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Having a Multicultural & Multilingual Classroom is Good for Everyone

The population of English Language Learners is growing faster the ever in the recent years as one out of every six school age children use a language other than English at home (Diaz-Rico & Weed, 2006).  Our classrooms are changing; racial, cultural and linguistic diversity is increasing and with it the importance of encouraging tolerance, self esteen and fostering bilingualism.

A child’s early years determine if that child will become open or fearful of people who are different.  Childhood environment many times will determine if they learn to appreciate or become ashamed of their culture and heritage and it lays the groundwork for children to become bilingual or loose their home language.  Preschool will probably be the first group environment outside the home for most children and it is an early childood teacher’s responsibility to lay the groundwork by fostering an inclusive and respectfull classroom.

Cultural identity is strongly tied to linguistic identity. If the home language is lost so are the ties to home and the relationships to family and friends.     As educators, we have the power to determine whether students feel included or excluded in our schools. By bringing students’ languages from their homes into the classroom, we validate their culture and their history.

One of the most important things to accomplish this is to work closely with the children’s families, some of whom may not speak English.

  • Family involvement is linked to higher student achievement, better attitudes toward learning, lower dropout rates, and increased community support for education–regardless of socioeconomic status, ethnic/racial background, or parents’ education level (Antunez, 2000; Epstein, 2001).


  • Family and community involvement that is linked to student learning has a greater effect on achievement than more general forms of involvement (Henderson & Mapp, 2002).


  • Learning and cognitive development is enhanced when teachers develop an understanding of each student’s cultural, racial, personal, family, and community background and experiences, and reflect these in the learning experiences that they provide (McCombs, 1997).


  • Trust between home and school creates a context that supports student achievement, even in the face of poverty (Goddard, Tschannen-Moran, & Hoy, 2001).


  • Family members’ prior experiences with school shape their willingness to trust teachers and become involved in their children’s education (Antunez,2000; Mapp, 2002).


  • Parents’ beliefs and attitudes about education influence children’s own perception of their abilities (Sigel, McGillicuddy-DeLisi, & Goodnow, 1992).

What Research Tells Us

Based on numerous studies, evidence supports that upholding and reinforcing a child’s home language early on and specifically developing early literacy skills in a child’s home language better supports later academic outcomes in English.


About the author

Paula Bendfeldt-Diaz

Paula moved from her native Guatemala to SW Florida with her husband and two children and together they are discovering what it means to live life between two languages.

Paula studied architecture who now makes a living as a freelance writer, traveler and amateur photographer. She started her writing & publishing career as the editor of Bebé y Mamá, the first parenting magazine in Guatemala. She is the founder of www.GrowingUpBilingual.com and www.365thingsswfl.com and writes articles in Spanish and English for both magazines and the web on travel, food and bicultural and bilingual parenting .

When she is not on a plane or road trip she likes to create recipes inspired in the flavors of her native Guatemala.

Permanent link to this article: http://growingupbilingual.com/2011/latino-parenting/benefits-of-diversity-in-the-classroom/


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  1. William

    I especially agree with this quote “Based on numerous studies, evidence supports that upholding and reinforcing a child’s home language early on and specifically developing early literacy skills in a child’s home language better supports later academic outcomes in English.”

    I believe that children have a ‘critical period’ when it comes to learning languages and developing their language skills at a young age is very important. I live in S. E. Asia and I have a friend who has a 3 year old boy. My friend is German, his wife it Thai, they live in Cambodian and most of his friends speak English. The child speaks Thai, German, English and Khmer. Thai to his mother, German to his dad, English to his father’s friends and khmer to his nanny!
    William recently posted…Audio-Lingual Method of Teaching EnglishMy Profile

  2. Laila Moire-Selvage

    Hi just noticed a small typo in the title of this GREAT article – you’re missing the t in “MulTicultural” !!! 🙂

    1. Paula Bendfeldt-Diaz

      Thanks Laila!

  3. McKenzie

    Thank you so much for this post. I am glad that you point out the amazing benefits of diversity and acceptance of it can cause! I love your suggestion to involve full families and create inclusion.

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