Dual Language SchoolsFour Recommendations for Dual Language Education in the Age of COVID-19

Author Photo: Dr. José L. Medina

By: Dr. José L. Medina

Founder and Chief Educational Advocate at Dr. José Medina: Educational Solutions

Photo for: Four Recommendations for Dual Language Education in the Age of COVID-19

Dual Language Teachers, Administrators, and District Leaders:

It is my sincere hope that you and your loved ones are safe and healthy. I am sure that you are missing your students like crazy and working actively to ensure that they are well taken care of, and that their biliteracy journeys continue. Know that I am inspired daily by your work!

During the last couple of weeks, I have received numerous questions regarding how best to support the three goals of dual language while facilitating remote instruction. We must understand that we are engaging in the work of bilingualism & biliteracy, grade level academic achievement in both program languages, and sociocultural competence in a time of crisis.

Teaching and learning at this moment in time is not normal. Our students and their families, much like we are, are experiencing trauma. So, we must come to terms with the fact that our goal is not to duplicate what takes place in the classroom. It is not fair to us as educators. And, it is definitely not fair to expect families to suddenly become dual language educators.

The following are four recommendations, grounded in the Guiding Principles for Dual Language Education, third edition, for dual language educators serving at the campus and district levels:

  • Be kind to yourself and those you serve.
    • Take care of your family and yourself first. We cannot be of service to others if we are not fully present in our own needs. By doing this, we will be more readily available to advocate for all our students and families. COVID-19 has amplified the inequities that continue to be present in educational systems. Dual language educators have the capacity to positively impact students and create educational access for each child regardless of educational setting.
  • Align all decisions, whether instructional or programmatic, with the language allocation plan.
    • As dual language teachers, we cannot control what is happening in our students’ lives and homes during this crisis, but we can continue to lesson plan through an equity and social justice lens. Whether you serve in a 50-50 or 90-10 dual language program, we must ensure that whatever time we have in front of students—and whatever tasks we assign—align with our language allocation plan. For school and district leaders, remember that once we return to school building and face-to-face instruction, we stay the course. Our language allocation plan will not change when we return to our school buildings. What will continue to evolve is the way we empower students to leverage their entire linguistic repertoires.
  • Elevate the partner language and focus on cross-linguistic work.
    • The privilege of English continues to be palpable. With remote learning, it is imperative that we lesson plan with the specific intent to amplify the partner language. Whether the partner language is Spanish, Mandarin, French, or another wonderful language, it is less likely that students will be able to engage in literacy and content work in that language. Thus, it is up to us to lesson plan with that in mind. Cross-linguistic work and creating spaces for translanguaging also become an important way to ensure that the instruction we facilitate continues to promote the three goals of dual language.
  • Keep the lessons real and simple.
    • More than ever, it is important to embrace a culturally-sustaining ideology about learning. We must connect the learning to students’ lives and what is happening in the real world. Assigning a plethora of worksheets will not move biliteracy teaching and learning forward. By keeping it simple, we become selective about what our focus for the learning will be. It is true that we cannot duplicate the classroom setting at home, but we can plan for biliteracy lessons that will more readily create access to grade level standards regardless of language proficiency.

I hope that these four dual language program recommendations are helpful as you navigate this unchartered territory. Know that it is my greatest honor to be a part of your dual language journey. Please continue to check my social media postings for research articles, biliteracy instructional resources, and more.

¡Siempre juntos en la lucha!

Su colega,

Dr. José Luis Medina Hernández Franco López Jr. Díaz-Cruz