Archive for November, 2009

Multicultural Connections: Jessie de la Cruz and the Female Perspective in the Farmworker’s Movement

November 30, 2009 1 comment

This evening on twitter I saw a link from someone that lead me to a website about a female organizer, Jessie de la Cruz, who had participated in the United Farmworkers Union movement. I was really captivated by her story, and since I’ve learned about her I have been thinking back to the days when I was a third, fourth, and fifth grade teacher and would teach about the farmworker’s movement or migrant workers.

When students in the elementary grades first learn about the farmworker’s movement, who do you suppose they first start learning about? Why, Cesar Chavez, of course. And every year they continue to learn about Cesar Chavez. Right? Okay, maybe they also sometimes learn a little about Dolores Huerta, but I have mostly seen an overemphasis on Cesar Chavez in elementary and middle school classrooms. When I was a classroom teacher, I can recall that it was very difficult at the time to find biographies for children about Dolores Huerta, so my options were limited. The closest way that I integrated a female perspective into the study of the farmworker’s movement was when I read the story Esperanza Rising/Esperanza Renace, a fictional story about migrant workers from a female child’s perspective.

Teaching multicultural education is such an important aspect to Dual Immersion and other bilingual programs, as well as foreign language programs. Yet we often “stick to the script” and narrow our teaching of these subjects which results in students being exposed to the same people and events over and over again. A similar pattern happens when we study the civil right’s movement where there is often an overemphasis on Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks. It’s time that we add a little variation in our study of multicultural events and people if we want our students and children to become well-rounded individuals who have a deep respect for cross-cultural awareness and appreciation.

One of the tenets of gifted education is to teach “multiple perspectives” when studying a certain topic. When studying the farmworker’s movement, it’s important that we look at the historical events from the perspective of male organizers, female organizers, the politicians, the farm owners, and other key players in the historical event. From studying one historical event from a variety of perspectives, students will develop high levels of critical thinking and will posses the mental flexibility to look at the same topic from a variety of different perspectives. We must treat all of our bilingual and second language programs as if they are gifted enrichment programs!

Tonight on youtube I found a short video about Jessie de la Cruz, a female organizer who participated in the farmworker’s struggle with Cesar Chavez. Here is her story:

The notable Mexican American children’s author Gary Soto also wrote a book about Jessie de la Cruz’s inspirational life story.  You can purchase “Jessie de la Cruz: A Profile of a United Farmworker”  in the Multilingual Mania store by clicking here. Even if your students are too young for this biography, it would still benefit us as teachers and parents to learn about Jessie de la Cruz and the female perspective in the movement. How will we be able to build high levels of multicultural awareness if we as adults don’t have the requisite background knowledge?

About the Author: Melanie McGrath is a bilingual education fanatic. She passionately thinks, lives and dreams about multilingual education every waking and sleeping moment of her life. Seriously. Melanie is an administrator of bilingual education programs, and considers herself to be an advocate for students, parents, teachers, and others in the struggle for quality bilingual education programs.  As founder of Multilingual Mania, she’s doing all that she can to help create a multilingual and non-racist society one day at a time.

Categories: Uncategorized

I Could Get Used to This….

I am pretty much a workaholic, so I am often very frustrated when I have to go to the store and have to wait in long lines. Needless to say, this pretty much means that I always miss all of the great deals on sales. Every time Thanksgiving rolls around, I am always too exhausted to wait in after-Thanksgiving black Friday sales, or I am too busy running errands that have been put off for far to long.

Well this year I hit the jackpot and I didn’t even have to leave my house. It’s as if I am in heaven! I was looking online for something and I saw that is having black Friday after-Thanksgiving sales and special deals ALL WEEK LONG! First I was a little upset because I saw a Mad Men season 2 disc set for $20 and I had just bought it for $50 two days prior, but once I saw all of the other great deals I forgot all about that little unfortunate incident. I have literally done ALL my holiday shopping and today I am checking back every once in a while because they have lightening rod deals that they only post every once in a while. It seems to be also that if you are an Amazon prime member you get even better deals. (If you plan on shopping at Amazon often, it would benefit you to be a prime member because they immediately ship you what you ordered in a flash).

I just saw some great deals on language learning software that some of you language enthusiasts might find very useful. You can check them out by clicking here.

If you are really dedicated to learning or improving your Spanish, check out this great deal of almost $200 for a comprehensive language-learning software package.

