Michelle Benegas & Suzanne McCurdy

We are pleased to share with you volume 38, issue 2 of the MinneTESOL Journal. This collection of articles offers practical content-based language instruction teaching strategies, a framework for administrator support, an opinion editorial, and a guide toward integrating translanguaging into poetry lessons. 

Bonnie Swierzbin provides a guide to help learners with demonstratives in What’s this all about? Helping students comprehend demonstratives in expository text. While demonstratives (this, that, these, those) typically refer to people and things in conversation, in expository text, they often point to ideas, events, and situations. Swierzbin brings this complex topic to life through actual classroom examples and imagery. 

Aliza Fones presents a framework for administrator support of English language learner teachers and programs called CRAFT: Collaboration, Responsiveness, Awareness, Framing, and Trust. CRAFT provides guidance for administrators to address the changing policies regarding English language education in her article, “Facing change: A framework for administrator support of English language learner programs.”

Lesly Gámez, Darren LaScotte, Peng Nelson, and Noelle Roubinek offer a perspective article on immersion education as a solution to Minnesota’s school integration efforts. In “Perspectives on immersion education and Minnesota’s school integration efforts,” the authors explain the goals and realities of two-way immersion and help the reader to understand the critical role that immersion programs play in reimagining school diversity. Closing with keys to implementation and next steps, they offer a roadmap toward a more inclusive and multilingual educational landscape. 

In “Frozen in the birdbath, a leaf: Translingual poetry for ESL learners” Croix Clayton considers pedagogic translingualism as a tool to put literary texts within the reach of language students. He then leads the reader through designing a content-integrated translingual ESL unit using haiku poetry.

Enjoy these articles, share them with your colleagues, and stay connected to our MinneTESOL Journal community by following the journal on Facebook and on Twitter (@MnTESOLjournal).



Bonnie Swierzbin

Demonstratives (this, that, these, those) are pointing words: In conversation they typically point to people and things but in written expository text, they often point to ideas, events, and situations. ESL teachers need to help their students gain familiarity with the functions of demonstrative reference beyond simple pointing and contrast.
Keywords: demonstratives, reference, elementary, middle school, secondary, teacher education

Figure 1. Demonstratives in 4th grade science (adapted from DiSpezio et al., 2017b, p. 79)

Imagine you are working with your fourth grade English Learners (EL) as they read a science unit on the engineering process. You’ve worked with them on figuring out what noun phrases with articles refer to (the answer, the lesson) in written texts, and they’ve mastered demonstratives (this, that, these, those) for pointing to people and objects, but as you preview their textbook science lesson (see Figure 1), you see a need to bring these two topics together: How do demonstratives in written expository texts refer to entities?

The text in Figure 1 provides some helpful examples to start us on our way to answering that question.

This robot is riding a bicycle, just like a human, and not falling over. How is this possible?   

In the first example, the demonstrative determiner this before the noun robot tells the reader to look nearby for a salient referent. Even if the word robot is not familiar to the reader, the white thing on the bicycle is a very obvious nearby choice for the referent since it is foregrounded in the image. In the second example, the demonstrative pronoun this also tells the reader to look nearby for a referent, but in this case its referent is less obvious. This refers to the whole previous sentence, the idea that a robot can ride a bicycle and not fall. Referring to ideas is a common function for demonstratives and one that they perform far more efficiently than noun phrases with articles. Imagine what the question How is this possible? would look like without the demonstrative (1).

(1) How is the robot riding a bicycle possible?
     How is it possible for the robot to ride a bicycle?
     How is the situation where the robot rides a bicycle possible?

Long phrases and complicated syntax can result from using a structure other than a demonstrative to refer to an idea. In contrast, demonstratives provide a concise and efficient way to refer to ideas, which is one reason they are important in the English system of reference. Clearly, ELs need to be able to figure out what demonstratives refer to as they read academic texts as well as being able to use them appropriately in their own writing. The purpose of this article is to provide English as a Second Language (ESL) teachers with information about how demonstratives are used in written academic texts in order to inform their teaching. Basic information about English demonstratives is presented first, followed by a review of typical ways that demonstratives are used in expository academic texts, drawing on examples from 4th and 5th grade science textbooks and a high school history textbook.

Basic info about demonstratives

The words that and this are considered part of a basic 2000-word English vocabulary, and they are, respectively, the tenth and thirty-fourth most frequent words in the Cambridge International Corpus of spoken and written English (O’Keefe et al., 2007). That occurs more frequently than this because it has additional functions such as introducing adjective clauses (the dog that ate a banana) and noun clauses (I think that Eric’s doughnut fell in the dishwasher). In this paper, only the demonstrative uses of this and that will be discussed. But the relative frequencies of that and this are not just due to the additional functions; in conversation, the pronoun that occurs far more frequently than this (more than 10,000 occurrences per million words while this is <2000; Conrad & Biber, 2009). Specifically, that is used to evaluate an idea or validate the correctness of a claim (that’s right, that sounds better). In academic writing, this has about double the use of that (more than 2,000 occurrences per million words for this compared to about 1,000 for that; Conrad & Biber, 2009). Similar to that in conversation, this in academic writing often refers to an idea that was just stated; the next section describes how this is done and the complications that arise.

