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: