The start of the school year is just around the corner. Where did the summer go? It seems like just yesterday that we were watching our students head out the schoolhouse doors. Before we know it, they will be rushing back through those doors again.
With the coming school year so close, it is important that teachers start thinking ahead to the needs of their bilingual students. Language activities, music, bilingual books and writing materials are just a few examples of resources to have on hand. Are you prepared?
Here are a few questions to answer in preparation for the coming school year:
Is my classroom inviting? Multicultural students should feel welcome and comfortable when entering their classroom each day. Pictures on the wall should represent a variety of cultures, genders and ages. Put up multilingual posters in the classroom so students will see their home languages reflected. The layout of the classroom should provide students with areas for diverse activities as well as places where students can go to read in comfort. The most important element is that students are made to feel that the classroom is their own. Help them to become familiar with the elements of their classroom as soon as possible.
Are all my students represented? If possible, find out ahead of time what cultures will be represented in your classroom’s student body. This will help you decide on how to decorate your classroom, what languages are most likely to be represented and the most common holidays and traditions that your students might be celebrating. Adjust and adapt your lesson plans to reflect the unique make-up of your students’ cultural backgrounds. It will show your students that you truly care about their lives.
Do I have bilingual resources? Make sure that you have bilingual books and other bilingual materials in your students’ home languages. Students will feel more welcomed and it will help your students’ literacy skills. Read our post Bilingual Children: Benefits of Learning to Read in the Home Language for information and tips. Also make an effort to include books and resources that reflect multicultural characters and topics. Language Lizard offers free Multicultural Lesson Plans to help with this endeavor.
Am I prepared with information for parents? It is important that the parents of your bilingual students are given information on the benefits of keeping the home language strong as well as the benefits of bilingualism. Send home bilingual books that are in your students’ home languages and encourage parents to read the books out loud in their languages. This helps parents understand the important role that they have in helping their children develop strong language and literacy skills in both languages.
Is my school district supportive? Make sure you are familiar with the kind of support that your school district may or may not be able to provide you. What are the financial resources at your disposal? Are there teachers or administrators in your district that can provide tips, suggestions and support for bilingual teachers like you? Does your school district understand the unique needs of bilingual classrooms like yours? It is important to know where you can find support during the school year since many don’t understand the unique needs of a bilingual classroom. You may wish to join the local chapter of your state’s bilingual educators association for more information and support.
With the summer coming to an end, anticipation for the first day of school is starts to build for bilingual students. There is no time like the present to start preparing, especially when it comes to assessing your bilingual resources. The best way to make that first day back to school special is to help students feel as welcome and comfortable as possible. Show them that you care by providing a classroom that reflects multicultural diversity.
Photo credit: Julie Facine
What things do you do to make your classroom as welcoming as possible for bilingual students?