The usage of demonstratives most commonly taught in ESL textbooks is the basic, common one of pointing to people and objects while speaking (Schiftner & Rankin, 2012). Typically, such textbooks focus on the near/far distinction of this and that (Cowan, 2008); some advanced textbooks (e.g., Larsen-Freeman, 2007) cover the reference usage of demonstratives in written text, but as the bicycle-riding robot text shows, ELs are likely to encounter demonstrative reference in writing well before they reach an advanced level, and teachers need to be prepared to teach this topic across a range of grade and proficiency levels.

What demonstratives do in written academic expository texts

Just as demonstratives and their accompanying gestures in conversation tell the listener where to search for the referent in terms of distance, so too do demonstratives in academic texts. However, in writing, the distance becomes more abstract and the referent harder to find with no physical gesture and only a demonstrative pointing the way. This section starts with examples where the referents are easier to find and moves on to more abstract ones.

Referring to current context

In the sample texts reviewed for this article, the demonstrative determiner this is often used to refer to the context in which its sentence is embedded (2) and to help students organize their learning.

(2) As you read these two pages, underline…
     Find the answer to the following questions in this lesson.
     As you read about the rise of democratic ideas in this prologue, think about…

Examples as in (2) are relatively easy to spot since they a) are quite similar to oral “pointing,” b) always show nearness (this, these), and c) include vocabulary that names parts of the text (pages, lesson, prologue) and directions to the reader (underline, find, think). In addition to referring to their written ‘container’ (these two pages, this chapter), such demonstratives may also refer to their time ‘container’ (this week), although the latter usage is more common in speaking (Maes et al., 2022).

Similarly, this and these are frequently used to refer to a nearby image or part of it, as shown in Figures 2 and 3. In Figure 2, several visual and verbal clues make the referent of these round disks relatively obvious: The left-pointing arrow, the nearness of demonstrative and image, the adjective round, and the plural disks all work together to identify the referent.

Figure 2. Demonstrative referring to an entire image1 (adapted from a high school history textbook; Beck et al., 2012, p. 9)

In contrast, the demonstrative this in Figure 3, which is adapted from a science textbook, has somewhat limited clues as to its referent. The proximity of the verbal and visual texts is again important, but the arrow points unhelpfully to the verbal text. Previous pages in the science textbook presented multiple examples of technology and the needs they meet, so the reader will need to recognize several types of technology in the image (helmet, watch, shoes, skateboard, etc.) and identify the one that is “a lot of fun.”

A teaching strategy for demonstratives referring to images could be implemented when teachers draw students’ attention to the visual features of a text as part of a during-reading activity. Specifically, teachers can help students identify the verbal and visual cues for referents, and connect this to a good reading strategy of using the surrounding context to make sure information is understood.

Figure 3. Demonstrative referring to part of an image2 (adapted from a 5th grade science textbook; DiSpezio et al., 2017a, p. 83)

Implying contrast

Most of the demonstrative examples in the sources for this study are this/these, showing nearness, and when that/those are used, it is often (but not always) for an implied contrast. In the fourth grade science text in (3), those is used to contrast failing design features with good ones, without any use of these to make the contrast explicit.

(3) Redesign takes advantage of all work done before. Good design features are kept, and those that fail are discarded.

Similarly, in the history text (4), those, referring to reformers, implies a contrast to a group of people who did not want reform, but without even mentioning them.

(4) The Reformation was a religious reform movement that began in the 16th century. Those who wanted to reform the Catholic Church were called Protestants, because they protested against the power and abuses of the Church.

It’s also important to note that in both of these cases, the full noun phrase that those modifies is implied (those design features, those people), potentially causing some difficulty.

Teachers can connect these implicit contrasts with explicit ones that students are familiar with from classroom talk. It would also be helpful to model how implicit contrasts are used in conversation, for example, how those are yours may imply the existence of some others that are not yours.

Tracking and labeling

Like the definite article the, in the sample texts demonstratives are used to track referents, which means that a noun phrase is introduced, then the head noun is repeated with the or a demonstrative. In the history text in (5), a brilliant cultural movement is tracked with the phrase this movement, using this instead of the to add focus to the referent.

(5) In the 1300s, a brilliant cultural movement arose in Italy. Over the next 300 years, it spread to the rest of Europe, helped by the development of the printing press. This movement was called the Renaissance.

Instances of tracking are relatively easy to follow, given the noun repetition. Slightly harder to follow are cases in which an author uses a synonym or general noun with a demonstrative to refer to objects or people just mentioned (6).

(6) When coal burns, harmful ash and gases are produced. The potential harm these substances can cause leads to negative feedback.

The use of the demonstrative determiner these signals to the reader that the referent is nearby; using the substances would not signal nearness and may cause readers to wonder what substances the author means. In addition to movement and substances, other general nouns that were used for tracking in the science and history sources for this article include ideas, things, practice, act, groups, knowledge, devices, process, items, and tasks.

The cases that are hardest to follow are where demonstratives are used to label stretches of preceding text in order to discuss them further. Labeling is common in academic texts because it gives names to ideas and events that are presented (Francis, 2002), thus stressing their importance. Such a discourse label (using Francis’ terminology) also creates a link between the description of an idea or event (likely long and complex) and the surrounding discussion of it. For example, in (7), the discourse label this event names the action in the second clause of the preceding sentence and links it to a timeline of Judaism that the history text is developing.

