How to Start the School Year in a Dual Immersion Classroom

Are you looking to kick off the school year in your Dual Immersion (DI) classroom? Here’s some tips for a smooth start.

Honor Both Languages

Unfortunately, it’s very common in dual immersion programs that one language has more social value than the other, and usually that’s English. That’s why it’s extra important that we are inclusive and honor all of the languages and cultures in our class as we celebrate bilingualism. I do this by celebrating my own bilingualism and speaking frankly about my struggles being a second language learner. I also talk a lot about cognates and using what they know from their home language to help them.

Also be mindful of what beginning of the school year topics you are teaching in which language. If you teach all the rules in Spanish and do all the fun activities in English, students will make that association. So try to spread the fun activities between the languages as much as possible.

Back to Basics

My first year teaching DI I was floored when my 4th grade English speakers didn’t know any of their numbers in Spanish. How did they get to 4th grade without knowing their numbers?!? Well, it turns out they did know them, they just temporarily forgot. A few days of review and they were back on that bike so to speak. From that point on, I built in some time for reviewing seemingly basic vocabulary like numbers and simple phrases to help students get up to speed.

Mix Up Student Groupings

Students (and adults, too!) tend to gravitate toward the people they’re comfortable with, which likely means students who speak the same home language. Think about providing students with a strong model in the other language and mix up the groupings. I usually sat students at tables and used the home language information so that there would be an even mix of Spanish and English speaking students at each group.

Teaching Dual Immersion is such a unique experience. These tips will help you to be mindful of the special needs of DI students as you start the school year.

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