What is the Language First Approach?

addalingua co-founder, Stacey Vanden Bosch, talks about how it came about and how it can benefit your dual language immersion program

Play Video

Explore the Core Elements of the Language First Approach

Do you ever notice that despite everyone working hard to promote the goal of bilingualism and biliteracy, many students exit your program preferring to use English rather than the minority language? Or maybe you wonder if your own practice aligns to the goal bilingualism and biliteracy? Most successful professionals agree, to reach a goal, it’s important to unify your team around a common vision, get clear about what each person will contribute, and then commit to making it happen. 

1) Program Standards  

The addalingua Language First Standards reach across four areas to prioritize the minority language and support the goal of bilingualism and biliteracy: program fidelity, dual language development, biliteracy and counterbalanced instruction, and progress monitoring. Informed by research, hundreds of classroom observations, and thousands of teacher interactions, the standards help unify teams around a common vision and implement Language First school wide.

To view the addalingua Language First Standards, request the Language First Toolkit below.

2) Key Practices 

Language First key practices help promote minority language development throughout instruction. While the Language First program standards can unify a whole school, the Language First key practices help individual teachers get clear about how to implement Language First in their classrooms.

To view the Language First Key Practices, request the Language First Toolkit below.

Do you ever feel that minority language development takes a back seat to content or English language instruction? Interested in learning how to keep it front and center without sacrificing performance in English? It all comes down to design. If Feng Shui is about ordering spaces in living environments to create balance with the natural world, Language First is about ordering instruction and the classroom environment to reflect the minority language’s value.

3) Language Spaces

The expectations for minority language use and classroom set up help teachers create an instructional environment that prioritize minority language development.

Because English is the majority language (most widely spoken) in the United States, students tend to prefer using it over the minority language, especially as they enter upper grade levels. And teachers, often unintentionally, contribute to “English takeover” as they prepare students for high stakes standardized tests or experience pressure from concerned parents. Designing instruction that upholds clear expectations for student minority language use and classroom environments that incorporate Language First classroom materials keeps the focus on minority language development and combats English takeover.

To see how the Language First approach helps you keep kids in the language of instruction, check out the LIOPT (language of instruction ONLY policies and timeline) included in the Language First Toolkit below.

4) Language Targets

Designing language targets and accompanying mini-lessons prior to the first day of school keeps instruction focused on the minority language throughout content instruction.

Common refrains we hear from dual language and immersion teachers are: “I don’t have enough time to spend on language development because there’s too much content to teach.” or, “I don’t know what language targets to focus on.” Following a simple process that helps you identify minority language targets and design effective 10 minute mini-lessons keeps the focus on minority language development throughout content instruction.

Get familiar with a simple Language First mini-lesson format by downloading some examples located inside the Language First Toolkit. Sign up below!

Do you watch your students struggle to remain in the minority language or find it difficult to engage them with language targets to promote accuracy? Learn strategies and follow predesigned lessons to support your work.

5)  Instructional Tools 

Language First instructional tools offer teachers clear strategies and lesson plans that engage students in minority language development.

Establishing a classroom environment and culture that embraces a minority language-first paradigm is difficult. It all starts with making minority language development a priority. Creating language spaces using LIOPT is a great first step. Like all of our instructional tools, the LIOPT implementation lesson is easy to follow. It’s also effective, especially when accompanied by our circumlocution lesson, student output strategies or gradual release of responsibility guide.

Discover how effective instructional tools like the LIOPT implementation lesson really are. Try it in your own classroom using sample mini lessons in the Language First Toolkit available for download below.

6)  Instructional Cycle

The Language First Instructional Cycle lays out what teachers can do in short moments throughout the week to build students’ accuracy and awareness of the minority language.

The Language First Instructional Cycle, adapted from Diane J. Tedick and Roy Lyster’s CAPA model (Scaffolding Language Development in Immersion and Dual Language Classrooms, 2020), provides teachers with a streamlined instructional plan for minority language development each day of the week. Simple and effective, it explains how teachers can shift student attention between meaning (of content lessons) and form (language targets) to promote accuracy, an important element of proficiency.

COMING SOON! You will be able to print and review the Language First Instructional Cycle as part of the Language First Toolkit. Request it below. (Mastering this instructional cycle will transform your practice!)

Do you know how to offer feedback when your students make language errors in ways that build rather than undermine their autonomy?

7) Corrective Feedback

Corrective feedback provides teachers with clear examples of feedback that fosters individual and collective responsibility for language accuracy.

Contrary to many teacher beliefs, corrective feedback that encourages students to think about language form as they navigate meaning leads to MORE confidence not less. Knowing what type of corrective feedback to provide students and fostering responsibility for kindly and appropriately offering feedback to one another keeps expectations for minority language use high. Speaking and writing accurately is not a means in and of itself but rather a vehicle that allows students to communicate effectively and powerfully.

Support your students’ minority language development with corrective feedback by trying our “corrective feedback techniques, now available as part of the Language First Toolkit below. (Examples include English/Spanish and English/Mandarin.)

8) Progress Checks

Progress checks help teachers identify how to best monitor and support students in attaining their minority language development goals.

Besides providing our students with consistent and empowering corrective feedback, monitoring both proficiency and academic progress in the minority language sends the message that it is as important as English. Once there is a clear and healthy interaction between instruction and assessment in the minority language, students begin to understand that the minority language side of bilingualism and biliteracy is as important as the English side.

Check out the example of a sample fourth grade Progress Monitoring Tool located inside the Language First Toolkit and use it to create your own. 

Get started today with a FREE Language First Tool Kit!

Ready to talk? Give us a call.