 12,562 Executives who responded to the website survey spoke two or more languages)

Cognitive and Social Advantages:

Much has been written on the cognitive and social advantages of being bilingual.  Balanced bilinguals (those who speak more than one language daily and do so in a variety of contexts) demonstrate an advantage in the development of important and highly valued transferable cognitive skills due to the consistent exercising of the brain through code switching between languages.   These transferable cognitive skills include: cognitive load managementproblem solving, sense making, creative thinking, and adaptability. (See below for a list of supporting studies).  They are also the same skills considered to be some of the most important skills needed for our future work force because these skills are essential to success in variety of highly skilled disciplines, such as science, technology, and engineering.

Yet, equally, if not more, important are the essential social skills that bilinguals possess.  Studies reveal that children who are repeatedly exposed to other languages, even if they are not proficient in the other languages, are better at understanding multiple perspectives.

Those who grow up speaking more than one language and whose languages are valued by others have a greater positive self identity, can relate more positively to others from different cultures  and are more likely to pursue higher education (Rebecca Callahan, Assistant Professor of Bilingual Education at U T at Austin, Presentation at Bilingual STEAM event.  Such positive self identity and ability to relate to others are necessary skills for continued self development as well as effective collaboration, communication and negotiation.  Essentially, these skills are the most fundamental skills needed for any job that requires human interaction, which is a key reason why bilinguals (even if they do not use their second language in their profession) are valuable employees.

As employers continue to reap the benefits that bilingual employees bestow, the demand for bilinguals in the workforce will continue to grow.  Currently, bilinguals already receive an increase pay differential that varies from 2 – 20%, depending on the  level of skills and language required ((Study by Northern Illinois University Center for Governmental Studies, August 2015).  Furthermore, research reveals that bilinguals are less likely to be let go by their employers than are their monolingual counterparts during economic downturns (Callahan, R. & Gándara, The Bilingual Advantage: Language, Literacy, and the U.S. Labor Market.).


Society must realize the value that speaking multiple languages bestow, not only in the workforce but in society in general, and in doing so continue to promote language learning and cultural understanding.  How? Educational institutions can foster strong multilingual skills at the prime age for language acquisition through:

  • preschool language enrichment programs,
  • effective dual language programs–beginning in elementary and on through high school so that children leave high school as balanced bi-literate bilinguals,
  • language enrichment programs for children of immigrant families whose language is other than English
  • programs that encourage cross cultural exchanges and greater appreciation for our country’s ethnic and cultural diversity.
  • bilingual enrichment programs in the arts and in STEM related activities.

Community leaders and business leaders can sponsor more programs for community engagement that highlight the value of linguistic and cultural diversity while also fostering cross cultural experiences that serve to unite people.  Leaders can help provide parents with the resources they need to foster strong linguistic skills in more than one language and facilitate smaller scaled programs for meaningful active linguistic engagement.  They can also put pressure on educational institutions and other service providers to ensure that native and non-native linguistic skills, along with cultural appreciation for our  country’s diversity, are supported for all children from all backgrounds.

Policy makers can continue to enact laws and programs that encourage second language instruction and cross cultural appreciation.  Twenty-three states offer, (and more are underway), students a Seal of Biliteracy. The Seal of Biliteracy is awarded to students from specific schools or districts who have demonstrated a level of proficiency in more than one language.  Another example is the recently passed Texas law, SB 671, which provides a high school credit to students who have graduated from a TEA compliant Dual Language elementary schools.  This law also includes provisions for more high school credit hours and college credit for those children who speak the second language and who continue taking classes in the second language throughout middle school.  Policies like these are first steps, but many more are required to help build our country’s linguistic skills and cross-cultural connections so that we as a larger community with engaged citizens and employees, have the skills necessary to unite us and lead us forward in the 21st century.

Most importantly, parents must work together to demand educational and enrichment programs to support their children’s bilingual and multicultural education.  Parents are key drivers for policy changes and  implementation across all sectors of government and educational institutions.  Parents make their voices heard by choosing dual language schools, supporting language enrichment programs, raising funds to support language and cross cultural education and holding policy and community leaders accountable to providing such educational programs.

