Bilingual Learners

Instructional Methods

Instructional Processes I Would Use

Bilingual learners learn in so many different ways, it’s hard to choose which one is the best. One way that I think I would like to use in order to support my bilingual learners is to just immerse them in English. Immersion allows the students to listen to the sounds being said, and then start to associate those sounds with the words and meaning behind them, similar to how infants start to learn their language. Students first have to comprehend what is being said before they can fully start to speak the new language. Allowing bilingual learners to stay silent is key to their learning and comprehending a new language. During their time of silence, students are listening, making connections and eventually trying out sounds that they have heard. Using hand gestures and non-verbal forms of communication in the classroom, students can comprehend the entire lesson, even if it is in a different language. In a video titled, “A Children’s Guide to Language: Teaching a Second Language,” Dr. Stephen Krashen, a pioneer in bilingual education, gave two lessons in German. In the first lesson, he stood at the podium and talked at us in German. Nothing was understood, no comprehension took place, so it was not a good lesson in terms of the immersion technique. The second lesson was far more educational. He only spoke in German, but using non-verbal communication along with the German, everyone was able to understand the lesson on parts of the body. It is so simple to include non-verbal cues in your teaching, yet it does so much for bilingual learners of a new language.

Learning a Second Language

Bilingual learners learn English in much the same way as they learn their first language. We all start out with thought processes. We think about what is going on around us, the things we see, the smells, and the sounds we hear all work together to form thought. Children then go from thought processes to language. They use their thoughts to form connections between the sounds they hear and what those sounds mean in terms of their environment. They are constantly being surrounded by their loved ones, immersed in the same language, so that they can start to form those connections. Babies babble, which is there way of trying to mimic the sounds they hear. They eventually go into the output processes of actually speaking. Children start with one word thoughts to say many different things. They eventually go into two word sentences, then to telegraphic sentences (sentences that omit conjunction words and other words that are unnecessary to getting their message across). Around three to five years of age, children start to speak in almost grammatically correct sentences. No one taught them grammar, the children picked up on the patterns they heard and applied them to their own speech. Bilingual learners go through the same process. They already have the thought process down, so they jump into the input process, listening to those around them, making connections. Bilingual learners then go into the output process, practicing the sounds they hear in similar situations, going into one word messages, to two word, telegraphic, then eventually full sentences. By interacting in social settings, an English learner can learn needed vocabulary, syntax and phonology of English.

Instructional Approaches to Teacher Bilingual Learners

One instructional approach I could use to teach a second language to a bilingual learner would be the total physical response (TPR) approach. The idea of this theory is to use language how parents use it when teaching their children their first language. The teacher gives a command in the second language, and the students have to perform the task given. It uses physical movement, listening to the pronunciation of words and making sense of them, exactly like when we were young and still learning our first language. TPR allows students to move in the classroom, making it fun to do and watch and also giving them a comfortable learning environment. Students are allowed to remain silent until they feel comfortable talking. Even though this approach allows students some freedom with their development, it does lack in the sense that it does not cover syntax, phonology, or a myriad of vocabulary that would be necessary to fine tune students’ language acquisition. TPR is good for beginners to get a handle on the new language, learning commands and simple vocabulary, but it is not enough for learning the entire language.

Another approach that could be used in tandem with TPR, is using comic books to integrate language development with academic achievement as well. In an article I read, titled, “Using Comic Books as Read-Alouds: Insights on Reading Instruction From an English as a Second Language Classroom” by Jason Ranker, a teacher used comic books to teach her young bilingual learners about problem and solution in a story, gender stereotypes (used especially in comics), and dialogue. I found that using comics to teach bilingual learners English is a great way to teach them vocabulary, using pictures to reinforce the meaning of words or phrases, using dialogue as real social language, and including academic language in the lessons as well so that the students do not have to halt their education in favor of just learning the new language. The teacher also allowed her students to write their own comics, giving them the opportunities to draw parallels between words and settings (the pictures they draw) and enforcing dialogue between people. The students practice their writing skills, but are also learning English syntax, vocabulary and morphology all while reading a super hero comic book. This approach can help to fine tune their comprehension skills developed in TPR and start them onto speaking the language, as well as reading and writing in it.