(7) The Bible states that God gave the code to the Israelite leader, Moses, in the form of the Ten Commandments and other laws. This event is believed to have occurred sometime between 1300 and 1200 BC.

Understanding text with discourse labels is complicated. First, the reader needs to understand that the referent is not just one object or person named by a concrete noun, rather it is an abstraction. Second, the reader needs to find the stretch of text describing the abstraction. That text may be a sentence or part of it as in (7), or it may be more than one sentence as in (8).

(8) Cell phone technology changes fast, and some people switch to new models after just a few months. More resources are used up, and the old phones sometimes end up in a landfill. This risk is environmental.

Another possible difficulty is that the referent is not clearly stated in the text but has to be inferred (Cornish, 2018). An example of this is shown in (9), an excerpt from a fourth grade science textbook unit where students are being introduced to the design process for engineering.

(9) It has been said that necessity is the mother of invention. But once you find a need, how do you build your invention? That’s the design process.

The demonstrative pronoun that refers to the as-yet-undescribed steps for building an invention to meet a need, as implied in the question.

In addition, a discourse label can also tell the reader how to interpret the referent, like (8) does, where this risk guides the reader to view the situation stated in the previous two sentences as a problem. Example (8) also illustrates another complication with discourse labels: They are often used in text where the author is building an argument (Francis, 2002), meaning that the reader has to determine how the event or situation fits into the bigger picture. 

The circumstances where teachers refer to facts, ideas, etc., with demonstratives in oral classroom language can be a jumping-off point for explicitly teaching how demonstratives in written academic language are used to track and label referents. Teachers should compare that in speaking with this in writing and explicitly point out that demonstratives often refer to ideas stated in clauses, sentences, or even more than one sentence rather than to something represented by a noun alone. They should also point out clues in demonstrative + general noun phrases (these substances, this process) that help identify the referent. In post-reading activities, when students are highlighting pronouns and then drawing chains of reference, as in Figure 4, they should be working with the visual and verbal texts together and including demonstratives to create a more complete picture of reference.

Figure 4. Drawing chains of reference3 (text adapted from DiSpezio et al., 2017b, p. 65)

Although demonstratives are not used nearly as often as articles for referring, they occupy a unique spot in the English reference system because they so frequently refer to ideas, events, and situations––a topic that is not covered by teaching demonstratives for contrast in oral language. Teachers should also recognize that while the pointing function of demonstratives is the same in oral and written texts, the choice of demonstrative is related to the text genre, such as expository or narrative (Maes et al., 2022), so that teaching demonstrative usage with a variety of text types, both oral and written, is vital for ELs’ understanding.


I thank the anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments and Steve Wicht for his thought-provoking questions.


  1. This image, which was originally posted to Flickr, was uploaded to Commons using Flickr upload bot on 27 August 2009, 12:42 by Dorieo. The image and licensing information are available at https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Athenian_Secret_Ballot.jpg 
  2. Public domain image downloaded from https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Skateboard_facility_at_Guantanamo.jpg 
  3. Public domain image downloaded from https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:New_CT_scanner_bolsters_medical_capabilities_in_theater_161121-F-NN480-0002.jpg 


Beck, R., Black, L., Krieger, L., Naylor, P., & Shabaka, D. (2012). Modern world history: Patterns of interaction. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Retrievable from https://my.hrw.com/SocialStudies/ss_2010/downloads/htmlfiles/content/Modern_World_History_Unit_1.pdf

Conrad, S., & Biber, D. (2009). Real grammar: A corpus-based approach to English. Pearson Education.

Cornish, F. (2018). Anadeixis and the signalling of discourse structure. Qua-derns de Filologia: Estudis Lingüistics, XXIII, 33-57. https://doi.org/10.7203/qf.23.13519 

Cowan, R. (2008). The teacher’s grammar of English: A course book and reference guide. Cambridge University Press.

DiSpezio, M., Frank, M., Heithaus, M., & Ogle, D. (2017a). Science fusion: Fifth grade student edition. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

DiSpezio, M., Frank, M., Heithaus, M., & Ogle, D. (2017b). Science fusion: Fourth grade student edition. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

Francis, G. (2002). Labelling discourse: An aspect of nominal-group lexical cohesion. In M. Coulthard (Ed.), Advances in written text analysis (pp. 83-101). Routledge.

Larsen-Freeman, D. (2007). Grammar dimensions 4: Form, meaning and use (4th ed.). Thomson Heinle.

Maes, A., Krahmer, E., & Peeters, D. (2022). Explaining variance in writers’ use of demonstratives: A corpus study demonstrating the importance of discourse genre. Glossa: A Journal of General Linguistics, 7(1), 1-36. https://doi.org/10.16995/glossa.5826 

O’Keefe, A., McCarthy, M., & Carter, R. (2007). From corpus to classroom: Language use and language teaching. Cambridge University Press.

Schiftner, B. & Rankin, T. (2012). The use of demonstrative reference in English texts by Austrian school-age learners. In Y. Tono, Y. Kawaguchi, & M. Minegishi (Eds.), Developmental and crosslinguistic perspectives in learner corpus research (pp. 63-82). John Benjamins.



