The Power of Two Languages 2000

Wink, J., & Putney, L. G. (2000). Turning transformative principles into practice: Strategies for English dominant teachers in a multilingual context. In R. D. J. Tinajero (Ed.), The power of two languages: Effective dual language use across the curriculum for academic success (revised ed.)(pp. 175-186). New York: Macmillan.

Joan Wink
Professor, College of Education
California State University, Stanislaus
Turlock, CA 95382
209-667-3358 (FAX)

LeAnn G. Putney
Associate Professor, College of Education
University of Nevada, Las Vegas
Las Vegas, NV 89154-3003
702-895-1658 (FAX)


When we first encountered the Faltis Framework in 1993, the authors of this chapter felt they had found a golden nugget, a book that brought together a way for English dominant teachers to work with multilingual students in their classroom. We struggled with the paradox of trying to make visible the need for primary language instruction for non-English dominant students, within the reality of schools with few teachers who could provide bilingual instruction. In his book, Faltis also recognizes the superiority of primary language teaching while recognizing the reality of many English dominant teachers. We knew then that this work was important and that we would use it in our own educational spaces, but little did we realize at that time that we would find it even more important six years later. For even though much has changed during those ensuing years, much has also stayed the same.

Across the nation we have encountered a shortage of qualified teachers. At a time when policy makers are attempting to find ways of increasing our test scores and elevating standards of teaching, more teachers than ever are entering classrooms with emergency credentials, finding themselves in a situation they could not have realized until their first day of class. They are English dominant teachers in a multilingual context and they want to know what should they do.

To meet the needs of these teachers and the students who are in the process of acquiring English and simultaneously struggling to access core curriculum, we will examine what it means to put into practice a set of transformative principles to foster communication while promoting social integration in diverse classroom settings. The construct of joinfostering is built from four foundational principles, which we refer to asthe Faltis Framework. The Faltis Framework establishes the need for (a) two-way communication, (b) social integration, (c) second-language acquisition principles, and (d) parental participation in all classrooms. Elsewhere in this book you can examine the theoretical and philosophical roots of this framework. However, in this chapter we invite you to walk with us into classrooms through the technique of narrative vignettes to see what these principles of practice might look like from the point of view of teachers and students who practice them as part of their daily routines.

This chapter will take us down two main paths: First, we will demonstrate examples of classroom practice, which reflects four principles, found in the Faltis Framework (Faltis, 1993; Faltis, 1997; Faltis & Hudelson, 1998). This section illustrates the individual parts of the framework with vignettes from different classrooms. We will draw from various types of classroom settings in different types of schools to help make visible that these principles work under different conditions. After showing how each principle can be established in a classroom setting, we will take the second path to demonstrate how one project can incorporate and integrate all four principles simultaneously.


In what follows, we will look at each of the four principles of the Faltis Framework and show how each of them can be turned into meaningful classroom practice. These principles become a foundation for the ways in which teachers and students construct their learning. From this perspective, the relationship between teaching and learning is dynamic and socially constructed through the interactions of teachers and students in their daily work and over time (Tuyay, Floriani, Yeager, Dixon, & Green 1995). The principles that we will illustrate throughout this section are not prescriptive. Rather, they become guidelines for teachers to use in their everyday practice.

Two-way Communication Principle

The first principle that we wish to address is promoting two-way communication between teacher and students. When teachers apply this principle, they first recognize the knowledge that students bring with them to the classroom. Teachers promoting two-way communication also encourage interactive exchanges for all students regardless of their level of English proficiency. These teachers find a way to incorporate the students' experiences into the classroom topics and discussions.

One way of incorporating two-way communication in your classroom is to establish working relationships in small groups so that students who share a common linguistic background can work together to solve problems in their primary language to facilitate their understanding of the content before they display their answers in English. Encouraging discussion in small groups engages students in a more natural form of communication than in the question and answer routine of the conventional classroom, and allows time for students whose first language is not English to generate knowledge and make meaning of the curriculum. To the degree that it is possible, teachers create small groups that include native speakers of English, and at least two students representing other language groups. By doing this, the speakers of other languages are able to negotiate meaning through their emerging English and through their primary language.

…Into Practice: Math Quips with Mrs. Burke

"Mrs. Burke, can we do Math Quips today?" queried Lucinda. Mrs. Burke immediately thought back to yesterday when they did Math Quips. The students enjoyed the challenge of trying these math problems at their table groups. They could discuss the problems, but they could not use paper and pencil for these mental math problems. They had to listen to her verbal clues about place value and placement of the numbers in sequence, then figure out the six-digit number combination that she had in mind. She used their guesses as clues and reminders as she listed them on the overhead projector for all to see.

Ordinarily Mrs. Burke would be delighted to have her fifth grade students pleading to do Math Quips, but yesterday's experience has made her think twice. Two of her students, Javier and Elena, were unable to participate in this activity because they knew very little English. How was she going to capture their interest and help them participate when she spoke no Spanish? Mrs. Burke was about to tell the students that they would not have time for Math Quips today when Lucinda spoke up again.