You can check out all of the deals including books, movies, etc by clicking here. If you are looking for great deals, make sure you check back every couple of hours for the lightening rod deals that they frequently update=)




Categories: Resources

“Let’s Be Thankful”

The following video teaches the the song “Let’s Be Thankful” in American sign language. It brings back many memories for me as a child because I went to elementary school in a school that integrated deaf students into the general classroom and we learned a little bit of sign language from them. Sadly I have lost most of what I learned as a child, but I have always wanted to study sign language again.

I wish you all a Happy Thanksgiving! I am thankful and grateful to all of the readers of my blog and other bloggers who are trying to create online multilingual communities. Have a wonderful day!!

Before you head off to do whatever you are going to do for Thanksgiving, you should head over to and enter into the giveaway for the new Pat Mora book about Thanksgiving that they have!!

Categories: Bilingualism

Literacy, Language Development and Thanksgiving

I just blogged over on the ELD Strategies blog about how teachers can teach literacy and language development through the theme of Thanksgiving. Over the years that I have been in the teaching profession, I have often seen many flamboyant projects completed during the holidays, and many times the projects lack rigorous literacy objectives. I am of the persuasion that “every minute counts” when we are educating children. Therefore, I believe that instead of having coloring activities where students color a turkey or paste the feathers on a turkey picture we should instead build literacy and language development through literacy-based holiday activities. You can check out some of my literacy-related Thanksgiving tips that I posted on the ELD Strategies blog.

Categories: Uncategorized

Gracias el Pavo de “Thanksgiving”

My favorite Thanksgiving book that I used to love to read with my students was Gracias el Pavo de Thanksgiving. It’s translated from English, so that explains why the title has Thanksgiving in English. Nonetheless, the story is a heartwarming story about family, community and friendship.

The book is about a Puerto Rican boy named Miguel whose father brings home a turkey before Thanksgiving. The bird is supposed to be fattened up for Thanksgiving, but Miguel takes a liking to the bird and has the bird at his side at all times all over the town. He enlists his Abuelita and Tia Rosa to help him devise a plan to save the turkey’s life so that he is not eaten on Thanksgiving day.

I can certainly connect to this story because at one point in my life I was raised around baby chicks, and well, you know what eventually happens to those baby chicks. I can remember begging and pleading for their lives, but sadly I was never able to save them from the dinner table. For a long time I had a hard time actually eating chicken because of my connection with those little baby chicks. When I read this story to my students, many of them also made similar connections and had their own stories to tell about animals that they had connected with that were meant to be eaten, or in some cases just simply given away.

The book is available in Spanish, and also available in English. The English version has some beginning Spanish words throughout the book which would be excellent for students who are learning Spanish, or the English book could be a great supplement for English language development (ELD) time in a bilingual classroom.

You still have time to order this book and others about Thanksgiving for your children or students! If you order them on Amazon today, you can choose the one or two day delivery and they will be delivered tomorrow or Wednesday. Heck, even if they come on Friday or Saturday, you can have something to do at home to build biliteracy with your children while everyone else is waiting in those long after-Thanksgiving-sale lines. You can also find additional Spanish books that I have uploaded about Thanksgiving in the Multilingual Mania store.

Categories: Bilingual Education

How Do You Get a BCLAD Credential?

November 22, 2009 6 comments

In California, as well as other states, teachers who provide instruction in a language other than English are required to receive a bilingual teaching authorization. In California the bilingual authorization is called the Bilingual, Crosscultural, Language and Academic Development (BCLAD) certificate or credential. Teachers can receive the BCLAD authorization as part of their multiple subject credential program, or have the option to receive their BCLAD authorization after taking a state test.

The BCLAD Test

In the past, teachers were required to take sections 4, 5, and 6 of the California Teachers of English Learners (CTEL) test in order to receive a BCLAD authorization. This is no longer the case. Teachers who wish to receive their BCLAD certification through the passage of the test are now required to pass sections 3, 4 and 5 of the California Subject Examinations for Teachers (CSET): Languages Other Than English (LOTE) test. Section three consists of reading, writing, speaking and listening in the language other than English (i.e., Spanish, French, etc). Section four consists of bilingual education and bilingualism, intercultural communication, as well as instruction and assessment of bilingual learners. Section five consists of the cultural, political, and historical component of the target language. The following blueprints contain additional information on the topics covered in each subtest:

BCLAD Test Section Three-Spanish

BCLAD Test Section Four-Bilingual methodology

BCLAD Test Section Five-Culture

Upon passage of all three sections, teachers will be eligible to receive their BCLAD authorization provided that they have a preliminary teaching credential.

