123. Sometimes, I like for my students to help each other. Do you think this will be helpful or harmful since children do not always use proper English?   Do you feel bilingual children understand slang quicker than Standard English?   How do you let a child know that you would like to learn more about his/her culture if he/she is shy/withdrawn without crossing boundaries?

These are a very insightful questions. I agree that ALL children MUST, SHOULD, OUGHT TO be taught what you term "proper" English. This is a particularly difficult problem I have observed in Arkansas and just about everywhere in the South, and in the inner city schools of large urban areas, such as Los Angeles. TEACHERS MUST, SHOULD, OUGHT TO model that "proper" English you mention in your question, and, unfortunately, many teachers do NOT model that "proper" language for their students. Thus, teachers who model not-very-proper-English teach students who use not-very-proper-English either.

When it comes to students-modeling-for-other-students, as in the situation you mention in your question --children working together with other children when some or all of the children do not use "proper" English--, the TEACHER has a tremendous responsibility to insure that ALL students speak correctly to one another. Thus, teachers must do tremendous amounts of modeling BEFORE they let students work together and use English without direct supervision. One way of monitoring students' language use is to prepare short dialogs for the students to interact with each other following a "script," that is, the dialog prepared by the teacher.  This dialog must be practiced BEFORE students interact without the teacher's direct supervision.

Depending on the age of the students, the teacher could POST within the classroom the acceptable forms of expression. For example, I have many signs in my class where I display what I expect to hear as students talk to each other.

I have a sign indicating that in my class students are to REFRAIN, ABSTAIN, CEASE AND DESIST, NEVER UTTER the words "stuff," ". . .like . . .," "guy / man." Another sign lists WAYS TO RESPOND WHEN ADDRESSED by another person. I have a sign that lists the "long" form of all contractions because I do not accept contractions in speech or in writing. Another sign lists CLASSROOM COMMUNICATION where I offer expressions such as: "Would you be so kind to . . . .," "Could you do me the favor to . . . .," etc.

Now I am responsible for MODELING these linguistic behaviors so I must use "proper" and "polite" English at all times. Still, when students talk to each other --or they address me in a hurry--, they forget, so I calmly remind them to say it again, this time correctly.

Thus, depending on the age of your students --and their literacy level-- you may wish to POST signs in your class reminding students what to say. BUT the battle never ends. And it is a battle in which ALL teachers must make the effort to participate. It is truly a crime --in my opinion-- to allow students to use "improper" language for years and years until their habits of language use totally determine their career opportunities. THEN, the students must overcome their habits without any help, and it is probably too late to make substantial changes.

Bilingual children, just like any other children, imitate the language models they hear around them. Bilingual children play with English-ONLY children who do not provide "proper" models of English language usage, or "slang," as you say in your question. Bilingual children absorb the "slang" as easily as they could learn the "proper" English forms.

The same is true for the English-ONLY-speaking children: If teachers would model "proper" English and would require these children to respond using "proper" English, these English-ONLY-students would learn "proper" English as easily as they have learned "slang" English.

Thus, there is no "rule" that states how fast children learn "slang." ALL children learn what they hear. If they hear "slang" more often than "proper" English, they will master "slang" English faster and easily. If they hear "proper" English more often than "improper" English, they will master the "proper" English faster and easily.

Ask the parents, or older students from the same cultural background, and then, surprise the shy/withdrawn student by doing some cultural activity from (h)is/er cultural heritage in class!!!! That should open up the shy/withdrawn student!!! And it should indicate to that student that you want to learn more about (h)is/er culture!!!!!!



For more in-depth information, classroom demonstrations, and "coaching" of new and/or experienced teachers, Dr. CARMEN SANCHEZ SADEK offers:

1. Cognitive - Academic Language and Vocabulary Development
2. Cross Cultural Diversity - Multicultural Strategies
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5. Cognitive - Academic Language and Vocabulary Development
6. Oral Language / Literacy Skills / Higher Order Thinking Skills
7. 50/50 Dual Language Programs: design, planning and implementation
8. The Structure of English / The Structure of Spanish
9. Transition: Introduction to English Reading

Web Site Programs for Teachers: Numbers 1, 5, 7, 8, and 9.
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Identifying / Responding to Students' Language Needs
Phonemic Awareness: Teaching English phonics to L.E.P. students
Relationship Between Reading, Writing and Spelling
Improving Reading Performance -- Building Oral Language Skills)

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