Strategies for Bilingual Education

According to Ovando and Gourd, Holm and Holm (1990, 1995) capture the common characteristics of bilingual education: commitment to bilingual instruction, culturally and linguistically relevant curriculum, as well as local community and parent involvement in and controls of education (Banks, 1996, pp. 314-315). While watching the video clip, I observed many useful strategies utilized by Maria Cantine Fernandez in her bilingual classroom. With “commitment to bilingual instruction” in mind, Fernandez employs constant repetition to create familiarity and promote the acquisition of new vocabulary for her EASL students. She helps students understand the structure of sentences in English by combining experiential, visual, verbal and auditory learning: students read and reflect silently and aloud, and students listen to a recording of a story while following along in the book. As part of a “culturally and linguistically relevant curriculum”, Fernandez frequently traverses languages, introducing challenging words in English and also providing the Spanish version of that word. She has her students act out portions of a story that may be difficult to understand due to intricacies of the English language such as homophones. For all students, especially bilingual and EASL learners, the physical activity or acting out or role-playing provides memorable context for language concepts. Fernandez also employs visual aids and word games to keep students engaged and promote the learning of sentence structure and academic language which includes the meaning and proper use of different words.

Ovando and Gourd suggest that a vital aspect of “commitment to bilingual instruction” includes developing a place and status for minority languages which requires moving away from Western—English centered curricula (Banks, 1996, p. 307). As part of my future high school English classroom, this means incorporating literary works that will provide insight into other cultures and offer a legitimate voice to languages that may otherwise remain unexplored. To provide context and insight into culturally or linguistically relevant aspect of different works of literature, a graphic organizer, or list of terms, imagery and relevant themes will help jumpstart and prepare students for their reading assignments. As part of English instruction, all students, especially students with disabilities, bilingual or EASL learners in the high school setting may benefit greatly from working in pairs or small groups to explore unfamiliar academic language and navigate the meaning of different words or literary themes, reinforcing learning through collaboration. And while all of the above mentioned strategies are valuable for all students, knowing who my students are and what they need will most influence how I tailor, structure, and re-structure my English classroom.

Knowing who a student is, his or her interests, abilities, learning styles, etc. will be essential to tailoring a classroom that challenges, inspires and provides for specific needs while keeping him or her engaged and motivated. This requires collaboration with other teachers and school counselors (Sink, 2013, slide 9), attention to Individualized Education Plans (Sink, 2013 slide 7), and involvement and conversation with parents and the local community. Parents and families know their students best and have much insight to offer. All of these elements combined will help me as an educator to provide the most beneficial and individualized instructional practices for both “mainstream” students as well as bilingual students, EASL learners and students with disabilities.


Banks, J. A. (1996).  J.A. Banks (Ed.).  Multicultural education, transformative knowledge and action: Historical and contemporary perspectives. New York: Teachers College Press

Sink, C. A (2013) Language and Students with Disabilities Slides:  Retrieved on February 23, 2013 from:

Instructional Strategies and Learning Styles

learning-stylesEach student we will encounter is undoubtedly unique, varying in countless ways, not least of which are personalities, emotions, and learning styles. With this in mind, educators must understand, that students do not learn the same material in the same ways, nor does a uniform way of measuring student learning exist. Taking all of this into account, teachers need to understand and incorporate the different and distinctive ways in which students learn.

According to an interview with Howard Gardner, the Father of Multiple Intelligences, by Owen Edwards, “the broad spectrum of students – and perhaps the society as a whole – would be better served if disciplines could be presented in a number of ways and learning could be assessed through a variety of means” (Edwards, p. 1). Edwards suggests that in order to promote the success and learning of all students, an educator needs to incorporate the learning styles: Visual-Spatial—includes drawing, verbal and physical imagery like charts and graphs, Bodily-Kinesthetic—includes physical activity and hands on learning like acting out and making things, Musical—related to sensitivity to sounds, rhythm, and musical media, Interpersonal- related to understanding and interacting with others such as group activities and dialogue, Intrapersonal—related to understanding one’s own interests and goals such as through reflection and independent study, Linguistic—related to the effective use of words and is a way of connecting to students with highly developed auditory skills through reading, playing word games, and writing stories or poetry, Logical-Mathematical—relates to conceptual and abstract thinking for students who like to experiment, explore questions, and solve puzzles (Edwards, p. 1).

