Bilingual Programs in Elementary Classrooms Term Paper

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Bilingual Programs in Elementary School

Type of Bilingual Program in the Classroom

The type of program used in the classroom is an approach known as a bilingual withdrawal program, or English as a Second Language (ESL). Through this program, students are taught in both English, while a withdrawal program is used to help them gradually become used to not using their mother tongue. In this way it is easier for them to keep up with the work being taught in the mainstream classroom, as they do not have to strain to understand the medium of instruction itself.

Through the withdrawal program, it is not a requirement for instructors to be proficient in the home language of students. The curriculum is set up in such a way to help students learn English. The ESL class that is especially set up for the purpose then meets every day during school hours for instruction.

Problems that could occur with this kind of instruction relate to the fact that students are withdrawn from the classroom during instruction time. The result is that students may develop difficulties with keeping up in the class context, and thus the purpose of the program is somewhat defeated. A further problem could occur when these students are singled out as being less competent than those remaining behind, and this in itself can defeat the purpose of learning. These students may then feel that their incompetence is an insurmountable hurdle and the problem is exacerbated together with the language problem.

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Thus, while this program is indeed being used in the classroom, there are some elements that could benefit from improvement. Nonetheless, the majority of these students benefit from the program and find classwork easier as a result. The way in which teachers administer these programs are also important. If the administration and emotional aspects of the situation are handled correctly, second-language students do benefit.

Other Types of Bilingual Programs

Term Paper on Bilingual Programs in Elementary Classrooms Assignment

The two other bilingual programs currently prevalent in United States elementary schools include submersion and structured immersion. The former entails that students are placed in an English-only classroom, and that no additional help is given with their English language skills. The expectation is then that students will be forced to learn English in an environment where instruction occur in English, and many of the classmates are native English speakers. The ideal behind this practice is that, being submerged in an environment where there is only one medium of communication, students will learn to use this medium as soon as possible.

The method has however been criticized for being ineffective and for causing higher dropout rates. Furthermore the anxiety suffered by submersion students in itself forms an obstacle to the learning process, as children learn best in an environment that is perceived as stress free and friendly. An environment with a majority of native English speakers may not always be perceived as such.

Structured immersion entails that once again students learn English as quickly as possible. This is however done through the use of the mother tongue. The teacher is proficient in the home language, and helps a student whenever difficulty arises with English in the classroom. The minority language thus by no means governs instruction, but serves as a vehicle towards learning English more quickly. The environment here is then more supportive of the learner's efforts, while also being conducive to learning the new language without singling the student out as less competent and needing extra out of class work.

Through the initial stages of this program then, the student is allowed to use the home language for answering and asking questions. Throughout this process however the student is encouraged to use English instead of the home language. While once again this method could make foreign students feel alienated and singled out for "incompetence," it depends very much upon the way in which instruction is handled in the classroom. Teachers need to be competent in dealing with the stress and emotional problems that second language learners experience.

Some critics have suggested that bilingual maintenance programs are best, since these help second language learners to keep in touch with their home language as well as learning the target language. This is also said to help such students develop a more positive self-image in terms of their own language and culture.

Evaluation of Bilingual Programs

Of the three programs discussed above, I believe that the submersion program is the least effective. Submerging a second language learner into an environment that is perceived as immediately hostile. This cultivates a feeling of anxiety, which detracts from the possibility of learning. Having difficulty with the language will also cause difficulty in learning and coping with assignments and class activities. This program, more than the others then, detract from the learning experience rather than contributing to it. Students are apt to feel alienated, since they are expected to build skills upon a basis that is practically non-existent.

The second program, bilingual withdrawal, is slightly better from the students' point-of-view, as this instruction acknowledges the students' language background and the need to instruct them in the use of the target language. The problem is however that this instruction occurs within school hours, and that students have difficulty keeping up with the English classroom work and assignments. While it is therefore better than submersion, there are still some factors to be desired.

The third program discussed, structured immersion, allows students to receive their instruction in class. While it is still possible for students to feel alienated and incompetent because of this, it is also possible that these feelings can be curbed by how the teacher treats the program. In order to administer this program effectively, teachers therefore need to develop their cultural sensitivity skills and use these in the classroom to obtain the desired effect.

As for bilingual maintenance programs, bilingual maintenance can be incorporated with the last-mentioned program above. While students are encouraged to use English in the classroom rather than their mother tongue, the culturally sensitive teacher can use the opportunity to make everybody in the classroom aware of the diversity and the various cultures represented. This will build the self-image of second-language students and also encourage them to use English in order to talk about their own culture and customs. Thus, while this is not a bilingual maintenance program as such, it will develop cultural sensitivity and cultivate cultural pride. For its positive qualities, I therefore believe that structured immersion is the superior program of the three discussed above.

History of Bilingual Education in the United States

The influx of immigrants to the United States during the 18th and 19th centuries have made it necessary to adopt policies regarding bilingual education. Thus, Ohio became the first state to adopt a bilingual law in 1939. The law entailed that German-English instruction could be given to children in schools, according to requests by parents. The same was provided for French and English in Louisiana during 1847, while the New Mexico Territory adapted the law for Spanish and English in 1850. The end of the 19th century saw similar adaptations by approximately a dozen states, whereas many others provided bilingual instruction without formal legalization. Languages represented in such education included Norwegian, Italian, Polish, Czech, and Cherokee.

It is interesting to note that, at the beginning of the 20th century, a greater percentage of students were enrolled in German language programs than the percentage of students in Spanish-English programs today. German at the time dominated the minority languages in the country. Indeed, enrollment surveys show that about 600,000 primary school students were receiving at least some instruction in German. This represented 4% of all American children of that age group.

During World War I, unstable politics and worries regarding loyalty issues influenced language instruction and the general opinion regarding foreign languages. The focus of this worry was particularly on German-Americans. The result was that many states created English-only instruction laws aimed at Americanizing all foreign language speakers. Some states even banned the study of any foreign languages in the elementary stage. This however was deemed unconstitutional in 1923 and the law was abandoned.

The mid-1920s saw the near demise of bilingual schooling, whereas English-only instruction continued as the norm for all students, foreign or otherwise. Nonetheless, states were obliged to rethink this strategy, as foreign students were suffering in these classrooms, falling behind and dropping out of school in huge numbers.

Attempts at a remedy were however only implemented during 1968, in the form of the Bilingual Education Act. The 1960s movements of increased immigration and increased importance of civil rights prompted this legislation in the name of fairness and equality. Through the Act then, federal funds were provided to encourage the incorporation of native-language instruction in schools. This once again was followed by most states implemented bilingual education laws of their own. In this way the use of other languages in the classroom was once again allowed.

The American ideals of equality and opportunities for all were recognized by… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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