Prejudiced Pedagogical Practices

By Alisa, Claudia and Gabriela

This semester in RLIT 6345 Transnational and Immigrant Literacies, students were asked to write a blog post as part of a professional book project.

As children, we hope to receive an education that will equip us with the knowledge needed to understand the world around us and prepare us for the world ahead. As parents, we hope our children receive an education that develops their understanding of the past, present, and future. As educators we rely on the educational programs to educate us on the professional, ethical, and developmental requirements that will enable us, not only to become certified teachers, but also to become effective teachers licensed by the state to teach.


Every child that walks into our classrooms is part of the general public we are to educate. Are our students all the same? Those who walk through our classroom doors possess funds of knowledge about their cultural background. Do our teaching practices promote or hinder the knowledge and experience our children bring into the classroom? Do we promote personal growth, acceptance, value, and understanding? Are our teaching practices targeting the needs of our students? Is the curriculum we teach true to the best of our knowledge? These are some of questions that developed while we read Lourdes Diaz Soto & Haroon Kharem’s book Teaching Bilingual/Bicultural Children. We reflected on our own educational experiences as children, as parents, our assumptions as individuals, our knowledge attained though our experiences as students on the K-12 system, undergraduate students and graduate students.

Although the three of us had very different upbringings, we each share some similarities while in grade school. The three of us writing this agree that we were negatively affected by the system’s beliefs and practices. The three of us were taught by teachers who did not allow us to speak our first language (Spanish). We were not allowed to speak Spanish, we were scorned for explaining or questioning in our home language. We were only seeking clarification. Our teachers had the mentality of sink or swim. Even now as adults whom have already obtained our teaching certifications, we were not educated on the importance of valuing the home language. We noticed that through our collaboration and experiences along with the readings incorporated in our master’s program in literacy instruction, we have realized we were misinformed. We neglected to value our own language and that of the students we teach.

Sink or Swim

From grade school to undergraduate school we conformed and assimilated to the dominate groups beliefs. We focused on getting the student to the next proficiency level. The students needed to be ready to pass the state assessment. We thought that code-switching was frowned upon. We promoted English in a way that devalued their first language. How we were taught as children, and our personal experiences has shaped us consciously and unconsciously in to the teachers we were.

World Wise

We reflected having been taught from a whitewashed perspectives. We were forced by, as well enforced, the educational system of assimilation in order to be successful. We brought those prejudiced pedagogical practices into the classroom. We felt that it was more important to assimilate. False information has been passed from the dominant culture, to the submissive minority cultures masquerading as truths. We have taken for granted that what we were taught in school was correct and true to the fullest extent. We by default were teachers teaching the way we were taught. It is not because we do not value our history, culture, or language. It is because we were not educated in ways that allowed us to place value in our history, culture, and language. If we had not been exposed to the readings about teaching bilingual bicultural children, we would not have reflected on the invalidation of our own culture.

Sharing Cultures

We are educators certified in bilingual education by the state of Texas. Yet, we reflected having felt silenced even while speaking. We reflected our prejudiced pedagogical practices. We as teachers needed to become researches of our own history, culture, and language; and that of the students that we teach. We will encounter more diversity within our classroom in the years to come. We must become educated in bilingual/bicultural practices to better understand customs and mannerisms. What we assume is defiance and lack of effort may be a sign of respect while learning.

Perspective on Biliteracy

by Cristina Canales, Patricia Robles, Norma Ramirez, Eliud Salinas

This semester in RLIT 6345 students worked in groups to read and discuss a professional book related to transnational or immigrant literacies. As part of their project, they wrote a post for this blog.

One question the book presents is as follows:  How do two languages in the primary yearsEarly Biliteracy Development impact a child’s language and literacy development in both languages?   There has always been a misconception that children will get confused when it comes to learning how to read and write in two languages. Yet through limited research, it has been discovered that by the age of three, children can differentiate between different languages (pg. 14).There is an overabundance of academic research on the literacy development of monolinguals. The same cannot be said for children learning a second language in academic settings. The book Early Biliteracy Development-Exploring Young Learners’ Use of Their Linguistic Resources “shares the perspective of in-service teachers, literacy educators, graduate students, and researches whose work involves bilingual learners, original research examining issues related to early biliteracy development across different languages” (pg.1 ).

What greatly contributes to the success of a child’s development as an “emergent bilingual” as the book describes, is in the way the languages are developed, encouraged and supported at home. “Parents/caregivers of bilingual preschoolers play an important role in shaping their literacy and language development” (pg. 29).  Since family plays a huge role in the development of two languages, their academic learning must have the same learning opportunities and acceptance.  In order for the child to not only flourish academically, allowing them to use their “resources” to build onto their knowledge and make connection is what makes them successful.  The term “resources” in the book is referred to as, what the child brings from home in both language and culture, which that supports and impacts the English learning process (pg. 12).