Knowing who one’s students are and what they need is an essential and challenging aspect of teaching in the classroom. While planning and implementing activities and lesson plans that cater to the different learning styles of students seems daunting, the curriculum and teaching techniques must evolve just as students grow and change. According to Gardner’s philosophy, while students are young, promoting a more well-roundedness of education in the classroom may be perfectly appropriate, but as students grow older, “it becomes more important to discover and cultivate areas of strength” (Edwards, p. 2). Gardner believes “livelihood and happiness are more likely to emerge” if educators focus and cultivate the strengths and learning styles of older students (Edwards, p. 2). This is the challenge of every educator, to help students develop areas of understanding and knowledge as well as skills and values that encourage pride in livelihood and positive contribution.

Resource: EDU 6526 Instructional Strategies worksheet “An Interview with Howard Gardner, Father of Multiple Intelligence” by Own Edwards

Image retrieved on February 24, 2013 from:


Teaching Virtue

According to Russell Kirk’s essay, “Can Virtue Be Taught?,” the virtue of America is dangerously on the verge of collapse and “it is not propaganda nor productivity nor intellectuality that has power to invigorate Americaat the crisis of the nation’s fate” (Kirk, 1987, pg. 1). Kirk believes moral lessons and the character development of American youth have been neglected. Moral virtue is not being conveyed for many reasons, but in great part due to “the decay of family…modern affluence and modern mobility” (Kirk, 1987, pg. 1). Kirk criticizes those who believe the school system is wholly responsible for raising up virtuous citizens: “it would be vain for us to pretend that schools and colleges somehow could make amends for all the neglect of character resulting from the inadequacies of the American family” (Kirk, 1987, pg. 1). However, Kirk recalls a time when intellectual virtue was imparted successfully in eighteenth century British America. They were schooled in the reality of virtue and through literature; they learned to train their emotions, and were “required to read carefully…certain enduring books that dealt much with virtue” (Kirk, 1987, pg. 1). C.S. Lewis writes about the necessity and influence of such literature: “without the aid of trained emotions the intellect is powerless against the animal organism” (Kirk, 1987, pg. 1). He is writing about how unrealistic it is to expect American youth to grow up to be moral, self-controlled citizens if we are not promoting and teaching those virtues. Just as one would not expect daisies to grow without first planting those specific seeds, fertilizing and watering them, so Lewis is explaining how simply illogical it is to expect a virtuous generation without laying and fostering the proper foundation.

While the classroom may not be able to overcome the laundry list of inadequacies and deficiencies in the lives of every youth, there are many proactive strategies that I intend to implement and develop within my English classroom. Consciously selecting literature that provides opportunities for discussion and promotes the development of personal judgments about virtues is a great foundation. Displaying pertinent and meaningful quotes about virtuous behaviors and attitudes is a way of daily reminding and reinforcing valuable aspects of character development. And finally, holding students accountable to classroom expectations such as respect and fairness, as well as engaging students in conversation about virtuous behaviors and attitudes in everyday life are proactive approaches to promoting citizenship and moral education.



worksheet adapted from Russell Kirk’s “Can Virtue Be Taught?” The Wise Men Know What Wicked Things are Written in the Sky, 1987.

Bias in the Classroom

As a professional educator, addressing possible bias in future courses I teach will begin with my personal humility. My hope is to create a classroom culture where all students feel free to express who they are in a respectful way without fear. This requires reciprocal respect, honesty, and openness from both students and teachers. To promote this type of environment and address my own possible biases, I will need to be reflective, humble, open to criticism, and able to admit shortcomings, oversights and mistakes I make while teaching or interacting with students. As Professor Sink suggested, not only does this make me more accessible and relatable as a human being, but also creates a safe space where my students are able to make mistakes as well as take responsibility for them. This type of attitude is so important in helping students develop cultural competency and respect for all people.

