Word Walls in Spanish Instruction: Rethinking Their Purpose
Dual Language Teachers, Administrators, and District Leaders:
Teaching Spanish “a la English” is something I began to address in the article preceding this one. That is, I reminded that in U.S. schools, nothing is paramount to English monolingualism because of the privilege that the language carries. Whereas, throughout the world, multilingualism is the norm and desired outcome, in our schools, sometimes even in dual language programs, English continues to reign supreme.
This focus on English monolingualism often determines what instructional practices will be leveraged in classrooms. If something is deemed important and works to promote the development of English literacy, this must mean that it is inherently important in the development of Spanish instruction as part of dual language programming. Word walls as a pedagogical tool are one example of how teaching Spanish “a la English” is the norm, despite the fact that it has little impact on Spanish literacy development.
There are many similarities between Spanish and English that should be leveraged by students and educators engaged in biliteracy work. However, there are also important orthographic differences that impact initial literacy in each of the two languages (Medina & Penton, 2019). English as an opaque language, is conducive to the use of an A-Z traditional word wall because the most constant thing about the language is the initial consonant sound. Therefore, it makes sense that a word wall be utilized in support of English initial literacy.
Spanish as a transparent language, with a focus on vowel sounds and syllables, is easily decodable and would not require the use of a word wall focused on initial sound. This does not mean that students engaged in Spanish literacy instruction do not benefit from environmental print support. They do. However, anchor charts co-created with students must be more closely aligned to the needs of initial literacy of the Spanish language rather than simply mimic those pedagogical tools used to support initial English literacy.
As a reminder, whether facilitating in person or virtual instruction, as dual language educators, we must indigenize/decolonize our biliteracy instructional practices as part of DL programming. Moreover, if the environmental print is not co-created with students, then it is a poster and not an anchor chart.
So, if an A-Z traditional word wall is not fully aligned with the needs of students enrolled in Spanish-English dual language programs, what would the environmental support look like? As we move away from facilitating Spanish instruction “a la English,” the following are among the possibilities we can leverage to better meet emergent bilingual students’ Spanish literacy development needs:
- letras tramposas
- h muda
- b, v
- c, q, k
- g, j, x
- conexiones lingüísticas
- puente nivel 1
- puente nivel 2
- reglas de acentuación
Please keep an eye out for upcoming articles that will continue to address the teaching Spanish “a la English” phenomenon. In the interim, thanks for all you do! Continue to rock it out in programas duales!
Medina, J. L. and Penton-Herrera, L. J. “The Synergy of Theory, Practice, and Language.” Language Magazine, Aug. 2019, pp. 24-28.