As a former ESL student myself, I found the articles for this week very fascinating to read. I was in an ESL classroom during the second half of fourth grade and first half of fifth grade, so I think i have the benefit of first hand experience when it comes to the issues of this topic.
Although I was not a huge fan of "Aria" by Richard Rodriguez, I thought that "Teaching Multilingual Children" by Virginia Collier was a very insightful article.
Many of the statements Collier made I really agree with and have experienced first-hand in my own life:
"Academic skills developed in the first language tend to automatically transfer to the second language".
I actually thought of this same concept even before I read that part in the article ( and when I read it i thought "So true!"). I wondered why some kids learn a second language much faster than others. Although I do think that much depends on personal ability (some people are just better at learning languages than others) I quickly realized that a lot of it tends to do with how rigorous your schooling was in your home country. I am not completely sure anymore because fifth grade was a long time ago, but I think some kids in my class did not even go to school in their home countries. As a result, not only did they not speak English, but they also had no concept of reading, writing, and math. Obviously, with sucha situation, I can see what Collier means when she says that it could take them "from five to seven years to master commonly accepted age-grade norms".
I was rather surprised by this statement however:
"It is worse for many students who are placed in English-only classrooms with teachers who have no training in second language acquisition and who use an English-only curriculum".
Although I am not an expert and certainly do not have research to back me up, it seems to me that being completely immersed in a foreign language is actually beneficial for foreign language learners. My ESL classroom was certainly English-only, since the diversity of the students made it impossible to accommodate to all their languages, and we were even forbidden to speak our native languages to peers. It seems to me that complete immersion into a second language helps the student focus on, and rely on, that language so much more. I think that the danger of bilingual classrooms is that kids will just speak whatever language is most comfortable and ignore the second language if they can get by without it. When you know you cant survive without learning to speak English it really makes a difference in how quickly you learn.
Finally, I thought the six features of "Caregiver speech" were all excellent points. One of my favorites is, "Caregivers provide models to children by saying for them what the children seem to want to say". I like this one cause I think these kids need to be given a break! Sometimes its just hard to think of words, even if you know them, and I think its a good thing for teachers to help them out. Also, its easier to understand than it is to speak, so if I child has problems saying something the teacher should lead them to the right words and model the right words. A child will probably understand, even if they could not have said it themselves, and will hopefully remember what to say next time in a similar situation.
Overall, I thought this article was great. It was easy to read, to the point, and very insightful. I think the "Caregiver" points are an essential for all ESL teachers. In class, I would like to discuss bilingual teaching methods more, since its something I really do not know much about. Although two languages are definitely better than one (I assume this kind of teaching is mostly directed towards Spanish-speaking students), I do see many problems that could come with bilingual teaching.