Understanding and Teaching Emergent Bilingual Students

Understanding and Teaching Emergent Bilingual Students

Sanjuana Carrillo Rodriguez (Kennesaw State University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-1067-3.ch033


The aim of this chapter is to provide pre-service and in-service teaching with an understanding of who emergent bilingual students are and how they can adapt their practice in order to use students' home language as a resource rather than as a deficit. The chapter will share findings from a study conducted with emergent bilingual students in a kindergarten writing workshop. It will also focus on how teachers should adopt an additive approach to language that expands children's linguistic, social, and cultural resources while supporting learning a new language as well and literacy development.
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The labels that are imposed on students are important and impact the way that students are viewed. Many emergent bilingual students continue to be labeled with identifiers that mark them as deficient or lacking through the use of terms such as Limited English Proficient or English Language Learner (Gort & Bauer, 2012; Reyes, 2006). These terms position students as lacking, instead of recognizing their linguistic competencies as they learn to read and write. The term most commonly used, English Language Learner, “devalues other languages and puts the English in a sole position of legitimacy” (Garcia, Klefgen, & Falchi, 2008, p. 7). For this reason, I adopt the suggested term emergent bilingual (Garcia 2009; 2010; García et al., 2008; Gort & Bauer, 2012; Reyes, 2006). The term emergent bilingual is utilized in this study to refer to “young children who speak a native language other than English and are in the dynamic process of developing bilingual and biliterate competencies, with the support of their communities” (Reyes, 2006). The term also views their bilingualism as an asset rather than a deficiency and positions this group of students as having potential instead of seeing them as deficient because they speak a different language. In essence, this term validates the students’ home language and thus affirms their identity as language users.

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