According to the National Center for Education Statistics, around 10%—or nearly 5 million—public school students in the United States are English language learners. These students come from diverse backgrounds and bilingual homes, and more than 75% of them are Spanish-speaking.
Bilingual literature not only supports students in their dominant language, it can also be used to grow and enhance the reading experience of all readers. Below are three easy ways to use bilingual books in your classroom.
1. Practice Context Clues
There are many fantastic books that are written in both Spanish and English! They’re perfect for readers to practice using context clues to determine the meaning of a foreign word.
After reading the selected text, the students responded using the following sentence stem:
I think _______ means ______ because...
For example, when reading Clifford's Bedtime / Clifford y la hora de dormir, a student might write:
I think "manta" means "blanket" because Clifford’s mom is bringing him his blanket.
(Text on page: Necesita su manta. / He needs his blanket.)
Have students work in groups and discuss the Spanish words on the page from a selected text. They should look for the words that the author uses to help figure out the meaning of the Spanish words. Using a bilingual book to introduce context clues can help transfer the strategy into students’ regular reading when they encounter unfamiliar words in English.
2. Create a Special Read Aloud
Add more excitement to your read-aloud time by inviting a special reader to share a book in a different language. You can find a guest reader by reaching out to parents, colleagues, or friends that are fluent in a second language. During the read aloud, you can stop and have the students discuss the sounds of the language, or just let them take in the experience.
3. Exploration of Culture and Language
One of the simplest ways to use bilingual books in the classroom is by pairing up English and non-English versions of a book and having the students explore the words. For English speakers, this process helps familiarize them with another language. They can try to read the Spanish words and find commonalities in those words that are similar to English. The goal isn’t for them to read and learn the language, it’s simply to explore. Plus, there is novelty attached to seeing a story they know in another language that easily engages the reader.