We integrated the first languages of English language learners in our 7th-grade literacy unit on poetry in both integrated co-teaching and general education classes. To encourage a pluralistic, language-positive environment, we stocked shelves at the front of the room with bilingual dictionaries and picture books in Arabic, English, Urdu, Bangla and Mandarin — languages our students use at home. Students translate picture books, read them to each other in their first language and use them (regardless of first language) as points of departure for telling stories and incorporating imagery into their writing. We posted student work and translations of the word ‘poetry’ alongside the bulletin board at the back of the room. The overarching message is that all languages are welcomed and valued in our classroom and in our school building.
— Laura Silver and Julie Schildkraut, 7th-grade ENL and literacy teachers, MS 88, Brooklyn
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