Supporting Emergent Bilinguals through Linguistically Appropriate Instruction

Supporting Emergent Bilinguals through Linguistically Appropriate Instruction

Colleen Gallagher (University of Dayton, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-4928-6.ch006
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Being able to use linguistically appropriate instruction is an important area of competence for teachers of young emergent bilinguals. This chapter synthesizes theory and research that is key background knowledge for making linguistically informed instructional decisions: information on proficiency levels, on second language acquisition (SLA), and on classroom language demands. From this foundation, the chapter proposes four functions of linguistically appropriate instructional strategies: (1) getting emergent bilinguals involved in classroom routines and providing ample opportunities for interaction; (2) drawing on emergent bilinguals’ existing language and literacy competencies; (3) promoting grade-level vocabulary learning; and (4) scaffolding listening, speaking, reading, and writing. Finally, this chapter offers some specific suggestions of activities or instructional strategies that fulfill each of these functions along with additional resources that may be helpful.
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This chapter is focused on the linguistic aspect of teaching young immigrant children effectively in schools in the United States. While not all immigrant children speak a language other than English and some children in the schools who speak a language other than English were born in the US, the focus of this chapter is immigrant children and children of immigrants who are in the process of developing English in addition to the language(s) of their homes. This is a group variably referred to as Limited English Proficient (LEP), English language learners (ELLs), and emergent bilinguals, to name a few (see Chumak-Horbatsch, 2012 for a comprehensive list). In this chapter, I refer to them as emergent bilinguals, following the example of other researchers and educators (e.g., Chumak-Horbatsch, 2012; García, 2009; García & Kleifgen, 2010) who wish to emphasize what these children already can do rather than what they are still learning to do, to credit them with the enormous resource of proficiency in a language other than English and emphasize the range of their linguistic capabilities, and to acknowledge them holistically as individuals with a range of cultural and linguistic environments, experiences, and needs rather than more narrowly as students or learners (Firth & Wagner, 2007).

The idea of linguistically appropriate instruction has a close cousin in the notion of culturally responsive instruction, which has the three-part goal of promoting school success for culturally and linguistically diverse students, building bridges between home and school, and helping students maintain their heritage language(s) and culture(s) (Au, 2007). In other words, “culturally responsive instruction allows students to attain academic success through classroom activities structured in ways that students find comfortable and understandable and that do not violate cultural values brought from home” (Au, 2007, p. 13). Culturally responsive educators take a hybrid approach to instruction by using practices that draw on both minority and majority worldviews.

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