In the case that teachers may have passed certain sections of the old CTEL test that was previously required to obtain a BCLAD authorization, passing scores from section 4, 5, and 6 of the old CTEL test may be combined with passing scores from the newer CSET: Languages Other Than English (LOTE) test, provided that the prior CTEL scores have been taken within the past seven years. Please note the following changes in the order of the test for teachers who will need to combine prior CTEL scores with the newer CSET: LOTE scores:

  • The prior CTEL section four (methodology) is now the new CSET: LOTE section 4.
  • The prior CTEL section five (culture) is now the new CSET: LOTE section 5.
  • The prior CTEL section six (language) is now the new CSET: LOTE section 3.

BCLAD Test Preparation

Teachers who are taking the BCLAD test to obtain a bilingual credential should contact their local school district or local county office of education in order to determine whether BCLAD test preparation classes are being offered. The following books will also help prepare teachers to pass section 4 and 5 of the CSET: Languages Other Than English (LOTE) test:

Foundations of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism: This must-read book will assist those who need to take section 4 of the BCLAD test with the following topics: bilingualism, assessment, methodology, the history of education and many other important topics that will be on the BCLAD test.

Harvest of Empire: A History of Latinos in America: Many native-Spanish speaking teachers often have difficulty with section five of the BCLAD test because many teachers are unfamiliar with the historical and political context of various Latin American and Spanish-speaking countries. This book will provide brief overviews of each of the Latin American countries and will discuss the historical context of the country, immigration patterns to the United States, and political trends that have occurred in each country.

Occupied America: A History of Chicanos: This book is an excellent book that covers the history of the Chicano experience in the United States. Each chapter in the book provides an overview of social, political, economic and historical contexts that have occurred during each decade. The Occupied America book will prepare teachers to answer questions pertaining to the Mexican American/Chicano experience that is covered in section five of the BCLAD test.

The Multilingual Mania website also has a variety of resources that will prepare you to prepare for the BCLAD test. If you require additional assistance or clarification regarding the BCLAD test or BCLAD test prep, please leave a comment or contact your credential specialist at your local university or school district!

About the Author: Melanie McGrath is a bilingual education fanatic. She passionately thinks, lives and dreams about multilingual education every waking and sleeping moment of her life. Seriously. Melanie is an administrator of bilingual education programs, and considers herself to be an advocate for students, parents, teachers, and others in the struggle for quality bilingual education programs.  As founder of Multilingual Mania, she’s doing all that she can to help create a multilingual and non-racist society one day at a time.

Related Posts:

Is Bilingual Education Against the Law in California?

Critical Components of Effective Bilingual Education Programs

Categories: Bilingual Education

A Parent’s Guide to the Critical Components of Effective Bilingual Education Programs

November 21, 2009 9 comments

Last week I wrote about five critical components that characterize effective bilingual programs. If you are a parent of a child in a bilingual program or are anticipating having your child in a bilingual program in the future, the following questions can help you determine the extent to which your child’s bilingual program has all of the critical components for success or whether further development is needed. If you haven’t read the initial post about the critical components, you might want to consider reading it before you read this post. Here are five critical components that I outlined and some questions that you can ask yourself or site personnel:

#1 Effective bilingual programs have administrators and site instructional personnel who are knowledgeable and supportive of the goals and design of the bilingual program.

It is sometimes difficult for parents to determine the extent to which an administrator of a bilingual program fully supports the goals of the program. Some administrators will act as if they support the program on the surface level  by telling you and others that they support and believe in the program, but they may not really support bilingual education. It’s important that you also look at other indicators to determine whether or not your program has an administrator who is passionate about the program. Ask yourself, the administrator, teachers, and other parents the following questions:

  • Has the administrator attended any training or read any books specifically about bilingual education? If so, ask which trainings and which books.
  • Has the administrator sent teachers to training specifically about the bilingual program? Which trainings?
  • Are there office staff who are bilingual and can speak to the parents in the languages of the program? If not, why?
  • Does the administrator take the time to listen to your concerns and your frequently asked questions? Is the administrator able to answer the questions in a knowledgeable way?
  • Is the administrator able to fully explain the program design to you, as well as the first and second language expectations for each grade level?
  • Does the site have parent meetings about the bilingual program?
  • Have you ever heard that teachers are told to “teach more English”? Does the administrator emphasize English more than the other language of the program (i.e., Spanish, French, etc)?

#2 Effective bilingual programs have highly qualified bilingual teachers.

