Some ideas on teaching English from Langauge Arts (LA), March 2006, a publication of the National Council of teachers of English (NCTE).
[Note: This series of journal articles, like others I have read, seems to promise some definite ideas on how to teach in a multilingual classroom. However, the suggestions appear more often to be accidental discoveries, unsystematic, and often platitudinous, dealing more in theory than in actual, systematic practice. If that's the way it is, OK, then say so. Each time I go into a multilingual classroom, tell me that I am discovering how to cope, how to help the children succeed. That's the attitude I seem to take away from articles like the following. It's not that the articles do not contain some helpful ideas, but I keep looking for a step-by-step system and I'm not finding it.]
What are the issues in multi-lingual classrooms?
"Each year, more and more teachers enter multilingual classrooms to teach students with diverse language and literacy backgrounds. Although teaching in multilingual classrooms is not a recent development, it is a new experience for many teachers. Multilingual classrooms present teachers with significant opportunities, such as exploring multiple perspectives and preparing students to live in a diverse world, but they also present significant challenges. Those challenges become major tensions in contexts affected by the English-only movement where schools are defined as monolingual in disregard of the multilingual kids who occupy the classrooms in those schools. In contrast, educators in other contexts are able to offer many opportunities for children to bring their linguistic and cultural resources into the classroom." Editors. LA (Mar. 06), 287.
What are the issues in multilingual classrooms?
"When we restrict or prohibit the use of first languages in classrooms, we are asking children to choose between home and school cultures and are wasting incredible linguistic and cultural resources that would enrich classroom life and learning. We are also failing to prepare children for life in a global community." The Editors. LA (Mar. 06), 287.
What happened when a very bright Chinese girl who had excelled in learning Chinese in her first two grades in China came to the U.S.?
Complete culture shock. Father found tapes with "Three Little Kittens." Listened over and over. Mother Goose rhymes. Became an "aide" in a first-grade spelling class where she learned basic spelling while being considered by the students as a teacher aide. Supportive environment. Patience. People demonstrated words. Over 7 million American children, ages 5 to 14 years old, speak a language other than English at home. Don't emphasize grades at the beginning. "S" for satisfactory. [This story of his child's experience in a U.S. school was written by her father.] LA (March 06).
How help ESL (English as a Second Language) students learn English?
Dual-language books. Brainstorm ideas within the school for how to help. J Cummins, et al. LA (Mar. 06), 297-307.
How does "No Child Left Behind" (NCLB) affect the classroom?
Teacher engages students in drama involving their own poetry and is criticized by administration for not being on the same page at the same time with other teachers at her grade level. CL Medina and G Campano. LA (Mar. 06), 332.
How help ESL students learn English?
"Survival English" to understand important words. CL Medina and G Campano. LA (Mar. 06), 337. [RayS: What "survival words" would I emphasize in my secondary English classroom in teaching English? Interesting idea. A place to begin. This idea might be of value for native-English speakers. Reduce the class to key words or concepts that are really important to the meaning of the class. Mor realistic would be to begin units with key words.]
How help ESL students learn English?
Put yourself into the students' shoes. M Cahnmann. LA (Mar. 06), 342. [RayS: This is an idea that I would call "platitudinous," adding frustration to a teacher who is struggling to find ideas that work in helping students with a variety of different first languages deal with what I must teach in an English class.]