Research Paper On Teaching Bilingual Students

Type of paper: Research Paper

Topic: Language, Students, Education, English, Bilingualism, Family, Linguistics, Instruction

Pages: 6

Words: 1650

Published: 2021/02/21

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Technically, the term “bilingual education” means the presence of two languages in an educational setting; however, in the American school system, it means a classroom approach that uses the native tongue of immigrant students who are in the process of learning English in order to teach them (, 2015). Bilingual education has been a controversial subject for years, but good bilingual programs promote instruction in subject matters while striving toward proficiency in English (Lee & Krashen, 2002).

Models of Education

There are three program models used: developmental, transitional, and two-way bilingual education. There are variations of these models, but the best include instruction in the native language, specific subject matter instruction, and English-as-a Second-Language (ESL) teaching (Lee & Krashen, 2002). As the student become more adept in English, they learn subjects using English for Specific Purposes (ESP). Eventually, they are capable of promoting to mainstream classes. The ESP classes serve as a bridge between the mother tongue and the general education classroom.
A research brief by the Center for Research on Education found that bilingual programs are effective (Parmon, 2011). It was found that the program choice of 90/10 and 50/50 Two-Way Bilingual Immersion Programs resulted in students scoring better than 50 percent if the test takers in their native language and in English in all subjects. The 90/10 Program teaches students 90 percent of the time in their own language; as proficiency increases, that percentage is dropped to half the time. If students were enrolled in English-only immersion programs, scores dropped in math and literacy; this group also represented the highest dropout rate (Honigsfeld 80).
Once the student is proficient enough in English skills, he or she is provided with a gradual exit plan. In addition to preventing leaving ESL instruction too early, the plans encourage continued development in the first language. It is important to note that the first language of the student must be maintained for a number of reasons: maintaining a connection to the student’s heritage, continuing advancement in literacy in the native language, and to allow a reference point in instances where English requires clarification (Andersen-Mejias, 2002). Although many immigrant parents want to their children to participate in immersion classes in order to learn English, teachers should impress upon them that being bilingual is an advantage for their child.
There are three focus areas for the ESL instructor in supporting the student’s first language. Many times, this is the major method of communication between children and their parents who speak English poorly. Keeping the heritage language is positive rather than negative, and it should be interpreted in the classroom accurately and in the context of the culture from which it came. Methods to address these goals are actively personal communication with the parents, either through an interpreter or through the child. Paying respect and homage to the native language in all areas of the classroom and not just during ESL classes is essential to promote acceptance by all students. Incorporating similar language and grammatical structures in activities can demonstrate how languages are related. The parents or the student may be willing to make a presentation on the native cultural to the advantage of all the students.
A successful dual-language program at the City Elementary School in Texas incorporated several processes still in debate with less experienced programs (Alanís & Rodríguez, 2008). The faculty at the school thought the students should take responsibility for their own language acquisition and in order to promote this, the teachers met on a regular basis to evaluate student needs. Alignment is a powerful tool to perform assessments, evaluate curriculum, and focus instruction. By consistently looking for ways to improve the quality of instruction and to form a team to advance the academic and social environment of the students, it was possible to align each grade to the curriculum. Also, language development was not given greater importance that development academically and socially.
While tests should not be given in the native language in mainstream classes, practicing taking tests may assist the bilingual student in overcoming test anxiety and understand how questions relate to answers.

Optimum Learning Environment

The best environment for learning to speak a second language is one that is natural with easy communication (Dulay, Burt & Krashen, 1982). In an atmosphere without judgment, the learner is more inclined to take chances because he knows mistakes will not have negative consequences. The instruction is diverse; for instance, without syllables that are grammatically sequenced or teaching so simplified as to be uninteresting. There is little direction discussion of language rules; instead, learners perform stimulating tasks and activities where meeting their needs are the goal rather than set pieces of information. Conversations are guided to the task and not just allowed to ramble with significant jargon or slang.
Other suggestions include allowing a classroom to be cluttered and spontaneous (Enright and McCloskey 1985). Teachers function as instructors, but also as spectators, facilitators, and participants in activities. The lines between “instruction” and “interaction” may blur and the use of peers as mentors is an option. Rather than traditional textbooks, materials come from magazines, paperbacks, bus schedules, and other components of day-to-day communication. Allowing students to perform tasks such as taking attendance, checking out books, and organizing bulletin boards also promote functional use of English. However, more traditional resources such as dictionaries, textbooks, and encyclopedias are required in addition to use of the computers and access to the internet. Finally, presenters from outside the school system coming to speak with the students and work with them concerning being bilingual can be helpful.

Possible Future Improvements in Bilingual Education

Lee and Krashen (2002) propose that the biggest problem with bilingual education is lack of textbooks in both the first and second language. Voluntary reading allows for comprehension in English while promoting literacy in the first language.


The lure of having children who are bilingual is evident in New York City where the Education Department plans on bringing bilingual education to poorer schools in an effort to entice middle-class families out of their present school districts (Harris, 2015). The goal to is teach children to read, write, and speak in two languages with one of the languages being English. The other languages include Spanish, Japanese, Haitian-Creole, Hebrew, French, and Chinese. Half of the students will have English as a mother language and the other half will already speak the alternate language. In addition to the career aspects of being bilingual, the ability to speak other languages promotes respect and acknowledgement and an appreciation for all languages. Ultimately, the success of the program will depend on the quality of the instructors and their leadership.
Teaching ESL in the classroom is the “job” of the instructors, but one of the most important tasks may not be actually teaching English. Difficulties in assimilation into an English speaking society can be eased by creating respect for all languages in general by drawing comparisons to the student’s heritage language.

Hand Out Paper

Bilingual education is an approach to classroom teaching that utilizes the first language of learners while teaching the English languages. While controversial, these programs focus on all subject matters in the course of teaching English as a Second Language.
Program models include transitional, developmental, and two-way bilingual education with the most effective being continuing education in the mother language, English as a Second Language, and specific subject matter instruction.


Lee, S., & Krashen, S. (2002). Predictors of success in writing in English as a foreign language:
reading, revision behavior, apprehension, and writing. The College Student Journal,
36(4), 532-543. Retrieved from
Alanís, I., & Rodríguez, M. (2008). Sustaining a Dual Language Immersion Program: Features
of Success. Journal of Latinos And Education, 7(4), 305-319. doi:10.1080/15348430802143378
Andersen-Mejias, P. (2002). The ESL Teacher's Role in Heritage Language Maintenance. The
Internet TESL Journal, 8(10). Retrieved from
Dulay, H., Burt, M., & Krashen, S. (1982). Language two. New York: Oxford University Press.
Enright, D., & McCloskey, M. (1985). Yes, Talking!: Organizing the Classroom to Promote
Second Language Acquisition. TESOL Quarterly, 19(3), 431. doi:10.2307/3586272
Harris, E. (2015). New York City Education Department to Add or Expand 40 Dual-Language
Programs. The New York Times. Retrieved from
Honingsfeld, A. (2009). ELL Programs: Not ‘One Size Fits All.’”. Kappa Delta Pi Record,
45(4), 166-171. Retrieved from
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reading, revision behavior, apprehension, and writing. The College Student Journal,
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predictors_of_success_in_efl_writing.pdf (2015). NABE - Bilingual Education. Retrieved 13 April 2015, from
Parmon, P. (2011). Educating Immigrant Children: Bilingualism in. Social Sciences Journal,
10(1), 65-69. Retrieved from

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