Noteworthy studies that demonstrate important cognitive and social skill advantages: 

Dr Máire Ní Ríordáin, Mathematics and Gaeilge:  A Report on the Influence of Bilingualism, May 2011.

Ellen Bialystok and Shilpi Majumder, The relationship between bilingualism and the development of cognitive processes in problem solving, January 1998.

Hwajin Yang, Sujin Yang, Stephen J. Ceci, and Qi Wang, Effects of Bilinguals’ Controlled-Attention on Working Memory and Recognition, Cornell University 2005.

Heather McLeay, The Relationship Between Bilingualism and the Performance of Spatial Tasks, 26 Mar 2010.

Kessler, C., & Quinn, M. E., Positive effects of bilingualism on Science problem solving abilities, 1980.
Ben-Zeev, S., The influence of bilingualism on cognitive strategy and cognitive development. 1977.

Demont, E., Contribution of early 2nd-language learning to development of linguistic awareness and learning to read, 2001.

Landry, R. G., The enhancement of figural creativity through second language learning at the elementary school level, 1973.

Boaz Keysar, Sayuri L. Hayakawa, Sun Gyu An, The Foreign-Language Effect, Thinking in a Foreign Tongue Reduces Decision Biases, April 18, 2012.

Viorica Marian, Anthony Shook, and Scott R. Schroeder, Bilingual Two-Way Immersion Programs Benefit Academic Achievement, Sept. 5, 2013.

Krista Byers-Heinlein and Bianca Garcia, Bilingualism Changes Children’s Beliefs about what is Innate, 2015.

Morgan, C. ‘Attitude change and foreign language culture learning’ in Language Teaching, 1993.

Samantha P. Fan, Zoe Liberman, Boaz Keysar, Katherine D. Kinzler, The Exposure Advantage: Early Exposure to a Multilingual Environment Promotes Effective Communication, May 8, 2015.

Jonathan W Pesner, Frank Auld, The relationship between bilingual proficiency and self-esteem, 1980.


Choosing the Right Bilingual Program: Curriculum


October marks the change of weather and announces the coming of the holiday season.  It also signals parents all across America to begin their search for the next school and/or educational programs for which they will enroll their children into the next academic year.  More and more, bilingual schools and programs are on the list of programs and schools to review.   With so many important things to consider when choosing a bilingual program or school, we have broken this section into a four part series to help you make the best decision for you and your family.

#1: Age Appropriate Curriculum


Age appropriate curriculum for language learning considers the various ways individuals learn at different stages in their development.  Age appropriate curriculum makes use of developmental differences as well as different learning styles and implements them accordingly. This may sound like common sense, but unfortunately many classrooms and institutions do not take the time to truly understand these developmental differences.

A true example to illustrate this is to consider two different approaches to teaching toddlers Spanish through parent and child classes.

  • The first one incorporates the parents by having them model the language through singing and dancing and interactive play.  The toddlers watching their parents naturally want to participate by singing and dancing or by simply observing.  Through these actions, the children pick up phrases from the songs and activities and learn to associate them with the action or object.
  •  The second class requires the parent to keep their child seated near them while the teacher shows a toy to a child and tells him what it is in Spanish.  When the toddler reaches for the toy, the teacher will not give it to him until he repeats the statement “yo quiero” and the Spanish word for the given toy.  Often times, a toddler becomes anxious because he doesn’t feel comfortable speaking yet he still wants the toy.  Once the child finally receives the toy, he is given less than a minute to play with it before a similar lesson is repeated for something else.

In this example, we can see that the second class failed to understand how toddlers best learn language and thereby failed to incorporate age appropriate curriculum to be most effective.  On the other hand, the first class embraced the way toddlers naturally learn language and designed the curriculum around it.  As a result, the first class has a much higher success rate with teaching the toddlers Spanish than does the second class and the experience was much more enjoyable for both parents and toddlers.


