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This blog post was written by Ellevation Advisor Dr. José Medina. For more information about Dr. Medina's work, visit www.drjosemedina.com.
Lesson planning is a political act. Schools in the United States, at the core, were designed to promote a monocultural and monolingual perspective of teaching and learning. Thus, the lessons we design either support or dismantle educational systems that have marginalized certain student communities. In particular, Black, Indigenous, Students of Color, language learners, children with specific academic and/or emotional needs, and students belonging to the LGBTQ+ community have not been served well in a schooling system that is centered on Whiteness, heteronormative ideologies, and aligned with privilege resulting from English monolingualism.
The C6 Biliteracy Framework (C6BF) offers educators a way to strategically lesson plan so that the students we serve are better prepared to connect, empathize, and be of service to one another. In a time in which schools and districts are attempting to engage in anti-bias and anti-racism (ABAR) work, the C6BF creates a clear pathway to engage in this important practice, but beyond the performative. The framework was conceptualized to align with the three goals of dual language education, as well as a means to disrupt educational systems of oppression. Although originally created to facilitate biliteracy instruction in the dual language classroom, the C6BF is now used in all educational settings.
As educators, we must CREATE and design learning experiences that bring together content, language, and culture. This is accomplished by establishing strong content, language, and culture learning targets that are fully owned by the students. Often, content learning targets are the driving force behind the lessons we plan because the focus is on standards. As practitioners, we feel comfortable with unpacking grade level content information.
We tend to be less agile in writing language learning targets that create access to the content standards for every student, regardless of language proficiency in the target language. In reality, many of us fail to understand that the language learning target is the equity and social justice component of the lesson planning process. A content learning target without a language learning target is like asking students to find that target in the dark. In essence, when we plan content learning targets without considering the language students must mobilize in order to access the standard, we become the oppressors.
Culture learning targets, rarely used in educational settings, provide an opportunity for teachers to begin chipping away at educational systems of oppression by contextualizing content and language integration. The four ways to engage in ABAR work via culture learning targets include:
An integral part of the lesson planning process must include CONNECTing learning experiences to students’ lives and linguistic repertoires. Part of this work includes designing lessons that value all that our students bring into the classroom. We must no longer view children as having gaps in their learning. Instead, we must decolonize our thinking and acknowledge that all students bring gifts into the school building, including their language, culture, and full identity, which we must help them to leverage.
For too long, we have placed a high value on English monolingualism. This is specifically true for Students of Color. Whereas a child who is White is often praised for adding languages to their linguistic repertoire, marginalized student communities are coded at-risk by educational entities when English is not readily mobilized. They are quickly provided remediation to ensure a quick transition to English, rather than valuing the language or languages of the home and the community.
This component of the framework also posits that although students might not yet be able to “language” content understanding in English, it does not mean that the content knowledge is non-existent. Students who “own” languages other English possess a unique ability to make cross-linguistic connections, which should be supported by every educator, in order to mobilize content ownership in multiple languages. However, this culturally sustaining ideology is still not fully present in most U.S. classrooms.
The lesson planning process must embrace the idea that we COLLABORATE with students as facilitators of instruction, rather than depositors of information. Whether in remote, hybrid or in-person facilitation of instruction, students must be active participants in the creation of their own learning. Culturally sustaining ideologies must become the norm in all U.S. schools. Much like we need to decolonize instructional practices, so too, we must consider the different ways that students may engage in the learning process, including some that have not traditionally been amplified in school settings.
Differentiation of instruction, process, and product are a focus of the C6BF, but now, with an eye on engaging students in lessons that move away from a monocultural, monolingual, heteronormative, and patriarchal way of living and breathing in the classroom. Students’ life experiences, the way in which their community problem solves, co-exists and serves one another, and how they view life in general, now has a space within an educational system that has often excluded those things that didn’t fit within educational practices seeking to be White adjacent.
Teachers must COMMUNICATE and model both oral and written language, while structuring authentic student-to-student interaction that reflects each of the two program languages in a dual language setting. In monolingual settings, teachers must embrace all languages as students learn to “language” content understanding in English. English and/or partner languages are added to a student’s linguistic repertoire without destroying language features already a part of the student’s world.
The 4+1 language domains and icons are an essential part of the students’ ownership of the content, language, and culture integration. Although we often focus on listening, speaking, reading, and writing, we must not forget that for multilingual children, metalinguistic awareness is equally key. It is the language domain that allows students to make the natural connections between the nation languages that are a part of their linguistic repertoire.
Part of the authentic communication processes in lesson planning includes embracing literacy practices that are appropriate for the target language. In dual language programs, this means that we must not inculcate English-centered pedagogical practices into the teaching of other program languages when they are not appropriate. For monolingual settings, teachers of language learners specifically, must be willing to embrace other languages in the classroom, even if we ourselves are not multilingual.
As teachers, we often lesson plan in the way in which we like to learn. Instead, we must CONSIDER a student’s varied instructional needs as an opportunity to promote reflection and self-assessment. This requires critical self-analysis on our part, as we engage in lesson design. Sharing learning modalities with students allow them to understand the way or ways in which they best learn. Moreover, it further strengthens the co-facilitation process as students are able to advocate when our lessons do not reflect their type of learning style(s).
Diverse and authentic biliteracy assessments are also a part of this component in the framework. In dual language settings, teachers should consider multiple and varied formative and summative assessments in both program languages as a means to leverage students’ continued work focused on bilingualism and biliteracy through content learning. Assessments that are not aligned with culturally sustaining language learning research and that view students’ abilities through an English-only focus, often fail to garner data that is viable in serving emergent bilingual students. Furthermore, for both dual and non-dual settings, it is also important to identify what it is that we are assessing: content, language, or both.
The last component in the C6 Biliteracy Framework is present in all six Cs. It is the foundation of the critical consciousness lens that drives the lesson planning process. The decolonization of many U.S. pedagogical practices, charges us as educators, to COMMIT, in collaboration with our students, to creating a learning environment that is focused on continuous improvement and service to others.
When we acknowledge that U.S. schools have, and continue to serve some students better than others, we can truly begin the work of equity and social justice. Lesson planning via the C6BF offers us a way to engage in this important work while acknowledging that we have been complicit in the oppression of certain student communities. This must be shared openly with the students we serve.
Educators must model critical self-reflection, own and speak of their biases, and overtly use their privilege to create access to that privilege for others. Only in this way, will PK-12 students fully understand that content, language, and culture learning is an unending journey where the goal is to be of service to others. The C6 Biliteracy Framework embraces the idea that lesson planning is a political act. Rather than standing idly by while some student communities are marginalized, we begin to chip away at the educational systems that seek to maintain the status quo.
Further information regarding the C6 Biliteracy Framework can be found at www.drjosemedina.com. Dr. Medina is also very active on social media. The following are his handles:
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