Bilingual Programs Incorporate Students' Home Culture

Special education programs incorporate supportive, culturally responsive learning environments as well as validated instructional practices. Optimal programs incorporate students' home cultures and include native-language instruction and a focus on English language development in addition to validated practices in literacy and the content areas. It is a heightened focus on language and cultural practices that makes bilingual special education distinct from generic special education.

Culturally Responsive Learning Environments School climates that foster success are caring communities based on the philosophy that all students can learn. Such schools accommodate individual differences in a positive manner. Some researchers characterize them by (a) strong administrative leadership; (b) high expectations; (c) nurturing, supportive environment and a challenging, appropriate curriculum and instruction; (d) a safe and orderly environment; and (e) ongoing, systematic evaluation of student progress. Linguistic Support Successful programs are those in which language development is a central focus, whether in students' native language or English.

Students receive frequent opportunities to use language in an environment that promotes active engagement. Instruction focuses on higher-order thinking and active problem solving. Teachers preteach and reinforce key terms, as explained by Marilyn Rousseau and Brian Tam, using visuals, graphic organizers, and realia to bring words to life and make them meaningful for students, as explained by Elba Reyes and Candace Bos.

They help students make connections within and across the curriculum and to their own prior knowledge and experiences, as Mack Burke, Shanna Hagan, and Bonnie Grossen explain. Ideally, teachers provide students with multiple and varied opportunities to review and apply previously learned concepts. Curricular Modifications Baca and de Valenzuela describe modifications to make the curriculum more accessible to ELLs. These modifications are changes in content, pedagogy, and classroom instructional settings to meet the needs of individual students.

For example, modifications may include adjusting the method of presentation, developing supplemental materials, tape-recording directions, providing alternative response formats, requiring fewer or shorter responses or assignments, outlining material, or breaking tasks into subtasks, as John J. Hoover and Catherine Collier explain in their chapter in The Bilingual Special Education Interface. Adaptations of content might also include the provision of native language instruction and/or materials.

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