Stuart Biegel’s article, “The Right to Be Out: Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity in America’s Public Schools” was really valuable in providing strategies for improving the sense of community within the school and classroom. Reflecting on the influence of an educator’s attitude on students, Biegel quotes Rick Lipkin:  “Given our socially reactive brains, we must ‘be wise,’ and be aware of the ways that our moods influence the biology of each life we touch” (Biegel, 2010, p. 104). With that quote in mind, bias may mean favoring or disfavoring particular students, which is unacceptable. As Martha Bigelow states in her article, “Somali Adolescents’ Negotiation of Religious and Racial Bias In and Out of School,” “schools are often places that reproduce larger societal systems of discrimination” but I would abhor this to be the case in my future classroom (Bigelow, p. 33). Our implicit and explicit attitudes and behaviors and the content we teach has the potential to be profoundly positive or debilitating to individuals, especially to students who are already vulnerable or marginalized.

As educators, we must set the tone by not only addressing the needs of all of our students, but also by displaying “open and explicit respect” for every individual in our classrooms (Biegel, p. 104). Every student is unique and will bring with them a host of biases, thoughts and attitudes about any given aspect of another student’s cultural identity, religious identity, or gender identity; but without respect, collaborative, constructive, discussion-based learning will not take place and even more so, individuals or groups of students may feel further isolated and unheard. Without an unbiased classroom culture centered on respect, students will miss out on opportunities to teach and learn from one another and what a shame that would be.

Providing students with access to multiple perspectives within the curriculum is an important part of avoiding bias in the classroom. I reviewed an English text, England in Literature and found it to be a valuable text for use in my future British Literature sections of an English curriculum. In accordance with the title, this resource provides literature from Medieval Age to the twentieth century. As most would expect, the majority of authors and perspectives represented are male, although there are images of both men and women throughout the textbook. And while women are underrepresented for many reasons, different depending on time period and context, studying the roles of men and women as they relate to different texts would be as important part of their understanding. While many of the classics provided in this text are written by men, it may prove valuable to analyze lesser known works written by females and to discuss why they may be less famous. Also in hopes of eliminating bias, it would be useful to provide opportunities for students to analyze how a work is a commentary or criticism of social norms and gender roles.

Other than a small section on Celtic literature from Ireland and Whales, as the title suggests, most of the authors represented are English—white, Anglo-Saxon, Catholic-Christian Englishmen. So unless I was teaching a course solely focused on British Literature, other materials would be necessary to provide students with works written by authors of other countries, cultures, and religions. However, this resource does provide valuable variety in literary genres from epics to poetry, and short stories to plays. So while this text is hardly a multicultural masterpiece, it serves as a valuable collection of British texts from which to teach a section on British literature or as supplement to a more comprehensive curriculum.


Biegel, S. (2010). The right to be out: Sexual orientation and gender identity in america’s public schools. Chicago, IL: University of Minnesota Press.

Bigelow, M. (2008). Somali adolescents’ negotiation of religious and racial bias in and out of school. Theory Into Practice, 47, 27. 33.

Pfordresher, J., Veidemanis, G., McDonnell, H. (1989) England in Literature. Scott, Foresman (Ed.) Glenview, IL.

Cultural Competency Inside and Outside of the Classroom

As a future high school English teacher, I want to be culturally competent so that I am able to have honest conversations and relationships with students and their families despite the fact that we may have vastly different life experiences. Trusted relationships will only start as a result of open and frequent communication. I will host opportunities for parent teacher conferences so that I can introduce myself, put names to faces and get to know parents and families—the support systems behind my students. Conferences and updates throughout the year will also help keep lines of communication open. Also, in the beginning of the year, as their first English assignment, I will give students a writing prompt asking them to introduce themselves, providing an opportunity to share about what makes them who they are.

According to the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction website, cultural competence begins with getting to know the community from which my students come. This requires stepping outside of the classroom, and being an active participant in different community activities and events as well as being involved in students’ lives and interests outside of English class. And I am really looking forward to attending sports games, choir concerts, plays, musicals, dances, extracurricular clubs and service projects!