Aliza Fones

School administrators can effectively support English Language Learner programs and teachers through the CRAFT framework that emphasizes collaboration, responsiveness, advocacy, framing, and trust.
Keywords: secondary education, emergent bilinguals, ELL programs, administrators

The role of school leadership, specifically administrators, is critical in the effective education of students designated as English language learners (ELLs) (Reyes, 2006) or emergent bilinguals (EBs). Specifically, a building principal can have an impact on issues of equity, social justice, and the success of an ELL program over time (Scanlan & López, 2012; Theoharis & O’Toole, 2011). (The term “emergent bilingual” has emerged in scholarship as an asset-based description of the students and their abilities, rather than focusing solely on their status as learners of English (e.g., García, 2009). In this article, I use “EB” to refer to the students, and the term “ELL” to refer to teachers, programs, policy labels, and instruction as it is more widely used and familiar in public education policy and settings. However, districts are increasingly opting for more inclusive terminology, including “EB,” “multilingual,” or “multilingual language learner.”) It is now well understood that EB students have been disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, and the educational disparities between these students and their native English-speaking peers continue to grow (Lazarín, 2020). School administrators are in a position to address and remedy these disparities through their approach to ELL instruction. This article presents a framework for administrator support of ELL teachers and programs called CRAFT: Collaboration, Responsiveness, Awareness, Framing, and Trust. CRAFT provides guidance for administrators to address the changing policies regarding ELL education, and the needs of the ever-changing population of ELL students, in a way that promotes the integration, rather than isolation, of ELL students, teachers, and departments. Below is a brief description of these issues, followed by examples from two administrators who were exceptional in their leadership of ELL programs.

ELL education: Changing populations and changing policies

As noted often (e.g., Migration Policy Institute, 2019), this population of students in the United States is rapidly increasing and diversifying. At the same time, federal accountability policy is also changing, and the recent implementation of policies such as the Every Student Succeeds Act have presented both greater inclusion of ELL education in the policy and greater challenges vis-à-vis academic standards and measures of accountability (Hopkins et al., 2013). However, what these federal policies mean at the district and building level for EB students and teachers is open to interpretation and subject to local capacity and available resources. This is where building administrators come in: principals and assistant principals who work with ELL departments are important agents and advocates for their ELL teachers and EB students.

Improving the integration of ELL departments and opportunities for students

The integration of EB students into the mainstream school environment (including their placement in courses) is visible in the way that ELL departments and teachers are recognized and positioned in the building. ELL programs, teachers, and students tend to be marginalized within schools (Harklau, 1994; Olsen, 1997; Valdés, 2004), and segregated through enrollment practices, curricular tracks, access to extracurricular activities, and social and physical segregation (i.e., separate physical classrooms and spaces in the school). This isolation of EBs from monolingual, native-English speaking peers increases the potential that the segregation will lead to labeling, as well as disparate outcomes and opportunities (Callahan, 2005; Dabach & Callahan, 2011).

One proposed alternative framing of ELL programs and students within schools is the idea of a “new mainstream” (Enright, 2011; Thompson, 2013) that more adequately describes the presence of non-native English speaking and multilingual students in today’s schools. This vision of new mainstream classrooms is accurate, given the realities of the ethnic and linguistic composition of today’s schools, and the students that comprise the new mainstream bring with them a “wealth of unexpected talents, perspectives, and unique experiences” (Scanlan & López, 2014, p. 113). However, simply acknowledging the presence of different demographics in schools is not sufficient; Thompson (2013) notes that once we have acknowledged this new mainstream, it is incumbent upon educators to be responsive with their instructional practices.

The framework for addressing these issues emerged from the practices of two skilled secondary administrators and their work with ELL teachers and programs. This data came from a qualitative study that examined the roles and experiences of high school ELL teachers and the implementation of district ELL program policy at two large, urban, and linguistically diverse high schools within the same district (at the time of the study, there were around 30,000 students in the district, 20% of whom were identified as ELLs, who represented over 120 languages). One aspect of this study was to interview district and building administrators who worked closely with the ELL department in each building. I interviewed these administrators twice over the course of the school year, once in the fall and once in the spring. I also observed district, building, and department level meetings related to the ELL program throughout the school year. In this research, I asked, “How do school leaders support high school ELL departments and teachers, especially as related to the integration of ELL departments into the school building and the learning outcomes of ELL students?”

Collaboration, responsiveness, awareness, framing, and trust (CRAFT)

This framework identifies five aspects of school leaders’ interactions with ELL teachers in order to promote more meaningful and equitable education of high school EB students. Each aspect has its own merit, but there is potential for positive change when all aspects are integrated. Certainly, these are not the only components of effective leadership for ELL programs, but these stood out and were even more salient given the vast differences between the two schools and their administrators. (All names of people and places are pseudonyms.)