How To Determine Age Appropriate Curriculum:

Questions to Ask

  • What methodology does the program or institution use to design their curriculum?
    • Is this methodology supported by research to be effective for a given age group?  If so, what research do they use?
    • How is students’ progress assessed under this methodology?
  • Does the program periodically review and assess its methodology?
    • Does the program stay abreast on the latest research in language learning and have procedure in place to make changes to incorporate new findings?
  • How does the program or institution ensure that it is effectively implementing the curriculum?
    • Does it provide good training for their teachers and staff?
    • Does it have clear expectations for a student’s progress in learning the language and is it able to meet those expectations?
    • If expectations are not being met, does it have procedures in place to review and assess why not and to implement corrective action accordingly?
Visit our blog each week for the remaining three parts in this four parts series.


We want to hear from you.  Please leave comments or let us know what topics related to bilingualism you would like to learn more about.

Choosing the Right Bilingual Program: Organizational Structure


The Importance of Evaluating the Organizational Structure of Bilingual Educational Programs

You like the bilingual teacher/s (see part 2and  the curriculum (see part 1) used at a particular bilingual program.  Satisfied with both, you are now ready to enroll your child or yourself in the bilingual educational program.  But wait!  What do you know about the organizational structure of the program?  Why does it matter?

The managerial organizational structure is absolutely important in determining the effectiveness of language learning.   A structure that is too top-down driven can impede teachers’ effectiveness in teaching a language by limiting the teachers’ ability to respond to the needs of students.  Alternatively, a structure that requires no accountability or guidance for teachers will also be ineffective as it creates a lack of ownership and motivation for teachers to encourage students’ progress.

Here are five key indicators to help you determine the effectiveness of the institution’s managerial organizational structure.


1. Do teachers and staff have opportunities for professional development?

Providing professional development and/or ongoing training opportunities  is a clear sign of an organization’s commitment in investing in its staff and in maintaining high quality bilingual education.  It also indicates that the organization is more likely to be interested in current research findings on language acquisition and thus more likely to implement those findings.  As such, an organization that invests in its staff will  be more committed to advancements in bilingual education and will be more open to try new methods when previous ones are shown to be less effective.

Find out what programs and options are available to staff for continued professional development.  Talk to the administrators and find out what their process is for reviewing research data and how they decide when and how to implement those findings.


2. Does the leadership maintain a positive relationship with the teachers, parents and students?

Many things can strain a relationship between interested parties.   Some leaders or administrators may seem too aloof to the needs of its staff or constituents.  Others may micromanage their staff too much.  Teachers, students and parents all need to feel valued and to be seen as important members and contributors.  Leaders and administrators who forge relationships with constituents through effective communication and mutual respect create a working environment that will be most successful in accomplishing its goals.  Bilingual education is no exception.

Talk to existing parents and students and hear what they have to say about the institution’s administration and its relationship with constituents.  Find out how they view  the relationship with teachers, parents and students.  Observe the teachers and their interaction with administrators.  Find out about the student and teacher attrition rates and the factors that contributed to them.


3. What is the Institution’s criteria for measuring teachers’ effectiveness?

Investment in professional development and positive relationships are key starting points.  But how does an institution evaluate teachers’ effectiveness in teaching language?  Test scores alone are poor indications of how well a teacher performs in the classroom.  A more effective way to evaluate teachers’ performance is to establish a defined learning continuum  and measure the progress of the students on that continuum periodically throughout the year. Students should also be provided frequent opportunities to demonstrate their language skills and knowledge through meaningful projects and real world application.

Ask how the institution’s management evaluates their teachers and the students’ progress  and be very wary if the response is based on simple test scores taken once or twice a year.  Inquire about opportunities for students to demonstrate their knowledge and language skills.


4. What are the policies for resolving internal conflicts?

Most organizations have a system in place for resolving internal conflicts as well as policies governing financial concerns and early withdrawal from a program.  Find out what those policies are.  How are teacher and parent conflicts resolved?  How are financial conflicts resolved? How does the organization address expectations that are not being met?  Is there a provision to ensure that each party is treated fairly and with respect?  Does the administration appear flexible and open to working out differences?  A clear answer to these questions may not always be apparent, but asking the questions will give you an idea on how the organization is managed and help establish clear expectations moving forward.


