Bilingualism, Oral Language and the Common Core
Teacher, Hurley School
|Project Description: This project will look at the growth of language-learning students who learn content in Spanish. Specifically, the project will study students” growth in oral language, vocabulary acquisition, and reading comprehension in Spanish given the common core shifts. Some of the big questions and ideas include : what are the challenges of a bilingual education and how might these challenges increase the rigor for all language learners, what practices help language learners access and comprehend content in a different language, how has the common core changed the expectations for me and for my students.
Through the implementation of new cross-curricular activities and strategies, I will reflect on techniques that succeeded in increasing my student”s oral language and their reading comprehension. I will also reflect on techniques that need modifications. Some activities will include learning stations in the upper elementary classroom, deepening academic and social language through accountable talk, and re-vamping the use of visuals in the classroom. By analyzing student discussions and student work, I will show how these new activities are affecting student growth.
Biography: Rodolfo Morales earned his Bachelor of Science in Marketing Communications from Emerson College and his Masters in Education from the University of Massachusetts, Boston after completing the Boston Teacher Residency program and a year-long practicum at the Hernandez School.
He has dedicated his career to supporting the minority population of Boston through his work with the Villa Victoria community, Sociedad Latina, and now with Boston Public Schools. Rodolfo Morales has worked at the Hurley School as a fourth and fifth grade bilingual teacher. He also prepared and led professional development workshops for the bilingual teachers of the Hurley, served in the school’s leadership team, and is a union representative. As a former English Language Learner and a Boston native, Rodolfo has a personal history with English as a second language and bilingual education, along with a strong belief and commitment to its purpose and goals.
BLOG POST #1
By Rodolfo Morales
What do I teach?
What does it mean to be an educator in a dual language school? Whenever I attempt to answer this, people look at me like I”m talking another language. Sometimes I have to make sure I am not.
“I teach at a dual language school, so I teach fourth grade in Spanish,” I explain.
“Oh, so you teach Spanish?” they reply.
“Yes, but I also teach content in Spanish.”
And so begins further confusion, usually from non-educators about why I teach in Spanish. Luckily, Boston Public School teachers usually know and are aware of the benefits of a dual language program. Therefore, I won”t bore you with a long explanation about what it is that I do, but I”ll bring you up to speed just so we can be on the same page.
As a bilingual teacher at the Joseph J. Hurley School, I teach full-time in Spanish. Students in my classroom spend a whole week with me learning 4th grade content in Spanish. We read grade level texts, write in various genres, follow the math scope and sequence throughout the year, and study the geography of the United States, just like other fourth grade classrooms, with the exception that we do it all in”¦ yup, you guessed it, Spanish. After a week with me students switch homerooms and continue their lessons the following week in an English classroom, and so the cycle continues.
Why dual language?
Why do we do this? Well, we believe that students who come to us with the ability to speak and understand Spanish are not at a disadvantage or at a deficit. In fact, we see this as an opportunity to teach them in their native language and give them a strong foundation in literacy. Once that foundation is built, we bridge their understanding and learning of their second language while continuously teaching academic content. This also works for students who are native English speakers and take part in our dual language school. We also don”t see them as being at a disadvantage, and they too receive the opportunity to learn in their native language while simultaneously learning a second one.
Where does the Common Core fit into this?
As you can imagine, teaching in Spanish is not a simple task. Likewise, learning in Spanish isn”t easy for my students either. By fourth grade, they being to understand the power of language and realize that for many of them, the language of power in their community is English. Spanish becomes of lesser importance to them and English becomes their preferred language. Not only do I have to re-engage my students in learning in Spanish, but with the Common Core shifts, I must do so with complex texts, in a way that builds knowledge with content-rich non-fiction, and lastly by getting them to read, write, and speak in Spanish. On top of that, I remind them of the importance of Spanish and the true power of bilingualism.
How are you going to do it?
This year I am continuing with my goals of increasing my students” reading levels and confidence. However, I am also considering the role that oral language plays in learning material and in vocabulary acquisition. Because of this, I am implementing several activities that require students to use social and academic oral language. Some activities are school-wide initiatives that have been brought to my attention by our principal, our awesome teacher leader, or by our literacy coach. Other activities are ones I have discovered or created and feel would best meet the needs of my students. These activities include buddy reading with non-fiction texts, learning stations in the upper elementary classroom, visual thinking strategies, and math discussions. Furthermore, the use of accountable talk moves will play a pivotal role in my instruction in all content areas. My hope is that with the integration of these activities, students will feel confident in speaking Spanish and in turn will gain vocabulary, have better comprehension, and be engaged in the language.