Bilingualism Today Series: Developing Bridges to Academic Language with Project GLAD

The issue of transfer of language skills for EL students who have developed or are in the process of developing academic language or the academic register is at the forefront of the conversation among bilingual experts.  From the area known as “translanguaging” (Garcia, 2011) to Beeman and Urow´s (2012) deliberate transfer strategies known as “bridging”, teacher trainers are all addressing the topic of transfer.  While teachers must proceed very carefully when adopting concurrent approaches (use of two languages at the same time) when teaching bilingually, there are proven methods that assist teachers when integrating language and content instruction in a way that accelerates the delivery of academic language in both the primary language and English, or vice versa, when teaching EO´s (English-only) students in two way immersion programs (Rimbau 2011).

One such method known simply as Project GLAD was developed by the Orange County Department of Education (Brechtel, Marcia, 1991).  The Guided Language Acquisition Design is a comprehensive method that integrates the following components:

– Literacy  instruction in a language functional environment;

– Second language acquisition principles;

– Academic language;

– Content knowledge;

– Brain-based learning; and,

– Appreciation of diverse cultures and languages              

Although proprietary, since it requires extensive training in California, this integrated language and content method based on project learning and joint production of activities promotes positive interdependence and self-esteem by incorporating songs, chants, vocabulary building, as well as a group-directed and motivating classroom management system that rewards adherence to the method´s published rules.

Project GLAD stresses the importance of a positive classroom climate by reinforcing and modeling social skills and self-control in learning. It promotes adherence to rules of behavior based on respect for self, others, and for learning. Teachers constantly demonstrate that it is safe to make mistakes and take risks while learning the second language. Metacognition is at the heart of the method since students explore and reflect on their own thinking and learning patterns. For example, when analyzing academic vocabulary using a tool known as the “Cognitive Content Dictionary”, students would be encouraged to analyze the origins and roots of words such as “oviparous” and “metamorphosis” and seek connections to similar Spanish cognates like  “ovíparo” and “metamorfosis” By singing and “rappin” academic words such as these, both teachers and students are guided to see the joy in learning while at the same time developing that much needed academic register and the language of the content areas in both languages of instruction.

Unpublished material.  Please contact the author before citing. Rimbau, H.T. (2013).  Developing Bridges to Academic Language with Project GLAD.

Dr. Higinia Torres-Rimbau

Chair, Bilingual/Dual Language Program

University of St. Thomas

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