Due to social, political, and economic factors such as high immigration rates and low educational resources, teachers are faced with the challenge of educating students of diverse linguistic, educational and cultural backgrounds. Implementing . a bilingual program in a school is one way of addressing the needs of every child in a classroom. For my project, I examined the classroom setting and learning environment of two bilingual classrooms in an elementary school located in an urban district in the Pacific Northwest. The focus of the project investigated two important features: 1) goals and program design of a two-way bilingual program, and 2) Language-Minority students' academic achievement in reading, writing and spelling. The inquiry of the study was to see if the classrooms observed incorporated similar goals and characteristics of a two-way bilingual program. Elements studied and observed in the bilingual classes were: learning styles and achievement of Language-Minority students, educational equality, cooperative learning, additive and subtractive bilingualism, and culturally appropriate curriculum to determine whether the Language-Minority students were experiencing school success or school failure. From my findings, I was able to see both positive and negative effects of the learning experienced by Language-Minority students in the bilingual classrooms. Positive elements observed were: students expressed enthusiasm, motivation and interest in learning, students were able to communicate orally and grammatically in their primary language, students displayed generosity, respect and concern for their classmates, students developed pride in their cultural identity, and students demonstrated new knowledge. Negative elements observed were: students were not given many opportunities to speak their primary language, students were assessed and evaluated on higher level skills than they were capable of mastering, students displayed lack of self-confidence, self-esteem and motivation, students became withdrawn from classroom activities, and students were too dependent on the teacher for help in demonstrating their inability to be independent, constructive thinkers. From my research, I observed that there still continues to be a gap between theory and practice of bilingual education. Many teachers are not educated or informed enough about research on bilingualism, cultural and language maintenance, language acquisition, family cultural values, and learning style differences and backgrounds of Language-Minority that are detrimental to their teaching methods. Many of these teachers are not aware of the harm they may be causing to their students' personal, social, and mental growth. The gap between theory and practice appears to be getting smaller as more and more teachers are being educated and trained about the linguistic, cultural and learning styles of Language Minority students.
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