Can oracy development be the key to improving Curriculum and Instruction in Dual Language Programs? I think so. In a classroom, oracy development is an instructional process in which students learn to speak within relevant social and academic contexts. I believe this to be a key variable for consistent curriculum and instruction in dual language classrooms.
Although I never studied in a dual language setting, I consider myself an emerging bilingual. This is because I grew up speaking and studying in Spanish and later learned English. Even now after all of these years, I continue to learn and grow in my two languages. I am also both a son of first-generation immigrants and a first generation parent of bilingual kids myself. Both of my kids are dual language students, and I believe that just like it happened to me, their experiences with language can have a huge impact on the person they will become later in their life. Similarly, for the dual language students I serve as a school administrator, I know this is also the case. For these reasons, I’m interested in learning more about how to best lead dual language program improvement efforts; in which through my role as an administrator, I can contribute in creating environments in which high levels of learning and bilingualism are valued and expected for each. I argue, that to do this effectively, components of oracy development must be in place, and be visibly valued in bilingual classrooms.
As I reflect on my experiences as a student learning a second language, I can say that oracy, or speaking opportunities in and out of the classroom helped me be more confident and successful in my academic and language learning journey. I grew up in Mexico and attended school there up until 7th grade. I started 8th grade, completed high school, earned a bachelors and a master’s degree in the United States. As I think about my experiences in school, I’m not sure if earning a college degree, a master and a doctoral degree is what I was intended to do by learning a second language and experiencing success in school. Yet, I know deep in my heart that the role models that were put in my life were impactful and influential as I chose to seek high levels of learning. Many of these role models were former teachers, school leaders and current colleagues. All of which had something in common. They clearly believed in me, and intentionally or not, promoted my language growth by simply “speaking” and allowing me to “speak”. It wasn’t always easy, but the more I did it, the more I learned, the more I grew and the more motivated I became in chasing my own personal and academic success. To me, thats a clear example of the impact oracy development can have on students.
Over the last 12 years, I have directly and indirectly worked to improve dual language programs in three school districts in the state of Illinois. I have learned that although teachers are the main influence in student learning, administrators are also a critical influence in supporting teachers, establishing a culture that values dual language programming and leading curriculum and instruction improvement efforts that promote instructional consistency. In summary, I recognize that as a school administrator I have so much more to learn to improve my practice. I stand by my argument that oracy is key to improving dual language curriculum and instruction which then will improve student learning. However, I also recognize my need to learn more, and to explore other perspectives which will guide me towards improving my own practice and supporting high levels of learning for each student.