Dual Language SchoolsBiliteracy and Dual Language for Minority Students

Author Photo: Dr. Sandra Mercuri

By: Dr. Sandra Mercuri

Teacher Educator | Sandra Mercuri Educational Consultants

Teaching emergent bilingual learners is a multilayered, complex task. Nationwide districts that are serving an increasing emergent bilingual population, especially those who come from minority backgrounds, are implementing dual language programs to address students' linguistic and cultural diversity. Their goals are to develop bilingualism, biliteracy, multiculturalism for all students and to help minority students to be academically successful. Districts implementing well- developed dual language programs provide three important types of equity for students:

  1. Linguistic equity
  2. Pedagogical equity
  3. Cultural Equity

Linguistic equity for minority students - Dual language programs provide the best context to educate this growing student population. In addition to insuring that the quality of instruction is high and adhering to the district program model, dual language programs equalize the schooling of minority students by:

  • Using the native language as a resource for teaching and learning.
  • Giving equal value to both languages used for instruction.
  • Including culturally relevant books
  • Insuring culturally responsive teaching by facilitating access to content in a language rich environment.
  • Engaging students in the curriculum through active learning.
  • Affording students the use of their complete linguistic repertoire

Pedagogical equity for minority students - In addition to linguistic equity, dual language programs also provide pedagogical equity by affording intentional and strategic opportunities for the development of biliteracy. A powerful pedagogical approach to educate minority students in dual language contexts is through standard-based interdisciplinary units of inquiry in which languages, literacy and content are strategically integrated. Teachers who implement this pedagogy facilitate language acquisition, literacy development, and content area understanding in two languages. By using heterogeneously structured language pairing and peer-mediated instruction, teachers allow for academic conversations that are important for cognitive as well as linguistic development.

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