A second question that the book asks is the following: Does exposure to language and literacy practices in two languages interfere with the learning process?  Just like the question above, people have believed that language should be the same as the language of instruction.  Studies have actually revealed that literacy practices in two languages actually increase cognitive benefits and metalinguistic awareness of bilingual students (pg. 17).  As students are trying to make sense of the material, the act of using both of their languages to construct meaning empowers their language repertoire; they are able to use and manipulate information in one language and apply it to the other language while meaning is unaffected by the language switch. Also, as students are presented with two different writing systems, the ability to distinguish between the two helps in developing literacy skills. Talking about similarities and differences between two languages enhances second language acquisition (pg. 50). Learning a second language can also help facilitate the first language.

To conclude, as educators we want students to make connections to what they already know and use it to build onto new knowledge. The diversity of our students nurtures multiple paths to biliteracy and it is important to recognize the bidirectional process of how language skills are acquired. It is also crucial that we begin to view bilingual students as biliterate and not two monolinguals in one, as to encourage the use of two languages.

This semester, students in READ 6310 were asked to contribute a post to this blog.

By Lily Garcia

As a bilingual teacher most of us teachers constantly ask ourselves what are the most effective reading practices? What are some examples of daily vocabulary practices? Is there an improvement in student test scores when strategies are used daily? Findings suggest that literature can be taught through the use of movement, technology, and graphic organizers amongst others are the most effective strategies used to help bilingual students improve reading comprehension and vocabulary usage. It is very important to incorporate movement; technology and graphic organizers into daily practices in reading and vocabulary instruction with in a bilingual education primary classroom so the students will show improvement in the use of new acquired vocabulary and reading comprehension. My focus will be on English language learners in primary grades within a bilingual education classroom setting.

Investigations on which strategies best help students improve their reading comprehension and vocabulary skills. These terms are used to define a student that is coming from a Spanish speaking background into learning English as a second language. English language learners are a very special population. The bilingual population is currently on the rise in the in United States. In the year 2000, 18% of people spoke a language other than English; by 2030, this is projected to increase to 40% (Bowers 5). Therefore, there needs to be differentiation for the bilingual population.

There is an overflow of strategies to help English language learners increase their English language skills, but this study is to investigate which practices work best with students in a primary grade, pre-kinder through second. Bilingual students reported that they skip the parts they don’t understand in a story and they repeat words over and over again while they read (Padron 687). The future of successfully educating English language learners will require teachers to support language acquisition every day in every classroom and during every lesson (Bowers, 4). There are many strategies used in classrooms to help English language learners improve on their reading comprehension and vocabulary skills. The data suggest that Latina/o students who are successful English readers possess a qualitatively unique fund of strategic reading knowledge (Jimenez 91). Reading and vocabulary go hand in hand. The more a person reads leads to a obtaining a better vocabulary. The National Reading Panel found that teaching students comprehension strategies was important to their growth as readers (Sousa, 2011). Therefore, knowing the importance of strategies, which are indeed the most effective and which strategies are useful to those students in a bilingual classroom setting. Strategies are teaching methods used to add creativity in a lesson and to help students better retain the presented information. Teachers need to be creative; the days of paper/pencil worksheets are over. These strategies will help to present information in new way to help increase reading and vocabulary skills in English language learners.

One strategy that improves reading and vocabulary is the incorporation of technology. Technology provides a visual for students and makes the lesson more concrete as opposed to abstract. Today’s students have a much easier access of technology because it is an ever improving medium. It seems like today’s students literally have the world at their fingertips thanks to modern technology. Students benefit when teachers use multimedia in presenting lessons because the media usage adds context to the language and the lessons (Herrell, 2004).

Learning to Read with Authentic Books…I Wish!

This semester, students in READ 6310 Children’s and Adolescent Literature were asked to contribute a post to this blog.

By Ana Rodriguez

My mother taught me how to read in Spanish before I went into kindergarten. I felt so accomplished that I was one of a few students that already knew how to read. But my bubble was quickly busted when I was bombarded with learning the English language with nursery rhymes and the traditional folktales in the classroom. When I would hear the nursery rhymes, all I would hear were words; they had no meaning to me. I remember thinking, “Quién es la ‘little red hen?” “Quién es ‘Goldilocks?” The fact that I could already read in Spanish helped me understand and transfer my knowledge quickly to the learning of English. My mother would tell me all those folktales in Spanish, so the transferring process was easy for me.