Cultural competence is:

  • Knowing the community where the school is located
  • Understanding all people have a unique world view
  • Using curriculum that is respectful of and relevant to the cultures represented in its student body
  • Being alert to the ways that culture affects who we are
  • Placing the locus of responsibility on the professional and the institution
  • Examining systems, structures, policies and practices for their impact on all students and families

Another aspect of cultural competence includes “Examining systems, structures, policies and practices for their impact on all students and families” (OSPI, 2013). To me this means taking the time to reflect on the efficacy of my organization, lesson planning and implementation as well as classroom management. A humble attitude, willingness to hear criticism, and flexibility to make small adjustments or implement big changes is a necessary aspect of a successful teacher. This willingness to grow, move and adjust is important because when it comes to cultural competency, “the learner must learn, re-learn, continuously practice, and develop in an environment of constant change. Cultures and individuals are dynamic — they constantly adapt and evolve” (OSPI, 2013). This means, not being afraid to take risks, trying new methods and materials, and learning together as we go. Professor Sanchez believes that “education is the socializing agent of our society” and society is always shifting, expanding and contracting, so education too “must remain flexible” (Banks, 1996, p. 131).


Banks, J. A. (1996).  J.A. Banks (Ed.).  Multicultural education, transformative knowledge and action: Historical and contemporary perspectives. New York: Teachers College Press.

OSPI (2013). Eliminating the Gaps: Cultural Competence. State of Washington Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction. Retrieved on February 10, 2013 from:

A Constructivist Perspective on Education

Constructivism operates on the theory that knowledge is received actively through experience and cooperation. Knowledge or the cognitive organization of this knowledge allows from subjective interpretation of reality as every individual constructs knowledge. The process is organic and new, not reproduced or predetermined and requires thoughtful reflection on all elements of experience especially context and content.  One cannot construct knowledge alone, but rather knowledge is received and experienced in collaboration, “by the participation of the individual in the social consciousness of the race” (Dewey, 1897).  According to Dewey’s “My Pedagogic Creed,” this process begins unconsciously almost at birth and is continually shaping the individual’s powers, saturating his consciousness, forming his habits, training his ideas and arousing his feelings and emotions” (Dewey, 1897). In this way, an individual finds meaning within the social group and seeks to meet and adhere to the demands of his social situation. And as a member of the group, the individual becomes responsible for the welfare of that group.

Dewey believes the school is “primarily a social institution,” a concentrated form of community life, a vessel for social progress (Dewey, 1897). This constructivist ideology centers on unity and cooperative learning while still maintaining an emphasis on individual accountability. Within the classroom, cooperative learning operates under the philosophy that isolation limits understanding, so individuals work as members of a group or team in order to learn from one another. This interaction benefits not only cognitive learning, but also the building of social skills. Collaborating and working together affirms the value and contributions of others while affirming once sense of being valued by his or her peers.



Dewey, J. (1897). “My Pedagogic Creed,” The School Journal, 54, (3), pp. 77-80.

Image retrieved on February 10th, 2013:

Advance Organizers and the Transfer of Information

An advance organizer organizes new material based on what students already know. Information is outlined, arranged and structured progressing from the most general and comprehensive ideas at the beginning to more detailed and more specific. Not only do advance organizers prepare students for new information, but also aid in the process of applying knowledge to new situations. This transfer of information counteracts the laundry list of facts that are often presented to students in the classroom. Jerome Bruner, Harvard Professor and distinguished educational psychologist writes, “We know perfectly well that there are good rote techniques whereby you can get the child to come back with a long list of information. This list is no good, however, because the child will use it in a single situation and possibly not even effectively then. There must be some other way of teaching so that the child will have a high likelihood of transfer” (Bruner, 1966). According to Dell’Olio & Donk, Teachers must provide their students with a abundant amounts of information and advance organizers increase the likelihood of understanding, retention and transfer of information (2007, 388). As instructional materials, advance organizers most effectively integrate new material with previously presented information through use of comparisons and cross-referencing. In this way, students establish connections, are able to understand the structure behind the material that is being presented, and are then better prepared to receive and digest the new material provided.


graphic retrieved on February 3, 2013 from:

“Some Elements of Discovery” by Jerome Bruner from:
Lee S. Shulman and Evan R. Keislar, editors. Learning By Discovery: A Critical Appraisal (1966).

Jeanine M. , D., & Donk, T. (2007). Models of Teaching: Connection Student Learning With Standards. Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications, Inc.