NRE Foreign Language Teachers and Principal Hamilton Attend Language Conference

All Teachers are Language Teachers

img_3829Our Northridge Foreign Language Teachers,  Mrs. Yawen Lien (Mandarin)  and Mrs. Irma Morgione (Spanish), along with Mr. Hamilton, attended the Colorado Congress of Foreign Language Teachers held Saturday at Summit High School in Breckenridge.

The focus of the conference was the theory and practice of additional language acquisition. A keynote presentation was provided by Dr. VanPatten from the University of Michigan.

At NRE, we have numbers of students who arrive at our school speaking multiple languages. All of our students have the opportunity to learn additional languages through our Mandarin and Spanish language instruction program.

All of our students are acquiring increasing proficiency in English in Basic Interpersonal Communications Skills and in Cognitive Academic Language Proficiency (See this video by Mary Acevedo to understand more about this framework developed by Professor Jim Cummins).  Language proficiency is a continuous process, continuing well into adulthood, higher education, expert fields full of advancing and often “new language” (“boson”) to describe academic and theoretical concepts. It does not stop…

At Summit High, our team attended breakout sessions modeling additional language teaching and learning strategies including, Total Physical Response approaches, integration of technology tools and other methods presented by Colorado language teachers.

Dr. VanPatten’s  presentation emphasized the use of communication for two purposes:

  • Pyscho-social
  • Cognitive Informational

Dr. VanPatten defines communication in the following context:

img_0171His frame of reference for communication and Additional Language acquisition is widely used in the field of linguistics.

Certainly, as our global community has become more interactive, the need  for effective communication has expanded.

Traditionally, foreign language acquisition has been regarded as a form of skill-based, progression through form and grammar, toward a concept of second-language fluency measured in degrees. The current system of classifying fluency formulated in the Council of Europe, uses the following frame: The CEFR describes foreign language proficiency at six levels: A1 and A2, B1 and B2, C1 and C2. It also defines three ‘plus’ levels (A2+, B1+, B2+).

More contemporary ways of understanding language acquisition focus on the Universal features of language learning and how the human brain integrates language. Professor Jim Cummins from the University of Toronto is one leader in the field helping us to understand Multilingualism in an intercultural context. More and more children in the world emerge from their educational years with the capacity and the need to use several languages. The needs are driven by our Mother Tongue and family language roots, which are in themselves quite often divided (i.e., English/Spanish, Hindi/English/Punjabi, Mandarin/English, etc.)

Because English is an internationally used language, many children enter school with varied levels of fluency in the language of their father, mother, national language and English, for example. With more and more migration and cultural interchange based upon commerce, cultural needs, common international missions for world health or other needs, these scenarios become increasingly so.

According to Dr. VanPatten:


Colorado Conference of Foreign Language Teachers, 09/2016

The research on second-language instruction has evidenced that second language learning benefits children’s primary language acquisition and academic achievement. It is clear that the human brain’s “universal architecture” for language learning provides learning benefits that are transferable across languages so that language learning in language A, assists the development of language learning in language B. This is one of the reasons that research indicates that continued development of Mother Tongue (native language) is very important for developing higher levels of fluency in additional languages.

Our Writer’s Workshop approach to balanced literacy is one way that we are deepening fluency for all of our NRE kids in English. We are looking at ways to deepen and extend the levels of additional language instruction, for all of our students. Multilingualism is an essential 21st Century Skill for our students. Developing Basic Interpersonal Communications Skills and Cognitive Academic Language Proficiency in more than one world language is both achievable and essential for our students.

About nreprincipal

Principal at Northridge Elementary School, Highlands Ranch, Colorado
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