What type of programme is best for emergent bilinguals in international schools?

As you are starting SPELTAC, to what extent do you think your role is important in the success of emergent bilingual students?

Language learning is for everyone, everywhere

Generally in international English-medium schools, emergent bilingual students -whether they are in a separate English language learning programme or not-  spend most of their time in mainstream classrooms, interacting with their peers and studying an international curriculum through English. This environment gives emergent bilingual students of all levels, from beginners to native English speakers, opportunities for acquiring new language, social integration, cognitive and academic growth that a separate EAL or ‘pull-out’ programme cannot offer. It would be counter-productive to keep emergent bilinguals in a separate programme while learning English. In fact, in an international school setting, most if not all children are learning on a bilingual continuum. They are all at different stages of language learning. Additionally, language learning never stops. Every subject has certain associated language registers and all students need to be able to have control over these. For example, a scientist needs a different type of language than a poet or a writer. A lab report has different structures and language features than a short story and students need to be apprenticed into speaking and writing like experts so they can be successful.

Emergent bilingual children need to master skills, knowledge and content at the same time as they are learning English. By integrating language learning into all subjects, English language learners are given an equal opportunity to access the curriculum and be successful. The great thing is that such an approach strengthens the literacy development of all students.

Meaningful learning experiences

A language is best acquired through meaningful learning experiences, such as solving a mathematics word problem, creating a dramatic retelling of a story, planning a class outing, learning how to play a sport, or working on a group project. Well-planned integration of language also enhances international mindedness, as it cultivates a positive attitude to cultural diversity.

Your role is vital

Teachers in international schools play a key role in helping emergent bilingual learners develop proficiency in English. The influence of all teachers, working in collaboration with English language learning specialists, support staff, and others with responsibility for these students,  can have a significant impact on their learning outcomes.

What are your ideas about language learning across the curriculum?





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