Highly qualified teachers are essential for program success. Many bilingual teachers choose to be bilingual educators and are passionate about teaching two languages, yet there are sometimes other bilingual teachers who were placed in a bilingual program because they speak the language of instruction and may not necessarily be advocates for the program. Ask yourself, the administrator, teachers, and other parents the following questions:

  • Have the teachers ever attended an orientation session about the goals and program design?
  • Do teachers have high levels of proficiency in both languages? If not, what are teachers doing to increase their language proficiency? What are site and/or school district-level administrators planning on doing to increase teachers’ proficiency in both languages?
  • Is the teacher faithfully implementing the program design? Does the teacher teach the designated number of minutes that are taught in each language?
  • Do teachers have sufficient resources in both languages? If not, what will the school administration do to ensure that teachers have enough materials in both languages?
  • Do teachers have the appropriate authorization to teach in a bilingual program? Do they specifically have a “bilingual teaching authorization”? If not, what are they specifically doing to work towards having a bilingual teaching certificate?
  • Can teachers clearly articulate to you the first and second language expectations? Does the teacher specifically inform you of the reading, writing, listening and speaking skills that are expected at each grade level in BOTH languages?
  • If a teacher tells you that your child is struggling in his/her second language, which specific strategies is the teacher using to make the second language comprehensible to your child?
  • Has the teacher urged you to take your child out of the program without having a formal meeting to brainstorm strategies that will help your child?

Do not ever hesitate to ask the teacher or the site administrator the questions delineated above. Highly qualified teachers will have no problem with answering any of your questions.

#3 Effective bilingual programs have a clearly articulated program design that is faithfully implemented at each grade level.

  • Are you aware of the bilingual program design? Do you know how which percentage of time is taught in each language during the day? Do you know which subjects are taught in each of the languages per grade level?
  • Have you attended a parent orientation that clearly outlines the instructional program design?
  • Have you been specifically informed of the first and second language requirements that will be expected of students at each grade level? Is there a formal, written document that outlines the second and first language expectations at each grade level?
  • Does your child’s report card take into consideration the first and second language goals of the program?

#4 Effective bilingual programs provide multiple opportunities for parent involvement, education and support with an emphasis on topics pertinent to the bilingual program.

  • Were you ever given an orientation about the program prior to entering the program? Before your child was placed in the program, were you fully informed of the goals, program model design, research-base, and grade level expectations about the program?
  • Does the program have monthly or at least quarterly parent meetings specifically about the bilingual program?
  • Have you had the opportunity to learn about the following topics through parent meetings: the stages and process of learning a second language, activities and resources that parents can use to promote language development, how to help your child with homework if you don’t understand the other language, etc?
  • Is there a bilingual parent advisory committee that has been formed with parents who have children in the bilingual program? Is the meeting conducted in a bilingual manner, or are translation services provided?
  • Is there a key person at the site who is able to answer many of your frequently asked questions?
  • Do you feel that your questions, concerns and suggestions are addressed by the administrator or teachers?

#5 Effective bilingual programs utilize separation of languages and monolingual lesson delivery, to the best extent possible.

  • Has someone told you that teachers will try to separate the languages, and will only speak one language during each instructional block?
  • Have you ever visited the classroom and noticed that teachers are not adhering to the language of instruction and are mixing languages?
  • What has happened to you when you want to speak to teachers in front of your child? Does a system exist where the teacher can step aside and speak to you in the language that you understand, or does the teacher stay in the language of instruction and you are unable to understand? If this has happened and it is frustrating to you, have you talked to the teacher about your frustrations?

Asking yourself all of the following questions will help you determine the extent to which your child’s bilingual program has the five critical components for program success. In an upcoming post, we’ll discuss what steps you can take as a parent if you determine that one or more of the critical components is not present in your bilingual program. A Spanish translation of this post will be uploaded as soon as possible!

About the Author: Melanie McGrath is a bilingual education fanatic. She passionately thinks, lives and dreams about multilingual education every waking and sleeping moment of her life. Seriously. Melanie is an administrator of bilingual education programs, and considers herself to be an advocate for students, parents, teachers, and others in the struggle for quality bilingual education programs.  As founder of Multilingual Mania, she’s doing all that she can to help create a multilingual and non-racist society one day at a time.

Related Posts:

The Critical Components of Effective Bilingual Programs

Raise a Bilingual Child the Fun and Easy Way

Can Schools Force a Child to Stay in a Bilingual Program?

Is Bilingual Education Against the Law in California?

Raising Bilingual Children

The Importance of Raising Bilingual Children

Books About Raising Bilingual Children:

Visit the Multilingual Mania store for books on raising bilingual children!

Categories: Bilingual Education