"Mrs. Burke, could I sit with Javier and Elena this time?" Lucinda asked. "I can translate the clues for them into Spanish. They know how to do the math, I saw them do the work yesterday from our problem of the day, but they just don't know what you are saying when you give the clues in English," she persisted.

"Lucinda, I think that will work just fine, but let's find out what the rest of the class thinks about that. Class, what do you think of Lucinda's suggestion?" asked Mrs. Burke.

The rest of the class responded with encouragement. They enjoyed playing the Math Quips, and they wanted Javier and Elena to participate, too. Lucinda worked with them as the groups played the game. Javier and Elena were delighted when they solved the second round before anyone else in the class.

In this example the non-English dominant students were not prepared to participate in two-way communication since the language spoken in the classroom was entirely English. However, that does not mean that they did not want to participate. Lucinda was able to recognize that the community was not complete without their contribution, and her offer to facilitate the communication was also supported by the teacher and the other students. Only when they entered into true two-way communication were all of the students offered access to the content of the lesson.

How did Mrs. Burke convey the principle of two-way communication into practice?

She encouraged Lucinda to speak with Javier and Elena in their dominant language when discussing content that was presented in English.

Social Integration Principle

In his work, Faltis refers to social integration of minority language students in classrooms where English is the dominant language. In our experience we have come across another type of social integration that we wanted to address. Inclusion is a term which is often used in schools to refer to a process where all students are in the mainstream for at least parts of the day. Students who might have previously been in Special Education for the majority of the day are now also included in mainstream activities. While there are many valid reasons for this, it also means that teachers without experiences and training with Special Education students feel insecure about their own abilities to work with this diversity in the mainstream classroom.

…Into Practice: "Now all of you are teachers"

Palmer spoke a language unlike that of the other children in the first grade class when he entered Mrs. Casey's classroom the first day of school. Palmer spoke "echolalia", meaning that he repeated the same sentences and phrases over and over while using his hand as a puppet. The resource teacher informed Mrs. Casey that this was Palmer's way of communicating because he was autistic, and this was his first experience being in a mainstream classroom. Not surprisingly this was Mrs. Casey's first experience in mainstreaming an autistic child.

So how would she establish an integrative experience that would be beneficial for Palmer as well as the other students? Mrs. Casey's initial reaction was that perhaps there was little that she could do for this student. The resource teacher said she would have to change her integrative teaching style, give up doing the activity centers, and add more structure for Palmer to be successful. She was not at all certain that she could accomplish this, nor did she want to believe it would be necessary.

The Friday before classes started was the first time Mrs. Casey came to understand the severity of Palmer's autism as she observed him during her quick orientation session. While she was reviewing her teaching philosophy, homework policy and supplies list, she noticed that Palmer was walking around the room, touching everything and talking in a loud, shrill voice and making stroking gestures in the air as he babbled. His mother followed him and calmly redirected his actions so that he would not cause harm to himself or to anything or anyone in the room. In conferring with Palmer's mother after the orientation, it was clear that she had hopes for him in this classroom setting, mostly in terms of social integration.

Through the first week of school with Palmer, Mrs. Casey continued to monitor his actions while trying not to take too much attention away from the other students. The resource teacher offered to come to class and talk with the students about autism so they could better understand why Palmer acted the way he did. The students and the resource teacher sat in a circle discussing the realities of autism, with the students offering some of their own observations and questions about Palmer's actions. As if in response to their talk, Palmer started wiggling and squirming and threw himself around. Attempts to get his attention to get him to sit down and cross his legs seemed futile until the students began to offer themselves as examples for him. After the resource teacher returned to his classroom, the students and Mrs. Casey continued to talk. Then as they moved back to their desks, Melissa suddenly exclaimed, "Mrs. Casey, look at Palmer!" Palmer was still sitting in the circle space, this time with his legs crossed. The students congratulated him, and they started clapping and exclaiming, "Good job, Palmer." Their acceptance of him and enthusiasm were echoed in Palmer's face, lit up with a huge smile.

Mrs. Casey explained that they were lucky to have Palmer in their classroom because he would teach them about being patient, and they could teach him about being a first grader.

"What do you call someone that shows another person how to do something and then they are able to do it?" asked Mrs. Casey. The students sat for a minute and really gave careful consideration to what she was asking.

Michael spoke up first. "A teacher?"

"That's right," Mrs. Casey responded, "And now all of you are teachers because Palmer doesn't know very much about being a first grader and how to act in school, but you are here to teach him. You are all teachers now."

In this brief episode, Mrs. Casey and her students demonstrate the potential power of social integration. We are not suggesting that it is an easy task. Nor do we intend to imply that all went smoothly after this first week. There were struggles ahead for all, but there were successes for all at the same time. Those successes often were measured in tiny, yet highly significant increments.

When a new student came to class in January, Palmer began to pay close attention to the particular dialect this student spoke because it was different from that of the other students. One day, Palmer perfectly imitated Leon's request to go to the bathroom, the first question Palmer ever asked in class. When he received permission to do so, he now had to process the notion that asking a question could lead to permission to proceed with his request. Soon he was imitating all of the questions initiated by other students. Mrs. Casey answered them so that Palmer could make the connection between wants, needs, and the spoken request. Her other students soon chimed in and helped answer Palmer's questions. Before too long, Palmer was generating his own questions, not only in class, but also to other teachers he saw in the hallway.

