While our previous article highlighted common issues found within bilingual programs, this week’s blog will focus on how your school can set up the ideal program and avoid some of the pitfalls that can arise. Outlined below are some things to consider when setting up your program in order to ensure its success:
Bilingual Program Model
Before setting up your program, the type of bilingual program must be determined. Will it be a transitional program, a partial immersion program, a dual language program …? Although the aim of each model is essentially to provide students with academic instruction in two languages – native tongue and second language – the type of bilingual program your school chooses to follow will determine how classes are structured, and how much of the time will be spent on delivering content in students’ native language and in their second language.
Clarifying Program Objectives
As mentioned in last week’s article, where problems within bilingual programs occur is when objectives are not clarified, and the teaching of conversational language is brought into the mix. When outlining the goals of your bilingual program, keep in mind that the main focus should be on teaching academic language to students.
Maintaining Academic Focus
Once a model has been selected and objectives have been clarified, the next step involves ensuring that academic language remains the focus of your bilingual program and this can be done through the use of an educational framework, or through the modification of existing teacher planners.
a) Educational Framework: In designing an educational framework that outlines how academic language will be delivered across two languages (native and second language), your school can ensure that the focus will remain on academics. While the topic of this article isn’t educational framework design, below are some articles that will explain the benefits of a framework, steps for creating one, and sample frameworks that can be used as a starting point:
b) Planner Modification: In choosing to go down this path, the modification of existing school planners is all that is required to create the space for teachers to note academic language that will be covered in class in both students’ native tongue and second language. In doing so, teachers will be aware of language that will need to be covered in both languages across all subject areas. For tips on planner modification, see the following articles.
Scheduling is another important factor in the success of your bilingual program, which is why you will need to consider how to best structure your program time-wise. In my experience, teaching students concepts in their native tongue first, and then re-introducing those concepts in their second language works best as it allows learners to gain a solid understanding of what is being taught minus the language barrier. To give an idea of how this could be accomplished, one could schedule classes in students’ native tongue in the morning and repeat similar concepts in the afternoon in the second language, or have individual classes start out in the students’ native tongue and then re-introduce concepts in the second language.
Finally, you need to consider how you will be assessing students on their second language skills because, as stated in last week’s article, frameworks such as the Common European Framework of Reference for Language (CEFR) are not meant to assess academic language skills. This means you will need to devise a way to evaluate students’ knowledge of their second language in relation to how they apply it to subject areas (i.e. math, science, social studies, etc.), which can be done using learning outcomes from the native language curriculums as a base and tweaking them to work for assessing students in the second language.
The above considerations are just a few to help you on your way to setting up an ideal bilingual program; if you feel like you can use more guidance, contact us! We’re happy to help. Have you recently set up a bilingual program and have additional tips to share? We’d love to hear them!