“[My] interaction with [the] ELL department has been constant . . . as needed, whenever needed. Earlier this year, it was many times a week.” (Ms. Harper)

At Fields High, the ELL department was supervised by Ms. Harper, an assistant principal and a former high school science teacher. During the study, Ms. Harper was in her first year as an assistant principal and her first year in the district. As a vice principal, Ms. Harper interacted frequently with the ELL department. Her work included supervising and observing the ELL teachers in addition to the placement and scheduling of the EB students, a task that involved an overhaul of the classes that were offered to EB students, which classes EB students were placed in, and who taught these classes. Ms. Harper and the ELL department head worked during the months prior to the school year to reevaluate the identification and placement of every single EB student and to create courses that would better meet their needs. In addition to supervision and organizational collaboration, Ms. Harper also sought resources for the ELL department and facilitated their interaction with other departments, creating opportunities for collaboration during professional development days and prioritizing communication between departments. In short, she provided support in a way that an administrator less familiar with the needs of an ELL program would potentially be able to do.

School leaders need to collaborate with ELL teachers in a meaningful, consistent, and timely manner. Collaboration is facilitated by a clear set of topics and issues to discuss, and clear designation of roles (i.e., who will facilitate the meeting, take notes, follow-up with action items). While unconventional, at both Fields and Metro high schools, the school leader frequently attended the department’s professional learning community (PLC) meeting, and met frequently with the ELL department heads. In some instances, the presence of an administrator could have a chilling or inhibiting effect, but in conversation and interviews with ELL teachers, as well as my observation at PLC meetings, the administrator’s presence was viewed as supportive and collaborative. The presence and participation of a school leader in these meetings demonstrated the importance of ELL instruction and the work of ELL teachers, and helped to promote the integration of the ELL department and teachers.


“One big point has been our older ELL students who are aging out. For instance, we sat down with one of the counselors and the ELL teachers and myself and we went through our list of any students that was 17 and older and looked at their credits, their state assessments, whether they are really on track for graduation… How close were these students to actually being able to graduate or whether they might time out. And so we organized a trip to [local community college] to look at the program.” (Ms. Harper)

Closely connected to collaboration is the importance of school leaders’ responsiveness to the needs of the ELL department. Given the frequent changes in policies and initiatives surrounding ELL instruction, as well as the frequent changes in EB student populations, responsiveness was imperative to the functioning of an ELL program. In the example above, Ms. Harper recognized a need for resources for older EB students, and she responded by coordinating with a local community college. Other ways that school leaders demonstrated responsiveness include working with the counselor to change course offerings based on needs and strengths of EB students, implementing a co-teaching model to assist beginner students in content area courses, and providing professional development opportunities tailored to the needs of teachers.


“You’ve got kids that are coming in from all over the world with a lot, or little to no formal education, and trying not only to teach them the English language, but just survival and life skills… and our program has grown immensely. I mean, my first year here we were probably 150 ELL kids, and now we’re at 350.” (Mr. Aaron)

At Metro High School, the administrator responsible for supervision of the ELL department was the principal, Mr. Aaron, an experienced administrator who had been at Metro for over a decade and had worked closely with the ELL department for that entire time. His responsibilities ranged from the formal observation and evaluation of the ELL teachers, to frequent attendance at the ELL departments’ PLC meetings, to advocacy at the district level on behalf of ELL students and teachers. He regularly collaborated with the ELL department head and was knowledgeable about the issues related to ELL education and the experiences of the students.  

Foundational to all aspects of this framework is the awareness of school leaders about the issues germane to ELL instruction, from knowledge about students’ backgrounds and skills to systems-level understanding of the experiences of high school EB students related to academic achievement. The educational experiences of high school EB students are vastly different from their younger EB peers: many are recently-arrived students with varying levels of English proficiency and educational experience; and given their age, there is less time for them to develop English proficiency, demonstrate competence in content areas, and obtain sufficient credits to graduate.


“The ELL teachers are constantly after school with their kids, not only working with kids, but also trying to communicate with parents. [The department head] delivers professional development every other staff meeting for us around… ELL best practices, and he is highly regarded amongst our entire staff, so when he talks, everyone listens.” (Mr. Aaron)

The framing of the ELL department, teachers, and EB students by the administrator is crucial for the integration of ELL in the building, as well as how ELL teachers and EB students are positioned. In both schools, the administrators positioned the ELL teachers as experts. One way they did this was to provide structured time where ELL teachers or the ELL department head could present information to staff at meetings and other professional development workshops. In terms of how students were positioned, both administrators were inclusive in the way they described EB students, referring to EB students as “our” students, and referencing individual students by name, demonstrating familiarity despite both schools being quite large. They also used the collective pronouns of “we” when talking about the work that they did in collaboration with ELL departments, communicating an alignment and shared responsibility with the work of the ELL teachers.


“I really trust my specialists, my teachers that are ELL teachers or special ed [sic] teachers… and so when they say, this is what they need, or this is what’s going on, then you know, I sit down and really go to bat for them… it’s important that I advocate for my teachers and my kids and my community.” (Mr. Aaron)

Finally, a theme that emerged during this research was the trust that school leaders placed in the ELL teachers, both at Metro where the ELL teachers were very experienced, and Fields where the ELL teachers were novices. These administrators trusted their ELL teachers with important decision-making and sought their input for decisions ranging from curriculum adoption to the responsibilities of the ELL paraprofessionals. English language learner teachers are ultimately responsible for so many aspects of EB students’ education that the trust of their administrator is necessary for them to not only feel supported, but also empowered to make decisions in the interest of their students (Fones, 2018).

