Culturally and linguistically diverse (CLD) students are students that come from different backgrounds, first languages, cultures, and countries from the place they are currently attending school. They bring a diversity that can, and should, be appreciated by a classroom focusing on education. However, that tends to not be the case. CLD students are often put in separate classes or left behind to struggle with their unique learning experience and troubles. Click the button below for a more in depth understanding of the CLD situation happening in America and what can be done about it.
How do I deal with CLD students? What program do I use at my school?
This is pretty easy for me because our program is plastered on the side of the school. I live and teach in Seoul, Korea, so all of my students are ESL students. I am one of the CLD teachers, however.
Our school is an English immersion technique school. All of the students take English lessons everyday and are taught more than one subject in English. I teach Reading (Social Studies/Language), Science, Speech/Debate, Grammar, and Project class (once a week the kids work on a project that will last a month each, give or take). The students are also instructed in Korean and they take Chinese classes. Before I started at this school, and before the government has changed the laws regarding how much English instruction is allowed in elementary schools, my school was teaching most classes in English. Since the regulation changes we are now only teaching two 40-minute classes a day in English for the kids and an hour of after school classes, if the children sign up for it. So the immersion technique is really a misnomer these days.
All of our English curriculum is American school curriculum, as advertised and wanted by the parents. Our books are all American textbooks with the cultural references that have come with them for quite sometime. There are many culturally diverse characters in the stories we read and diverse cultural icons taught. For example, there is a story about a Chinese-American girl and her Chinese mom planting vegetables to make Chinese soup. There is a story about a young African-American boy learning about his hero Jackie Robinson and how that effected his life as an African-American boy in America. This is great exposure for the culturally homogeneous Korean children. They are learning more about different groups of people that they would not otherwise be running into or learning about outside this curriculum. However, at times I find that many of the references are lost on them as they have trouble making sense of it or finding any relevance to their lives. For example, there are Spanish words sprinkled throughout the text for the American students, but our kids are already learning English (L2) and Chinese (L3) and it only seems to confuse them to add a fourth language to the mix. Spanish is not a common language in Korea, so that seems like a hard sell here, though I understand, and support, its use in American schools.
The strengths are that the kids are exposed to English on a regular basis and are always hearing a native speaker speak the language. From what I have seen with my previous immersion kindergarten experience (where there is no Korean lessons at all) to this school where there is mostly Korean lessons, is the English suffers after they enter elementary school and no longer use it all day. I have seen many of my kids from kindergarten that have very good English skills, especially speaking, come back after going into a mostly Korean elementary school and fall back into the bad pronunciation habits we were teaching them to drop the year before. I don't have access to their grades to see their cognitive growth, but they seem to be fine there, not struggling. So having English classes everyday keeps their growth in the language going and helps prevent the loss of the language due to lack of use.
The weaknesses are hard to say really. On one hand, if we consider the focus to be English, we aren't teaching them classes in English enough for the growth we'd like to see. However, we are not really the focus of the schools curriculum anymore. We also aren't the dominant culture trying to adhere to diversity, we are the diversity at the school. We are the minority trying to teach our language and culture to them. In that way, it is successful, but it seems a bit disjointed and hard for the kids to understand what is really going on. What is their focus? They have trouble with that, I think, because our curriculum is split between the two languages. It also makes it hard to try and include their L1, when they are using their L1 all day long. We are the only opportunity for them to use their L2, so we don't want to use our time, too much anyway, teaching any Korean, since we want to get in as much English as possible. A weakness related to that is that there is no communication or collaboration between the two programs. The Korean teachers don't talk to the English department. There are probably several reasons, the first being that their office is in another part of the school, but also they are not fluent in English or they are too shy to speak in English to us and most of us don't speak conversational Korean well enough. It's a language barrier. If we could manage to collaborate and make the curriculum blur that line and make those connections between languages, the students might excel even more because the three predictors of academic success for CLD students (or ESL students) are:
- "Cognitively complex academic instruction primarily delivered through the student's first language and maintained for as long as possible, but secondarily delivered through the second language for a portion of the school day
- The intentional use of current approaches in the teaching of the academic curriculum through both L1 and L2, including active, discovery, and cognitively complex learning
- Purposeful changes in the sociocultural context of schooling, such as the integration of CLD students with English speakers in a context that is supporting and affirming for all; the development of an additive bilingual context, in which bilingual education is perceived and respected as a gifted and talented program for all students; and the transformation of majority and minority relations in the school to a positive, safe environment for all students" (Herrera & Murry, 2011, p 107).
Herrera, S. G.., & Murry, K.G.. (2011). Mastering ESL and Bilingual Methods. (2nd ed). Boston: Pearson Education Inc.