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February 2013 | Volume 55 | Number 2
Tips to Help You Flip Your Classroom
Liliana X. Aguas
I will always remember the first time I observed Ms. King's class. As I walked down the hallway on my way to her room, I was captivated by a bulletin board displaying a series of plastic spoons wearing colorful paper clothing, sporting yarn for hair, and featuring silly faces drawn on with permanent marker.
I smiled as I began to read the stories that accompanied the spoon people. All of them were written in both English and Spanish. I couldn't believe it. I walked through the classroom door and found Ms. King speaking in Spanish to an attentive group of 4th and 5th grade students.
In that moment, I felt a sense of validation about my first language that I'd never experienced before in an academic setting. I spent the rest of that school year student-teaching in Ms. King's two-way immersion classroom, conducting research on first-language maintenance and bilingual students and investigating the relationship between English language learners' perception of their first language and their academic performance.
What I found is that students who have a positive perception of their first language academically outperform students who view their first language negatively. My investigation clearly demonstrated that those teachers who created a language-inclusive classroom simultaneously created a more effective learning environment.
Teachers play an important role in helping students form a positive image of themselves. When teachers recognize and value their students' first language, they not only contribute to their students' academic success and second language development, but also tell students that they value and appreciate their cultures and backgrounds. By doing so, teachers encourage their students' sense of self-worth and competence.
It is important to mention that teachers do not need to be fluent in the native languages of their students to recognize the value of those languages. In fact, I have seen many monolingual, English-speaking teachers create inclusive classroom environments. Many of the activities that I use in my classroom to recognize my students' first languages were shared with me by such colleagues.
Here are some of my favorite classroom practices that I use with my students to create a positive and inclusive learning environment where students' language diversity is honored.
What are you doing in your classroom, implicitly or explicitly, to honor your students' language diversity? Discuss this article on Inservice, ASCD's blog, and share your ideas for creating a language-inclusive classroom.
Liliana Aguas is a 2nd grade dual-language immersion teacher at Leconte Elementary School in Berkeley, Calif. She received ASCD's Outstanding Young Educator Award in 2012.
Copyright © 2013 by ASCD
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