Considerations and recommendations for ELL leadership

In this research, I was able to observe the ways that building administrators interacted with the ELL department and what their roles were in supporting the ELL program and teachers. These distinct and exceptional cases offered two approaches to the implementation of district ELL program policy through their program model and services, which demonstrated the importance of local decision-making in order to best work with existing resources to meet the needs of specific student populations.

How can administrators support high school ELL departments and teachers, and how can administrators support the integration of ELL departments, teachers, and students into the school? Calling attention to the CRAFT framework, administrators can (and should) intentionally structure their interactions with ELL teachers and departments, paying attention to the CRAFT framework (collaboration, responsiveness, advocacy, framing, and trust) and the way that these components are present in their leadership practices. School leaders can identify and facilitate opportunities for collaboration between ELL and content area/grade level departments. And when schools experience growth and changes of the ELL population, administrators can be proactive and set the tone for how the rest of the building can respond. In their role as decision-makers, administrators are also poised to advocate for their ELL teachers and EB students in matters related to policy and curriculum. In addition, school leaders are in a position to frame ELL departments, teachers, and EB students in a way that promotes their inclusion in the mainstream school setting via their messaging and opportunities for ELL teachers’ participation in the school community. Finally, trusting ELL teachers as the experts they are will model interactions for other staff in the building. All of these aspects of leadership can contribute to the opportunities and outcomes for EB students, and provide steps towards a more equitable education during a critical time.


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Olsen, L. (1997). Made in America. The New Press.

Reyes, A. (2006). Reculturing principals as leaders for cultural and linguistic diversity. In K. Tellez, & H. C. Wasman (Eds.), Preparing quality educators for English language learners: Research, policies, and practices (pp. 145-165). Lawrence Erlbaum.

Scanlan, M., & López, F. A. (2012). ¡Vamos! How school leaders promote equity and excellence for bilingual students. Educational Administration Quarterly, 48(4), 583-625. https://doi.org/10.1177/0013161X11436270 

Scanlan, M., & López, F. A. (2014). Leadership for culturally and linguistically responsive schools. Routledge.

Theoharis, G. & O’Toole, J. (2011). Leading inclusive ELL: Social justice leadership for English language learners. Educational Administration Quarterly, 47(4), 646-688.

Thompson, K. D. (2013). Is separate always unequal? A philosophical examination of ideas of equality in key cases regarding racial and linguistic minorities in education. American Educational Research Journal, 50(6), 1249-1278. https://doi.org/10.3102/0002831213502519 

Valdés, G. (2004). Between support and marginalization: The development of academic language in linguistic minority children. International Journal of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism, 7(2–3), 102-132. https://doi.org/10.1080/13670050408667804 



Lesly Gámez, Darren LaScotte, Peng Nelson, & Noelle Roubinek

In this perspective article, we offer our opinion that immersion education is a promising solution to Minnesota’s school integration efforts. In light of this, we also consider the critiques that exist in this type of language programming, and the tensions that school districts and administrators must grapple with in consideration of the intended goals of immersion language education and both state- and nationwide educational aims.
Keywords: immersion education, educational policy, school integration, desegregation

Segregation, desegregation, and integration in Minnesota schools

School districts across the State of Minnesota – and the United States at large – are working to address racial, ethnic, and class segregation by better integrating their schools. Current integration efforts naturally draw on the Brown v. Board of Education case (1954), with its historical ruling to desegregate public schools in the United States. Leading up to and out of Brown, “[o]ne of the fundamental justifications used by desegregation proponents in the 1960s was the promise of improved academic performance for students of color” (Mattheis, 2009, p. 1), and it has been the consensus across many fields that segregation is inherently unequal (Anderson, 2005). At the same time, a tension exists as there is persistent evidence that “[desegregation] has fallen out of favor even among those who would count themselves committed to educational equity” (Mattheis, 2009, p. 2). In some cases, this is due to findings that students of color and economically disadvantaged students experience improved academic performance before their schools are integrated (Mayo, 2007); in other cases, when programs gain attention for the academic achievement of all of their students, they begin to be gentrified by White communities (Williams, 2017) whose families engage in “opportunity hoarding” (Uzzell & Ayscue, 2021, p. 23), which leads to fewer educational opportunities for students of color. In consideration of Minnesota’s own integration efforts, this tension between segregation, desegregation, and integration is an important consideration. 

Reframing the issue as one of “integration” rather than “desegregation,” Minnesota policymakers and educators have worked to advance the concept of integration as a means of promoting “meaningful interracial contact” and “cultural competency” within an educational policy arena made complicated by school choice legislation, declining public school enrollment, and the economic disparities that exist among Twin Cities metro area cities and towns (Mattheis, 2009, p. 2). Minnesota’s Achievement and Integration legislation (§124D.861, 2022) – and its established oversight responsibilities through the Minnesota Department of Education – submits all Minnesota schools to a revision of their enrollment through the lens of protected class status.1 Minnesota Administrative Rule 3535.0110, subpart 6 finds that a racially identifiable school “means a school where the enrollment of protected students at the school within a district is more than 20 percentage points above the enrollment of protected students in the entire district for the grade levels served by that school;” subpart 7 finds that a racially isolated school district means a district “where the districtwide enrollment of protected students exceeds the enrollment of protected students of any adjoining district by more than 20 percentage points.” The intention of the statute, by default, brings the consideration of programs that predominantly benefit students of color and economically disadvantaged students to the forefront. As school districts look for ways to integrate their schools, they turn to a variety of options that will attract students and families from a diverse range of race, ethnicity, and class with the hope of ultimately shifting enrollment to drop below the 20 percentage point discrepancy stated in the Minnesota Rule. Oftentimes, all manner of magnet programs are considered, such as STEM (science, technology engineering, and math), the arts, or International Baccalaureate (Mattheis, 2009); not least among these are language immersion programs. 