El libro magicoI learned to read in Spanish with the book, ‘El libro mágico’ that is still in circulation today. I was privileged to be read to as a child. My mother was always pushing me to learn to read because she wanted me to be prepared before I went in to school. I felt great until I started school. There I was read to in a language I did not understand with books I could not relate to. I remember being lost until I started making the connections between my language (Spanish) and the language of school (English). Even then, they were still just words to me. When I would listen to my teacher reading nursery rhymes or the folktales in English, it was as if I would go into a fantasy world; not the real world I lived in. I remember going through kindergarten and not practicing my Spanish at all.


garza book 1In first grade I was given a Spanish book to take home to read and do homework from. I was really excited because I was doing something I was good at and it was relevant to me. That excitement was short-lived because a few weeks into school my teacher took me out of the bilingual group and put me with the all-English group. I was devastated because they had taken something that was dear to my heart; they had taken away my language! I was now in silent mode. I understood what the teacher was saying when she read to us or when she gave instructions, but I could not read or speak in English at all. I remember being in a small group where a teacher aide focused on teaching us sight words and decoding with short phonic stories. I caught on pretty quickly because I remember learning to read in English before I went into second grade. But again, I could only read the words in English, but I made no connection to the stories in my reading book. By second grade I was a fluent reader, but I still did not speak to my friends or teacher in English, I spoke to everyone only in Spanish. When I was asked to read by my teacher I would, but if I was asked to speak in front of class or answer a question I would stay silent. I was not confident enough to speak in English in front of others. I was afraid of saying things wrong. Needless to say I eventually got over my fear and spoke and read in English fluently before leaving the second grade.


anzaldua book 2As an educator I was introduced to culturally relevant literature that would have made a great difference in my experience learning the English language. Authors like Xavier Garza and Gloria Anzaldúa have written great bilingual books that would have made reading real for me as a child. I am trying to make reading real to my students by integrating authentic literature like this in during our reading time.

I urge and recommend to parents that want their children learning only in English when their child’s first language is Spanish, to think about it twice. Please do not take away a part of your child’s identity. You want to give your child another resource (the English language) to succeed, not take one away. Needless to say, I thank my mother for teaching me to read in my native language and setting a very good foundation that eventually helped me learn a second language. ¡Gracias Mamá, Te Amo!

Promoting Biliteracy Development Through Multicultural Literature

This semester students in READ 6310 Children’s and Adolescent Literature were asked to contribute a post to this blog.

La Lectura, un mundo para descubrir

By Julie Cuevas

Given the changing demographics in the United States, multicultural literature (books) must be available in all classrooms. The presence of these books suggests that teachers value other languages and cultures. Multicultural literature is an effective resource for increasing students’ awareness of diversity of cultures and languages by exposing them to different traditions, life styles, stories, cultures and languages. Bilingual books can play an important part in supporting English Language Learners’ native and second language development as well as bi-literacy development. Children who learn to read in their native language do not need to relearn to read in English, instead print knowledge and literacy skills transfers from the native language to English. Research supports that literacy in the student’s first language facilitates student’s development of proficiency in their native and second language, following academic success, and high levels of self-confidence and biliteracy ability. As a result, supporting the development of biliteracy is crucial in preparing students from minority language backgrounds to succeed in educational settings.

For English language learners, having opportunities to read materials in their first language can serve to affirm and value their native language and culture, as well as value them as good readers, even though they may struggle when they read English. The benefits of integrating multicultural literature in the native language of students increase their enthusiasm and reading comprehension. Similarly, monolingual students can also benefit from having access to a vast array of reading materials in different languages and representing different cultures. The presence of such reading materials sends clear messages to all students of the value and appreciation that their school and teachers attach to other languages and cultures.

Due to the importance of integrating a wide variety of multicultural books in classroom libraries, below is a list of books that can be included;

Books with the complete text in two languages

My diary from... My Diary from Here to There by Amada Irma Perez






Playing Loteria Playing Loteria/El Juego de la Loteria by Rene Colato Lainez






Books that switch between languages (English/Spanish – Code switching)

Chato and the party.... Chato and the Party Animals by Gary Soto






CCrazy Mixed up Spanglish day...razy Mixed-up Spanglish Day by Marisa Montes






Books in English, interspersed with words or phrases in another language

 TThe Rainbow Tuliphe Rainbow Tulip by Pat Mora






How tia Lola came to stay How Tia Lola Came to Stay by Julia Alvarez






Books available only in a language other than English.

