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How to Foster Language and Literacy Development in the Spanish Classroom

As a student in a Basque/Spanish bilingual program in Spain and, a generation later, the mother of a student in a dual-bilingual education (DLBE) program in Washington, DC, I can attest to the excellence of well-implemented DLBE programs. Given my life experiences with bilingual education, it is no wonder that I ended up getting a PhD in Spanish applied linguistics and that my work at the Center for Applied Linguistics (CAL) has centered around DLBE.


DLBE programs, in which students receive content and language instruction in English and a partner language (most notably Spanish), have proliferated in the United States (Boyle et al., 2015). Many DLBE programs have prioritized the needs of English-dominant students by promoting a strict separation of languages where the dynamic bilingualism of Spanish-dominant students is viewed as a barrier (Flores & García, 2017; Valdez et al., 2016). To serve the needs of all DLBE students and better represent their bilingualism and biliteracy development, it is imperative that educators engage in practices that leverage students’ full linguistic repertoire and adopt a holistic approach to language and literacy instruction (García, 2009; Escamilla et al., 2014). For teachers, this means having knowledge of the language structures associated with each discipline—what Galguera (2011) and Bunch (2013) call pedagogical language knowledge. Research indicates that many DLBE teachers need academic and professional support to build their pedagogical language knowledge, especially when it comes to the partner language (Barko-Alva, 2022; Guerrero & Guerrero, 2017).


In order to help with this need, CAL has developed workshops in Spanish and English that provide educators with an immersive learning experience in practical, research-based strategies for biliteracy instruction and assessment using a holistic biliteracy approach. The workshops’ aim is two-fold: 1) promote DLBE educators’ understanding of the value of fostering emerging multilingual students’ metalinguistic awareness for cross-language transfer; and 2) build or enhance DLBE educators’ own metalinguistic awareness so that they can facilitate students’ cross-language transfer and promote the use of their full linguistic repertoire to access the content and engage in sustained language use. The workshops take participants through the different language systems of Spanish and English (phonology and orthography, morphology, semantics, syntax, and pragmatics) on a journey of exploration of the similarities and differences between the two languages and their impact on instruction and assessment and students’ bilingual and biliteracy development. The CAL-VHL session will provide a snapshot of the Spanish language and literacy workshop.


By Igone Arteagoitia

Watch the recoding of Igone Arteagoitia’s webinar, Cómo fomentar el desarrollo de la lengua y la lectoescritura en la clase de español.

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  • Barko-Alva, K. (2022). Enseñando en español: The need to support dual language bilingual education teachers’ pedagogical language knowledge. Annual Review of Applied Linguistics, 1-7.
  • Boyle, A., August, D., Tabaku, L., Cole, S., & Simpson-Baird, A. (2015). Dual Language Education Programs: Current State Policies and Practices. Office of English Language Acquisition, US Department of Education.
  • Bunch, G. C. (2013). Pedagogical language knowledge: Preparing mainstream teachers for English learners in the new standards era. Review of Research in Education, 37, 298–341.
  • Escamilla, K., Hopewell, S., Butvilofsky, S., Sparrow, W., Soltero-González, L., Ruiz-Figueroa, O., & Escamilla, M. (2014). Biliteracy From the Start. Philadelphia, PA: Caslon, Inc.
  • Flores, N., & García, O. (2017). A critical review of bilingual education in the United States: From basements and pride to boutiques and profit. Annual Review of Applied Linguistics, 37, 14-29.
  • García, O. (2009). Bilingual education in the 21st century: A global perspective. John Wiley & Sons.
  • Galguera, T. (2011). Participants structures as professional learning tasks and the development of pedagogical language knowledge among preservice teachers. Teacher Education Quarterly, 38, 85-106.
  • Guerrero, M. D., & Guerrero, M. C. (2017). Competing discourses of academic Spanish in the Texas-Mexico borderlands. Bilingual Research Journal, 40(1), 5-19.
  • Valdez, V. E., Freire, J. A., & Delavan, M. G. (2016). The gentrification of dual language education. The Urban Review, 48(4), 601-627.
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