Tag Archives: back to school

Preparing Your Classroom for Bilingual Students

cartoon children in front of a school with "hello" in many languagesIt may be hard to believe, but summer is coming to an end. Beach days and family barbecues will soon be behind us. You find your mind is full of lesson plans and an incoming class of new faces. As you’re organizing shelves and deciding on the optimal classroom layout, remember to consider the needs of your bilingual students. Now is the perfect time to create a welcoming classroom that reflects acceptance and diversity right from the start.

Create an Inclusive Classroom

You want all of your students to feel like the classroom is their own by decorating it with images that represent and support diversity. If possible, find out the cultures that will be represented in your class roster before school begins.

"Hello" "Welcome" and "Thank You" posters in many languages

Bilingual students are proud to see their home languages reflected in dual language books and multicultural posters. Create a bilingual listening and reading center, where students can read in comfort. Introduce the class to interesting and exciting aspects of different languages, cultures and countries. Traditional foods, stories, holidays and history are just a few subjects that are sure to be a hit.

Be Supportive, Yet Sensitive

Teachers often walk a fine line between giving bilingual students extra care and attention, without making them feel singled out as being different. When you discuss other languages and cultures in your class, do so generically, so that any one student doesn’t feel singled out. Your sensitivity to their needs will ensure any class discussions increase your bilingual students’ confidence.

Some students like to talk about where they, or their parents, are from. They want to answer their classmates’ questions. However, not all bilingual children feel they are different from their peers. Let each student decide what makes him/her unique and special. For those who have negative feelings associated with having a different home language, try and determine what will help them feel more accepted and appreciated in the classroom.

Find Bilingual Resources

stack of multicultural bilingual children's books

Gather bilingual books and other learning materials in your students’ home languages. Not only will it help students feel more welcome, it will also improve their literacy skills. Check out our post Bilingual Children: Benefits of Learning to Read in the Home Language for more information and tips.

You can also adapt your lesson plans to reflect the unique make-up of your students’ cultural backgrounds. Our free lesson plan “Understanding and Appreciating Cultural Differences includes a fun “I am Unique” Scavenger Hunt.

Prepare Information for Bilingual Parents

It’s important to engage the parents of your bilingual students. Help them understand the vital role they play in developing the language and literacy skills of their children. Provide them with materials in their home language. Allow students to borrow bilingual books, and encourage parents to read them at home together.

Find Your Support Network

Where can you find support during the school year? Familiarize yourself with ways your school district can support you. Are there financial resources you can utilize, or administrators who can assist teachers of bilingual students? Look into joining the local chapter of your state’s bilingual educators association.

A supportive and understanding teacher can make all the difference in the life of a bilingual child. The entire class also benefits from learning about other cultures through the eyes of their fellow classmates. Helping bilingual children blossom and shine in the classroom is truly a rewarding endeavor.

Creating Community in Your Classroom

Teamwork and team spirit - Hands piled on top of one another .It’s the start of a new school year, and your classroom fills with a brand new kaleidoscope of personalities. You may find yourself wondering how to help an eclectic group of kids connect with each other. How do you bring your class together as a community, and jump start the conversation and collaboration? You want to create a safe, secure and nurturing learning environment for all children – an especially challenging task when they come from diverse backgrounds.

Celebrate Individuality

individuality purple flower in white flower field

Although it may sound a bit counter-intuitive, one of the best ways to create a sense of community is by celebrating individuality. Kids love to see themselves reflected in the classroom.  As discussed in our recent post about understanding and appreciating cultural differences in the classroom, when kids contrast and compare family holidays and traditions without judgment, respect and acceptance begins. Reading world folk tales and fables is a great way to explore new traditions from various cultures.

The Concept of Community

classroom community hands together teamwork multicultural bilingual language

You may want to begin by exploring the concept of a community with your class. Yes, it’s a group of people who share something in common, but there are so many less obvious aspects, particularly in a classroom setting. Language Lizard offers a free standards-based lesson plan that teaches students all about the concept of community: What is it, why is it important to have one, and what makes a community stronger?

Sarah Brown Wessling, 2010 National Teacher of the Year and the Teacher Laureate for Teaching Channel, talks about the importance of creating “classroom chemistry” in a blog article, which she describes as the moment when a “certain group of students auspiciously find each other in a classroom.” She discusses 14 ways to create it with your students, and the important role that good chemistry plays in keeping students engaged in the classroom. For another in-depth look at the importance of building a classroom community, check out The Center for the Collaborative Classroom’s Child Development Project, which offers more activity ideas and supporting research.

Predictable, Nurturing Classroom Environment

A classroom that is not just functional, but also comfortable and comforting, encourages learning. Things like lighting, temperature, desk spacing, and a comfy reading corner are physically comforting. A predictable daily routine is emotionally comforting, as are clearly defined rules for classroom behavior. This article from Edutopia discusses how the use of daily trust-building activities can create a support system in your classroom.

What are some ways you create an outstanding community in your classroom? Comment below and share your experiences!

“Teamwork and team spirit” by 드림포유 via Flickr is licensed under CC BY ND 2.0 https://flic.kr/p/o4ZHuD

“Individuality” by Joey Gannon via Flickr is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 https://flic.kr/p/HGRhB

“Team.” by Dawn (Willis) Manser via Flickr is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 https://flic.kr/p/6oaunE