Teaching multilingual children is a gift. It’s truly a joy. In my own classroom, I learned so much from my students, especially those that spoke more than one language.
Over the years, one thing I learned from experience as well as through professional learning is that each student deserves to be seen and served individually. No one size fits all approach works. While differentiation may seem daunting, it’s actually not that scary. Dr. Stephen Fleenor describes differentiation as “not creating individualized lessons...it is creating environments in which students at all different levels, all different proficiencies...can each thrive and each grow one level up in that lesson”. Dr. Fleenor offers two wise suggestions for creating of environments that offer differentiation:
Equity and justice in education are paramount. MLLs are entitled to grade level curriculum with support needed for accessing it successfully. Meaning it’s not enough just to deliver the instruction. Students that are multilingual deserve instructional practices that are effective for them and not designed for and based on monolingual learners. When teaching multilingual children is led through monolingual agendas equity and justice are at risk.
Differentiated instruction for multilingual learners (MLLs) is necessary. Let's examine a few key ideas.
Lessons and instruction for multilinguals should not be like hand-me downs from older siblings. We should not have to adjust them, patch them, tweak them, tailor them to make them fit the children that need them now. No, instead, lessons and instruction should always be language-rich from the start, filled with opportunities that invite children of all cultures to grow and show who they are.