In this perspective article, we share our agreement that immersion education (particularly two-way immersion, described below) is a promising solution to Minnesota’s school integration efforts. We begin by defining key terms in immersion language programming and explaining the different types of immersion school contexts. In light of this, we also consider the critiques that exist in this type of language programming, and the tensions that school districts and administrators must grapple with in consideration of the intended goals of immersion language education and both state- and nationwide educational aims. 

What is immersion education? Defining key terms and school contexts 

According to a survey by the American Councils for International Education (2021), there are approximately 3,600 immersion schools currently operating in the U.S – a stark increase compared to the 79 programs in operation 25 years ago (Fortune & Jorstad, 1996); in Minnesota, there are over 100 of these programs. Lyster (2007, p. 8) defines immersion as:

a form of bilingual education that aims for additive bilingualism by providing students with a sheltered classroom environment in which they receive at least half of their subject-matter instruction through the medium of a language that they are learning as a second, foreign, heritage, or indigenous language. In addition, they receive some instruction through the medium of [the majority language] in the community.

According to Tedick and Lyster (2020), immersion programs are often categorized as either being strong, which leads to additive bilingualism, or as being weak, which leads to subtractive bilingualism. Additive bilingualism refers to when an additional language is acquired “at no expense to the first language” whereas subtractive bilingualism refers to the loss of one language in the process of learning another (Tedick & Lyster, 2020, p. 2). 

Tedick and Lyster (2020) propose that there are four types of strong, additive bilingual programs that fall under the umbrella term of dual language immersion (DLI) programming: one-way immersion, one-way developmental bilingual immersion, two-way immersion, and indigenous language revitalization immersion. One-way immersion programs – also commonly referred to as foreign or second language immersion programs – generally serve homogenous majority language students, where majority language is defined as “the language spoken by the majority of people in a given regional or national context” (Center for Advanced Research on Language Acquisition, 2022). In the U.S. context, this refers to English. In contrast to the previous type of DLI program, one-way developmental bilingual immersion programs generally serve linguistically homogeneous minority language students, with the intent being to develop students’ academic English skills in addition to academic skills in their first language. In the U.S., students enrolled in these programs are mostly native speakers of Spanish and, increasingly, Spanish-English bilinguals who grew up speaking both languages from birth. Two-way immersion (TWI) programs – a third type of program – have student populations that combine majority and minority language students and are primarily a U.S. phenomenon (Tedick & Lyster, 2020); in TWI, “the two groups of students should be fairly well balanced, with each making up approximately half of the student population at each grade, and with neither group falling below one-third of the total at any grade level” (Howard et al., 2003, p. 5). Finally, as its name implies, indigenous language revitalization immersion programs – the last type – serve students with indigenous ancestry and aims to revitalize indigenous languages and cultures (e.g., Dakota, Ojibwe). These immersion programs are the rarest of the four types.

Variation in DLI programming: Models and aims

Whereas there are clear differences between these types of DLI programs, the reality of shifting demographics within school district lines results in student populations that can fluctuate from the normalized or even idealized population make-up. For instance, in TWI programs that serve both language majority and language minority students, it is often difficult for schools to follow the ideal 50/50 split as student population ratios fluctuate each year and, in public school systems, administrators cannot control the demographics of the school district population. In the early stages of TWI, however, a double lottery system and open enrollment were used to attract students from the target populations with that idealized 50/50 split in mind (Fortune & Jorstad, 1996).

There also exists some variation within each type of DLI program regarding how much class instruction is taught in the minority or “partner” language (PL) of the school – 90:10 and 50:50. The design of the 90:10 model means that all students start the program with 90% of the instructional time in the PL and 10% of the instructional time in the majority language (i.e., English). Around the 3rd year (i.e., 3rd grade), the proportion of instructional time in the PL begins to be gradually reduced, and instructional time in English is added. Usually by 5th grade, the instructional time is split evenly between the two languages. The design of the 50:50 model, on the other hand, means that from the very start of the program English and the PL are used half and half in the classroom (Gómez et al., 2005). Kim et al. (2015) reported that the “the 90:10 model is used in about 42% of schools that employ the TWI model, while 33% of the schools using the TWI model employ the 50:50 approach” (p. 242). In an earlier survey (Fortune & Jorstad, 1996), the two designs were referred to as partial immersion (50:50) and full-time immersion (90:10).

In spite of these differences between the amounts of instructional time in the PL (i.e., full or part-time immersion), the central goals of DLI programs remain the same. Howard et al. (2003) describe these goals as:

  1. all students will develop high levels of proficiency in their first language (L1);
  2. all students will develop high levels of proficiency in a second language (L2); and
  3. all students will demonstrate positive cross-cultural attitudes and behaviors.

