Bilingual Activities in the Classroom

For many of us teachers and service providers within the school setting, we get the privilege of working with students that speak a variety of languages at home. It is critical that we support our bilingual or multilingual children, regardless of whether or not we ourselves are fluent in the language. According to the United States Department of Education, the United States average of English Language Learners (ELL) students in public elementary and secondary schools in 2017 was 10.1% In states like California, Colorado, Nevada, and New Mexico, ELLs make up closer to 20% of public school students. We can infer that this number has only increased since 2017, showing us that there is a true and urgent need to support these students! 

https://nces.ed.gov/programs/coe/indicator/cgf

If you are feeling lost or overwhelmed at where to start, I have provided 3 easy areas to begin with.

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Music

Do you ever find yourself having lyrics stuck in your head with no idea how they even got there in the first place? Me too! While I wish I could permanently delete the “baby shark” lyrics and melody from my head, it reminds me of the incredible benefit of using music to learn a language. For elementary-age students, it is great to start the day off with a song, and why not choose one that includes a language many of your students speak at home? This benefits both ELL students and students with English as their first language, as both are exposed to new vocabulary that will stick with them longer than a mere list of words would. So turn up the music and let your kids sing and dance along!

Here are some of my favorite songs for a couple of different languages! 

https://lacomadre.org/2020/04/a-spanish-class-teacher-serves-up-innovative-instruction-from-her-kitchen/

Visuals

Bombarding your classroom or your student’s environment is a great way to help them passively learn a language. Simply labeling items throughout the classroom like the door, the classroom sink, the library area, etc (with the name in English and another language) can be an easy way to promote multilingualism in the classroom. Including books written in other languages placed around the classroom can be very beneficial as well! In my speech room, I have common greetings and vocabulary such as “Bienvenido!” (welcome) and “El Alfabeto” (the alphabet) in the form of posters in places where I know the children will see it.

Here are some of my favorite resources for Spanish / Bilingual Classroom Materials:

https://confidentparentsconfidentkids.org/2015/12/10/learning-about-the-major-world-holidays-their-uniqueness-and-commonalities/

Celebrate the Holidays!

One of the most fun ways to promote the use of other languages in the classroom is through celebrating various holidays! As an SLPa working in Southern California, many of my kiddos speak Spanish at home and at school. Every Cinco De Mayo, I put together a little party with my groups and we celebrate Hispanic Heritage and practice their target speech sounds with Spanish words. Additionally, if I have a student that speaks Spanish, I might let them take the lead on certain activities or play the role of a teacher to their fellow group members. Regardless of whether or not you may have children speaking other languages in your own classroom, celebrating holidays like Cinco De Mayo, Chinese New Year, or any other holiday promotes cultural diversity and offers many amazing learning opportunities for yourself and the students! 

Here are some popular holidays/celebrations held around the world that you can incorporate into your classroom. 

    1. Chinese New Year (February 1st - 15th, 2022) 
    2. Mardi Gras (March 1st, 2022)
    3. St. Patrick's Day (March 17th) 
    4. Holi, Festival of Colors (March 19th) 
    5. Easter (April 17th, 2022) 
    6. Ramadan (April 2nd - May 2nd, 2022)
    7. Dia De Los Muertos (Day of the Dead) (November 1st - 2nd) 
    8. Diwali (October 24th) 
    9. Hanukkah (December 18th - 26th) 
    10. Christmas (December 25th)

Author: Rachel Carroll, Speech-Language Pathologist Assistant (SLPa)

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