The Whittier School District and their Quest to Understand Translanguaging An Interview with the CABE Seal of Excellence School

Image for Article: The Phelan Language Academy and their Quest to Understand Translanguaging

This month, set out on a quest to further understand translanguaging and provide research on either side of the concept. We were pleased to learn about a recent grant that the Whittier City School District received for their research on translanguaging. We conducted an interview with them to provide further information to the discussion.

The Whittier School District is a small K-8 district with only 11 schools. 8 elementary, 2 middle schools and 1 K-8 school. Their Dual Immersion Program began at Phelan Language Academy six years ago. Since it’s opening, all stakeholders have created a well-established, award-winning dual language program. The 2018-2019 school year brought new beginnings for two of their neighboring schools with the expansion of the Dual Immersion Program. The first graduating class from Phelan Language Academy has begun at Katherine Edwards Middle School, and a sister school, West Whittier Elementary, opened its doors with one TK and one Kindergarten DI classroom each.

The grant came about as a possibility as the Whittier City School has had a long-standing relationship with the Cotsen Foundation for the Art of Teaching for over a decade. The mission of the Cotsen Foundation for the ART of TEACHING is to transform good teachers into great teachers. This transformation occurs through a program in which proven educators receive coaching and mentoring to achieve the highest levels of teaching excellence.

Cotsen alumni can continue learning with Cotsen study grants. Karla Palomino, Cotsen fellow alumna and Dual Immersion Instructional Coach, took advantage of this opportunity. She surveyed the elementary school Dual Immersion teachers to see who would like to take part in a book study, and all agreed. Karla wrote the $6,000 grant to purchase two books on translanguaging per teacher, including The Translanguaging Classroom: Leveraging Student Bilingualism for Learning by García, Ibarra Johnson, and Seltzer; as well as additional money to grow classroom libraries.

We first learned about the term translanguaging last summer, as our Dual Immersion Curriculum Improvement Team met. Dual Language teachers collaborated in a week-long professional development opportunity around the research and Guiding Principles of Dual Language Education. Through this learning, we encountered the topic of translanguaging. It is the notion that learning a different language does not happen in isolation, rather, the ability to access different linguistic features in order to maximize communicative potential. – Karla Palomino, Dual Immersion Instructional Coach, Whittier School Districts

Continue reading to learn more about Whittier School District’s translanguaging research grant…

Image for Article: The Phelan Language Academy and their Quest to Understand Translanguaging

We believe that this book study is important because it will positively impact students by developing the students’ conceptual thinking and facilitating metalinguistic awareness. The book study will allow teachers to be reflective of ways to access all language learners. This teacher learning will have a trickle effect to all classrooms, as both Dual Immersion and English Only teachers plan and collaborate during grade level meetings and data reflection sessions.

The Translanguaging study will have tremendous impact on Dual Language learners. Palomino and Whittier School District are hopeful that their study of translanguaging shifts their thinking about planning, instruction, and assessment as students make connections with their home language and target language. They believe this shift will increase student achievement for Dual Language students by developing their conceptual thinking and facilitating metalinguistic awareness.

As Whittier School District has been known to make leaps and bounds in dual language, it was a natural choice as Cotsen honors forward thinking educators. Their mission is to make good teachers into great teachers, and, what better way than with a book study to learn about new practices that will positively impact all learners? will continue to support all sides of the study of translanguaging by running more articles around the topic. If you have thoughts that you’d like share with the community about translanguaging, submit an opinion piece to

I believe this book study of translanguaging will highlight the importance of drawing on students’ knowledge to build new meaning and connections. We hope that the translanguaging book study highlights dual language education and brings awareness to other districts and teachers about the great things that are happening in dual language classrooms across the nation.

Arthur Chou
Author: Arthur Chou

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