So in this example the verbalizations of the other students, and their work together in small groups throughout the day, served as the jumping off point for Palmer to make his own connections. Mrs. Casey did not have to change her teaching strategies, her learning centers, nor did she have to change her integrative approach to a more structured, skills-based approach for Palmer's benefit. Rather, she maintained a classroom community that prompted the students to demonstrate for Palmer what it meant to be a successful first grader. Through their explicit modeling and encouragement, the students and teacher together supported Palmer's social and academic learning.

How did Mrs. Casey convey the principle of social integration into practice?

She encouraged students to reflect, to discuss, to demonstrate their learning, to question, to summarize, and to generate ideas through social interaction

Knowledge of Second Language Acquisition Principle

In endorsing this principle, Faltis (1998) defines language acquisition as a socially interactive process in which students must have access to what is going on in a particular context and they must also be able to participate fully in ongoing classroom discourse. He further establishes that what is needed for students to succeed in acquiring language is comprehensible invite (Faltis, 1997), that is to say, inviting oral and written language from teachers and fellow students that encourages them to respond in a genuine way that promotes social construction of knowledge.

…Into Practice: Silence or Engagement?

"Speak English, you know we only speak English in this classroom," exclaimed the ninth grade ESL teacher. Mrs. Rogers was conducting an oral review for a social studies exam and the students were chattering in their primary language while they debated the answer to her question.

Silence immediately reigned among the previously engaged students.

"But Mrs. Rogers, these questions are hard," explained Berta, one of the more outspoken students in this linguistically diverse classroom.

"I know they are hard, but you need to be able to answer them in English. I hoped that we could make this review more fun and interesting by making a game of it. That is why, when I ask a question, someone in your row is supposed to give me the answer. If your row can't get it, the next row gets a chance to answer, in English."

By invoking one of "the rules," Mrs. Rogers did not seem to understand how she was setting these non-English dominant students up for failure to participate in this classroom situation. While they may have been comfortable using English in conversational settings, the students knew that it would take much longer to develop the academic language necessary to succeed in schools. In this classroom setting, they did not want to take a chance that they had misunderstood the question, resulting in a wrong answer for their team. Only the most outspoken and proficient English-speaking students bothered to take a stab at the answer to the next question. Without being able to clarify possible answers in advance with their classmates, those who were not as comfortable in speaking English simply remained silent rather than give a wrong answer to their teacher. This was not a safe environment in which to try on this relatively new and scary language.

What could this teacher have done to convey the principle of understanding second-language acquisition into practice with these students?

Provide students with an opportunity to talk first in their primary language, so that they felt prepared to answer before the entire class in English would have afforded access to the academic content.

Parental Involvement Principle

An approach to involving families in the education of their children means that teachers and school officials need to open the lines of communication and invite the families to participate. This is a first step. However, we have found in our own practice that inviting families to participate is a necessary, but not sufficient, aspect of involvement. For example, in many school districts, families may find that they do not speak the language in or of the school (Lin, 1993). By this we mean that if the school is one in which "English spoken here" is the norm, families whose primary language is other than English may not feel ready to speak to school officials. That is language in the school. At the same time, even families who readily speak English may be intimidated by the language of the school. In education we are so immersed in the words we use to describe education that we forget others may not be in tune with what we are trying to convey about their children's education. Furthermore, we may be so ready to tell families what it is that they need to hear that we forget first to listen to their needs and respond accordingly (Putney & Wink, 1998).

…Into Practice: How to Do It With Them
One of the most successful elementary school teachers we know in respect to parent involvement begins each year by sending a letter home to the parents, after reading it aloud in class with her students. This letter gives some of her own background so that the parents can feel that they know her better. She also outlines what she hopes that the class will accomplish together, and she invites the parents to write back, with their child as a homework assignment, what they hope to have their child accomplish. This letter writing continues after the parent-student-teacher conferences in which the children share their work with their parents from their portfolios. The teacher writes what she feels their strengths have been as classroom members, and the parents write to their children about what they have witnessed throughout the year in terms of their learning process.

In her elementary school, a year-round school in a Southern California metropolitan area with 87% children identified as non-English proficient, the school officials have taken the responsibility of initiating family literacy activities. To ensure that the families have various opportunities to read with their children and have access to books and print materials in both English and their native language, the school officials invited family members to come read with the children for the first 30 minutes of the school day. The number of family members participating in their family reading activities is astounding. Each day over 200 family members enter classrooms to read with their children. In addition, their family nights have over 200 attendees each week and their storytime usually attracts 50 preschool siblings along with their moms and grandmas. This is a school that believes families are a valuable resource in developing and supporting their child's literacy.

What can school faculty and staff do to convey the principle of family involvement into practice?

Recognize the importance of involving families in classroom and school activities, while making the activities available and accessible to family members.

Chapter Continues - Part Two