5. Does the program promote diversity among staff and families?

Unfortunately, this is a very important area that is often overlooked and commonly misunderstood.  Being bilingual and raising our children to be bilingual, we hope to become better citizens of the world through multicultural exchange and greater tolerance and empathy for others.  However, multiculturalism, tolerance and empathy has to start in one’s community. Communing in a positive environment with others from diverse backgrounds is how one learns to become more tolerant, understanding and empathetic. Learning a second language only enriches that experience. Thus, an institution that promotes diversity among its staff and families demonstrates not only strong leadership skills but also a commitment to champion tolerance and compassion across diverse groups.  After all, this is a key reason we seek bilingual education.

How diverse is the staff and the families that attend the program?  Do students and/or families from diverse backgrounds have opportunities to engage with each other in positive ways?  If so, how often?

We want to hear from you. Please feel free to leave comments or questions.  If there is a topic you want to learn more about, please submit a comment or send an inquiry to thinkbilingual@gmail.com.

Choosing the Right Bilingual Program: Teachers

shutterstock_203126098Choosing the right bilingual program for you or your family can feel a bit overwhelming. Thankfully, more options are slowly becoming available with the increase in dual language programs, after-school language programs and camps.  This series of posts addresses important attributes to consider when choosing a bilingual program.  In the most recent post we focused on the need for finding a program with the right developmentally age-appropriate curriculum.  This week we address the importance of finding quality bilingual teachers.


#2  Quality Bilingual Teachers


With the growth in bilingual education and bilingual programs, institutions all around the United States are looking for bilingual educators.  Many schools and programs are actively recruiting teachers from abroad.  Unfortunately, just because someone is bilingual does not mean that that individual will be good at teaching his/her bilingual skills. Teaching is a wonderful but demanding profession.  It requires considerable investment in time and training as well as an agreeable personality.

5 key traits of Quality Bilingual Teachers:


1. Able to tailor their lessons and activities according to students’ age, development and different learning style. Having a clear understanding of what is developmentally age appropriate and the various learning styles is only the first step.  Being able to execute on that knowledge requires real skill.  Effective teachers are both mindful of these developmental and learning differences and tailor their lessons accordingly.

2. Know how to maintain a positive atmosphere for learning.  It only takes one student to disrupt a whole class.  Maintaining a sense of calm and order while redirecting a disruptive student is one skill that sets a quality teacher apart from others.  For example, I once witnessed a teacher pleading and begging elementary students to do a required activity with only half the class paying any attention to her. Later in the day in her desperation to regain control she resorted to threatening the students with extremely harsh punishments (something I found to be on the borderline of cruel).  This teacher was clearly unable to create a positive learning environment for her class and in her effort to retake control she actually made the situation worse.  Quality skilled teachers are able to address any disruptive children in a loving yet firm manner while maintaining calm and order in the classroom. They combine knowledge with an even temperament to create and maintain a positive and respectful learning environment.

3. Able to establish a good rapport with each student.  A recent study shows that the relationship a teacher has with a student has a direct impact on the student’s performance. The ability to personally connect with each child helps to both validate a child’s feeling of self-worth and boost her natural desire to learn.  A quality teacher understand this and is willing to take the time to build trust and respect with each student to create this rapport.

4. Able to facilitate effective associations with content and context through meaningful hands-on project and theme based learning. Bringing a new language to life in the heart and mind of the student goes beyond rogue memorization.  To be meaningful and useful, a student has to be able to make strong connections through association and context.  Effective teachers incorporate project based and theme based learning to help students make these connections in a meaningful way.  For more information about project based learning, visit our blog on How to use Project Based Learning to be Bilingual.

5.  Able of engage students to ask questions and discuss relevant topics in the language being learned.  Creating an environment that not only encourages the students to speak but to also think and generate questions and discussion points about a topic is essential for building fluency and confidence in the language (as well as critical thinking skills).  A quality teacher will go beyond having the students recite written material or answer formulated questions by giving ample opportunity for students to provide self expression in the language being learned.

We want to hear from you.
Please feel free to add traits that you think are equally important to look for in quality bilingual teachers in the comment section below.