The How and Why of Dual Language Programs

Dual Language Essentials for Teacher and Administrators, 2nd Edition
By Yvonne S. Freeman, David E. Freeman, and Sandra Mercuri
(Heinemann, 2019 – Learn more)

Reviewed by Jacqueline Barreras

Reading Dual Language Essentials for Teacher and Administrators this summer made me realize that dual language programs provide an educational experience that supports the required 21st century skills. Our rapidly changing world needs schools to recognize the importance of bilingualism by implementing dual language programs that develop bilingual and biliteral students.

Throughout the book, Yvonne S. Freeman, David E. Freeman, and Sandra Mercuri develop the idea of dual language programs being a way of promoting academic development, mastery of two languages, and cross cultural understanding, “The bilingualism students develop in dual language programs results in academic, cognitive, linguistic, and economic benefits as well as increased cross cultural competency” (7).

The book is organized in a sequential format that allows teachers and administrators to understand the rationale behind dual language programs, their effectiveness, and the essentials to implement dual language models as a school-wide initiative and within the classroom.

At the start of the book the authors explain the what and the why for implementing the dual language approach. This information is useful for any administrator and teacher wanting to revise their current school’s vision to promote biliteracy. A breakdown for initiating dual language programs drives the point home that creating a culture of bilingualism is doable through the proper procedures of setting goals, planning, reflection, and collaboration.

Essentials for promoting bilingualism

What I love most about this book is how the authors set it up as a guide for launching and supporting dual language programs. In addition to the structure, a variety of ideas and examples from various grade levels were offered for each procedure.

When implementing dual language structure in the past, my Spanish speaking students were engaged on both English and Spanish days, but my native English speakers struggled to understand or be engaged during our Spanish days. Through chapters six and seven, Freeman, Freeman, and Mercuri provide what they call “implementation essentials” with examples and ideas in one-way and two-way language programs.

The examples offer research based implementation ideas that can support native English speakers and speakers of other languages through challenging moments. “Because students in dual language classrooms still need to meet standards as they acquire another language, it is important to engage them in meaningful activities as they learn academic content in two languages” (127).

Essentials worth trying and sharing

By the end of Dual Language Essentials for Teacher and Administrators, I found myself revising my literacy units of study to make sure I apply the process shared by the authors. Simply reading it and jotting down my thoughts was not enough. It’s become my toolbox for alternatives when collaborating with my dual language teachers and when there’s a challenge during the implementation process of the dual language program.

Throughout the book, Freeman, Freeman, and Mercuri demonstrate their understanding of the challenges teachers and administrators face when implementing dual language programs with today’s high stakes standardized assessments and era of standards.

Additionally, the authors were able to provide extensive resources to help teachers and administrators immediately return to their school and classroom to implement or revisit their dual language initiatives. “…(A)dministrators and teachers should work together to promote and display their passion for the dual language program to parents, communities, and school board” (107).

Jacqueline Barreras teaches 5th grade for the School District of Palm Beach County in Florida. She has a Master’s of Science in Elementary Education and has been recognized by the state of Florida as a High Impact Teacher. She loves learning alongside her students in order to help them continue to grow. She also loves camping with her family and reading.

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