It feels like summer passes in the blink of an eye. Instead of beach days and barbecues, your mind is suddenly full of supply lists and anticipating an incoming class of new faces. As you’re organizing shelves and deciding on the optimal classroom layout, remember to consider the needs of your bilingual students. Now’s the perfect time to create a welcoming classroom that reflects acceptance and diversity right from the start.
Create an Inclusive Classroom
You want all of your students to feel like the classroom is their own. Make sure the images in your classroom represent and support diversity. If possible, find out the cultures that will be represented in your class roster.
Bilingual students are proud to see their home languages reflected in class books and posters. Consider having a bilingual listening and reading center, where students can read in comfort. Introduce the whole class to interesting and exciting aspects of the language and culture of represented countries. Traditional foods, stories, holidays and history are just a few subjects that are sure to be a hit.
Be Supportive, Yet Sensitive
Teachers often walk a fine line between giving bilingual students extra care and attention and making them feel singled out as different. When you discuss other languages and cultures in your class, do so generically, so that any one student doesn’t feel singled out. Your sensitivity to student needs will ensure that class discussions increase the confidence of your bilingual students.
Some students like to talk about where they, or their parents, are from. They want to answer their classmates’ questions. However, not all bilingual children feel they are different from their peers. Let each student decide what makes them unique and special. For those who have negative feelings associated with having a different home language, try and identify opportunities to help them feel more accepted and appreciated in the classroom.
Find Bilingual Resources
Gather bilingual books and other learning materials in your students’ home languages. Not only will it help students feel more welcome, it will also improve their literacy skills. Check out our post Bilingual Children: Benefits of Learning to Read in the Home Language for more information and tips.
You can also adapt your lesson plans to reflect the unique makeup of your students’ cultural backgrounds. Our free lesson plan “Understanding and Appreciating Cultural Differences” includes a fun “I am Unique” Scavenger Hunt.
Prepare Information for Bilingual Parents
It’s important to engage the parents of your bilingual students. Help them understand the vital role they play in the language and literacy skills of their children by providing them with materials in their home language. Perhaps you can allow students to borrow bilingual books, and encourage them to read with their parents.
Find Your Support Network
Where can you find support during the school year? Look into joining the local chapter of your state’s bilingual educators association. Familiarize yourself with ways your school district can support you. Are there financial resources you can utilize? Are there other teachers or administrators who can help teachers of bilingual students?
A supportive and understanding teacher can make all the difference in the life of a bilingual child. The entire class benefits from learning about other cultures through the eyes of their fellow classmates. Helping bilingual children blossom and shine in the classroom is truly a rewarding endeavor.
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