Monday, January 30, 2012

What's the Language of the Day?

There are so many interpretations of the term "dual-language education". Depending on the model to which your district or campus subscribes, you may be responsible for the instruction of one language for all subjects throughout an entire day or for specific subjects every day. However, due to lack of qualified personnel or a multitude of other reasons, YOU may be it! You may be responsible for instruction in both languages according to the day or subject, depending on the model.

If you have had any experience in this context, you know that it can be confusing both for you and your students. The question, "What language are we speaking?" can often be heard and just might be something you have asked yourself!

While it can be difficult to make the switch between the two languages, it is not impossible. One thing we know is that students respond to context and that response can trigger an appropriate reaction in their brains. For example, I am a tall (6' 1") Anglo woman. When I am consulting on a campus, I try very hard to observe and converse with students without disrupting the classroom environment. Yet, my skin and height make that a bit of a challenge! I find it interesting though that even Pre-K and Kindergarten children will automatically switch from Spanish to English when I bend down to observe their work. Since they have never heard me speak, they are using visual context to determine the best form of communication.

So, as dual-language teachers, our question should be, "How can we create contexts which indicate a shift from one language to the other?" It might be a visual sign that we flip and read aloud (see the four examples below).

I have seen primary teachers use different stuffed animals or puppets to quickly intro the switch. Others play a particular song or CD indicating the transition. What other ideas have you tried to create a context for switching the language of instruction?


  1. In my classroom I use "I, 2, 3, click or "clic :)" and the kids put their fingers up by their ears and make a turning motion. We call it changing our ears to prepare for the other language. We do it every time we switch to identify that we are changing over :).
    - Krista

    1. That's a great idea! It really doesn't have to be a big deal but something simple like that is a perfect trigger to help them change the context.

    2. We do the same thing! At the beginning of the year I told them to imagine that there is a machine in their brain that has a switch, and that they will be "clicking" the machine back to English or Spanish (depending on what we were doing). For example, "Vamos a cambiar las máquinas en 1, 2, 3... ¡CLIC!" or "Switching machines back in one, two, three...CLICK!" and as you said they move their fingers by their ears as if they are turning something. I'm also in 2nd grade and they seem to enjoy it all the way through the end of the year (when they start wanting to do more grown up things because they're almost 3rd graders).

  2. hi our school is integrating the dual language approach but with a 90 /10 approach for kinder and 1st. I teach kinder in spanish it has been a challenge but we are getting the concept the hard part has been getting the material needed. I made a blog with some of the ideas i have gathered tranlated or made up please follow me at


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