Una Noche inolvidable... Una Noche Inolvidable by Robert & Estrella Menchaca






EL tapiz de mi abuela... El Tapiz de mi Abuela by Omar Castaneda






Multicultural literature is an effective tool to foster second language acquisition and biliteracy development for a variety of learners, as well as improve home-school connections, supports family literacy programs, increase children’s awareness of multiculturalism, and encourage reading for pleasure. It is essential to integrate multicultural literature to assist teachers (including monolingual teachers), to promote multiple literacies that broaden student’s perspectives and appreciation of diversity of languages, cultures, and learn of different stories of children around the world.

Becoming Biliterate

This semester, students in READ 6329.10 were asked to contribute a post to this blog.

By Rogelio Rios

I am pleased to learn that biliteracy is gaining an increased amount of attention in recent years due to the diverse communities across America. By being biliterate a child is able to speak, read and write in at least two languages. I believe that schools adapting a biliteracy curriculum would only enhance and with no doubt make the students more successful. In the Rio Grande Valley children are brought up bilingual and are coming to the schools in many cases being biliterate already. I believe that it’s a mistake on the school’s part not to use this to further the learning experience of the students. As an educator in this community I believe that the job of the schools should be to furnish biliteracy, especially if they have a large population of bilingual students like here in The Valley.

In most situations our school districts try to assimilate our ELLs into a path where children are leaving their first language behind and receiving mainly English instruction. I believe that a child’s first language shouldn’t be left behind, rather it should be reinforced while the child is acquiring a second language. By doing so no instruction time is lost in the process of transitioning from one language to another. By providing instruction on both languages the child will learn how to transfer reading skills and strategies back and forth from one language to the other.

In a biliterate classroom an assessment tool that the educator can use with their particular students in determining the students’ gains on both languages can be by having the child fill out a self-assessment form.  The child would individually rate their language skills in each language in the areas of listening, speaking, reading, and writing. The child would then add the total number of points for each language. Finally they will come up with the overall total combining both columns to see what the over-all score is in his/her biliteracy abilities. This self-assessment tool would help the child by highlighting the areas of greater need also the areas the child feels confident on. In addition, the results can serve as a guide for the teacher in planning future lessons.

I’ve see a rise of schools that are starting to adopt a dual language curriculum. I believe that this is the start in the right direction. I hope that more districts begin to take notice and that soon more of our neighboring schools adopt a dual language program.  


Word Meaning Strategies for Emerging Bilinguals

This summer, students in READ 6313 Literacy Development and Language Study were asked to contribute a post to this blog.

By Rebekah Munoz

Reading for an emerging bilingual can be quite frustrating while encountering many unfamiliar words. Most of the time these students will simply skip over unknown words and keep reading which negatively affects their comprehension. Other times they will ask a friend or teacher for the meaning of the word. I am guilty of quickly offering a word meaning to continue with instruction. The last resort is usually the dictionary. Although sometimes beneficial, most students do not understand how to look up words and run into more challenges trying to understand the definitions. I have had many students who find the reading task too difficult with few experiences of success so they quickly become turned off to reading all together. During this summer course while reading From Phonics to Fluency and other online articles, I have found many effective strategies and activities that will help struggling emerging bilinguals during the reading process. My focus now is to encourage students to become problem-solvers so they can become independent thinkers and discover word meanings effectively.

One strategy I have used before was teaching my students word parts such as the suffix and prefix. I had a list of these affixes posted on the wall and every now and then would draw attention to them whenever I remembered. This method was not effective and did not support word meaning. One change I will start implementing this year will be for my students to become active participants in word meaning activities so they can internalize the information. Instead of just having a predetermined list on the wall, I want them to create their own affix word chart.

Teachers can give a list of words starting with the same prefix for students to decode. This will allow them to see how words can be broken into smaller units of meaning. This activity can be extended by having them create a word web to come up with additional words with the same prefix. This allows them to think of other similar word parts on their own. Once completed, the word web can be posted on the wall for future reference. This activity is meaningful because students become investigators of the word meaning process.

Another strategy I find particularly effective is the use of cognates. Cognates are words that can share similar either spelling or sound in two different languages. Such as rosa is Spanish and rose in English. I have just recently discovered the use and benefits of cognates; in fact, as a beginning teacher I was instructed to permit English only in the classroom. I now see how ridiculous it is to disregard my students’ first language especially when it supports the learning of a second language. An easy activity would be to have small groups of students skim through a book to look for words which are similar in Spanish. They can create a word wall to list all the cognates in Spanish and English. Once again this word wall can be posted for future reference and would be continuously added to throughout the year. Using cognates increases their vocabulary and supports the learning process to read and speak in English. Most importantly, it also allows them to use their background knowledge and strengths as a Spanish speaker.

These strategies are easy to use and prove effective to help emerging bilinguals become proficient second language readers. Once students learn new strategies to attack word meanings they will discover that they can figure out unknown words independently.