Bilingualism & Home Language Use
By Alison Fox
Sociocultural Aspects of Bilingual Students in the Classroom
It's important to understand how humans learn language but more importantly how they develop high-order mental processes. In order for teachers to reach those deeper skills, they must introduce concepts based off the student's present levels and previous knowledge. From there they can expand and introduce new concepts.
Lev Vygotsky's sociocultural/cognitive perspective is a hypothesis where he explains social and cognitive necessities in the way humans learn. He believes in three key learning concepts: mediation, internalization, and imitation (Richard-Amato, 2010).
Some specific aspects that may affect ELL students in the classroom:
- Many students come from low socioeconomic statuses
- Parents generally have less education
- Cultural conflicts, yet some cultures may share similarities
- Behavioral influences
- Students will typically feel more comfortable using their home language versus English
Cultural Impact of Bilingualism and Home Language Use
All students will be influenced through their own cultures, race, religion, and/or ethnic backgrounds. All of these factors can influence their academic performance in the classroom.
Strategies and Resources for Cultivating Home and School Partnerships
Parent involvement is crucial for student success. Try to build relationships between school and home. Communicate frequently with parents.
- Create lessons that involve different cultures that students can connect with and share with their families
- Use different varieties of communication like meetings, conferences, phone calls, letters, notes, texts, email, school/class websites, social media, etc...
- Provide information in students native language to send home
- Ask parents to get involved in school or classroom activities such as volunteering for field trips or helping in the classroom
- Give parents information about free local ESL classes
- Maintain contact with parents to foster the relationship
Strategies for Evaluating the Effectiveness of the Home and School Partnerships
Teachers can evaluate the effectiveness of home and school partnerships by:
- Keeping communication logs that contain contact information, copies of concerns, discussions, volunteer information, and more
- Maintain these records to ensure that messages are getting out
- Reflect upon methods used and periodically review how they are working. Make adjustments if needed
The Role of Leadership in Cultivating a Positive Home and School Partnership for ELL Students
“When people in positions of authority (teachers, administrators, doctors, etc.) let families know that speaking a home language provides the best academic and emotional support possible for their children, families will be motivated to pass on their language and heritage. At the very least, parents will be able to provide their children with the gift of bilingualism – a gift of which many in the United States are envious (LanguageLizard, 2012).”
Language Lizard Blog. (2012, January 11). Supporting bilingualism: 4 reasons parents should speak heritage languages at home [Web log post]. Retrieved from http://blog.languagelizard.com/2012/01/11/supporting-bilingualism-4-reasons-parents-should-speak-heritage-languages-at-home/
Richard-Amato, P.A. (2010). Making it happen: From interactive to participatory language teaching: Evolving theory and practice, fourth edition. Pearson Education Inc.