CUNY-NYSIEB Ambassador: Gladys Aponte(Dual Language Bilingual Education Teacher)
Gladys is a 4th grade dual language bilingual teacher in New York City. Her interest in bilingual education stems from her own experiences as an emergent bilingual student in NYC public schools. Translanguaging has always been an intrinsic part of Gladys’s identity, as contrasting Dominican dialects were always spoken in her home. She was further drawn to the needs of bilingual learners while completing a BA in Elementary Education at Hunter College, and then an M.S.Ed. in Dual Language Bilingual Education and Childhood Special Education at Bank Street College.
Gladys strives to instill metalinguistic awareness and linguistic confidence beyond her own classroom with initiatives like Etymation.com. She is an adjunct instructor at City College and Bank Street College, where she teaches courses in linguistics and bilingual education. Since 2014, Gladys has been working with CUNY-NYSIEB and is the author of the forthcoming guide Translanguaging in Dual Language Bilingual Education: A Blueprint for Planning Units of Study. In CUNY-NYSIEB’s webinar, A Blueprint to Incorporate Translanguaging in Dual Language Bilingual Education, Gladys emphasizes the importance of being authentic with students about language acquisition, language varieties, and translanguaging.
Take a Peek in Gladys’ Classroom
Gladys’ approach to dual language bilingual education is special, as she explains in this video from our “Teaching Bilinguals (Even if You’re Not One)” series.
In addition to having designated times for students to practice English and Spanish, Gladys designs separate, “transformational translanguaging spaces” in her classroom so her 4th graders come to understand and appreciate the many advantages of being multicultural and multilingual.
See a Lesson in Action
When it’s time to learn author’s craft — an important 4th grade Common Core standard — students’ bilingualism becomes an important tool for learning in Gladys’ classroom. From the beginning of the school year, Gladys highlights the fact that authors translanguage deliberately. During read alouds and reading lessons, the class stops to contemplate why an author may have translanguaged and to talk about the effects specific translanguaging moves have on readers. Gladys regularly models deliberate translanguaging herself, and her students reflect on their own translanguaging as 4th grade multilingual authors.
Below, you will see video clips from a lesson in Gladys’ author’s purpose unit, where the class analyzed several texts they had read throughout the year, as well as their own writing pieces to create a list of reasons why bilingual authors translanguage. Gladys told her students that the lesson would be in both English and Spanish, and encouraged them to translanguage freely. These were her objectives:
Content Objective: Students demonstrate an understanding of the various reasons authors choose to translanguage by analyzing the effects of specific translanguaging word choices.
Language Objective: Students justify authors’ translanguaging choices by listing and explaining the reasons specific word choices may have been made.
Translanguaging Objective: In order to understand why an author chose to translanguage at a specific moment, students use their entire linguistic repertoire to compare and contrast the meaning and effects of the word in English and in Spanish.
Clip 1: Modeling: Why Julia Alvarez uses buen provecho?
In this clip of the lesson, Gladys models how students are to achieve the lesson’s objectives. She models curiosity and inquiry about the possible reasons Julia Alvarez may have chosen to include the Spanish phrase buen provecho in the book “How Tía Lola Came to (Visit) Stay.” She elicits responses from students, emphasizing that one specific example of translanguaging can have more than one effect.
Clip 2: Guided Practice: Why Julia Alvarez uses Tiguerito
In this part of the lesson, Gladys guides students in analyzing the effects of the Spanish phrase tiguerito in Alvarez’s book. As students turn-and-talk, Gladys writes some of the reasons that she hears on the chart. After sharing other reasons they discussed with their partners, students go work in groups to analyze a variety of other texts (books of bilingual authors, biographies and other pieces that they have written). These are examples of the handout that the students filled out when analyzing different texts:
Clip 3: Wrap-up: Sharing two examples from students’ work
After groups shared their findings and contributed reasons to the list on the chart, Gladys wraps up the activity by pointing out examples from two working groups (one analyzed a student-written biography of César Chavez and another group of a student-written biography of Hellen Kelly). Finally, she reminds the class that they can refer to the chart they brainstormed to help them make deliberate word choices in their future writing pieces. This is a picture of the full brainstorm of why authors translanguage.
Student-derived Reasons Why Authors Translanguage
- to use words of affection (love)
- to demonstrate culture
- the words don’t exist in the other language
- shows us a word used in that culture / country
- to create emphasis ¡Vamos, hurry!
- to create dialogue
- to maintain words written as such
- to teach the reader English
- to maintain the original name
- for purposes of humor (crazy)
- to demonstrate a character’s personality
The Importance of this Activity
Gladys felt that this transformative space was essential for several reasons:
- To strengthen their own craft. The class was getting ready to begin a poetry writing unit. Gladys wanted her students to be more mindful when translanguaging, especially when writing about topics intrinsically tied to language, such as family, bilingualism, multiculturalism, and immigration.
- To validate their own languaging. Multilingual students naturally translanguage. Since her students had been strictly discouraged from translanguaging in previous years, many still needed reaffirmation. Recognizing that famous authors do not completely suppress parts of their linguistic repertoire empowers students to utilize their entire repertoire when writing.
- To boost metalinguistic competence. Many student’s translanguage in their writing but they do not stop to reflect on the reasons they do so. Students gain ownership of their language repertoire as they analyze their languages and make well-informed choices about when to use specific linguistic resources.
- To defend their languaging. Gladys wanted to make sure that students could justify their languaging in other settings when necessary. Verbalizing the exciting reasons that authors choose to translanguage gives them the power to defend their own deliberate translanguaging in the future.
- To inspire transformation and innovation. Students realize that most authors continue to separate languages, but in this classroom they are encouraged to be innovators.
“Translanguaging spaces like this one, create proud critical-thinkers of our multilingual students!” (Gladys Aponte)