In addition to developing high levels of proficiency in both languages, an additional goal of DLI programs and/or expectation of students is that the academic performance for all students (both language majority and language minority) will be at or above grade level by 5th grade. 

Krueger (2008), like many other researchers, has shown that DLI programs benefit all students. In a case study, African American, Hispanic, Asian, and students who qualified for free or reduced lunch all outperformed their peers across the district as a whole in reading, math, and English language arts as a result of their enrollment in the immersion program. Predictably, White students in the immersion program also outperformed students across the district, but what is more, “the reading performance gap between White and Non-White students was smaller for immersion students relative to district performance as a whole” (Krueger, 2008, para. 6). Such findings make it obvious why immersion would be a top choice for integration when schools are submitted to statutory regulation due to their shifting demographics and enrollments, which seem to indicate racial segregation, and regularly correlate with class segregation. 

Two-way immersion as a promising solution for school integration 

Researchers focusing on the added goal of high academic achievement (at or above grade level by 5th grade) have attempted to understand the best DLI models and designs to support academic achievement for all students, with particular attention on supporting minority language students commonly referred to as English language learners (ELLs). Large-scale, longitudinal, comparative studies (e.g.; Collier & Thomas, 2002, 2017; Lindholm-Leary, 2001; Thomas & Collier, 1997, 2002) have shown the TWI model to be the most successful for ELLs’ academic achievement in comparison to other DLI program types. In light of these findings, the TWI model has been characterized and described as a promising solution to reducing the achievement gap, especially in response to pressures from several state and federal political pushes and movements (Kim et al., 2015), such as: proposition 227 in California in 1998 (i.e., all students must be taught in English); proposition 203 in Arizona in 2000 (i.e., grades 2-12 must be tested yearly to monitor their progress in academic subjects and in learning English); No Child Left Behind (NCLB) in 2001; and many other “English Only” movements in the 1990s. This promise to address the achievement gap has been especially persuasive to concerned parents and community stakeholders, and it has drawn their attention easily. However, it could be harmful to see TWI as the “golden ticket” to fix the achievement gap as DLI programs are often more accessible for White middle-class students who also gain to benefit from these bilingual programs, thereby (inadvertently) further widening the gap.

Bilingualism for all? Double standards and deficit ideologies of bilingualism

In spite of its purported benefits, it is important for us to note that DLI programs have also been criticized by scholars who maintain that a double standard exists between White bilingualism and racialized bilingualism (e.g., Flores & Rosa, 2015; Flores et al., 2021; García, 2009, 2020). African American students, for instance, have been shown to be systematically excluded or discouraged from such school programs because of deficit ideologies that suggest they are not capable of handling dual language education (Palmer, 2010). Other racially-minoritized students, such as Latinx children, have been commonly described as not fully proficient in either of their languages, thus leading to presumed cognitive deficiencies and an overall deficit model of bilingualism in DLI. 

García (2009, 2020) describes such deficit models of bilingualism as resulting from comparisons to monolingual ideologies, which position monolingualism as the norm and bilingualism as double monolingualism. As such, when monolingual White middle-class students learn another language in DLI programs, their additive bilingualism is validated. However, the dynamic bilingualism that is often characteristic of bilingual communities – whose language practices often involve a mixture of two languages – does not fall neatly within the boundaries of so-called “standard languages.” As such, the bilingualism of minoritized children is often depicted as being incomplete and full of errors, especially in school settings that promote the use of a single, standardized language in certain contexts and settings (e.g., content classes in schools).

In alignment with García, Flores and Rosa (2015) argue that in U.S. school settings and elsewhere this double standard is further exacerbated by racist and white supremacist ideologies that position the particular linguistic and cultural practices of the “white speaking and listening subject” (Flores & Rosa, 2015, p. 151) – that is, White children and their families, teachers, and communities – as normative and ideal, whereas other practices are often positioned as deviant and needing to be corrected. As Flores and Rosa show, the value of standardized language practices become anchored in what they term raciolinguistic ideologies, which “conflate certain racialized bodies with linguistic deficiency unrelated to any objective linguistic practices” (Flores & Rosa, 2015, p. 150). In other words, racially-minoritized students are often seen as deficient and linguistically deviant even when engaging in the same practices that would be seen as normative or even exemplary when produced by privileged White students (e.g., strategically using different languages for different social settings, purposes, and intended audiences). 

In addition to the double standard to bilingualism that exists between White and racially-minoritized students, DLI programs have also been criticized for their role in racial stratification in U.S. education and local community gentrification. Early on, Valdés (1997) cautioned that “educators need to carefully examine who the main beneficiaries of these language ‘resources’ [i.e., DLI programs] will be” (p. 419), as power imbalances between community members and stakeholders may lead programs to prioritize the needs of affluent White children over the needs of low-income, racially-minoritized children in terms of teaching, curriculum development, and student enrollment/recruitment. She also warned that such programs may disproportionately enrich the educational experiences and economic potential of affluent White children, while doing little to enrich or improve the lives of linguistic minority (e.g., Latinx) children. In light of current Minnesota Achievement and Integration plans, we believe it is extremely important to heed this warning as school districts attempt to address racial, ethnic, and class segregation by integrating schools.

Keys to maintaining integration in an immersion setting

Immersion continues to weather storms and celebrate victories as DLI programs navigate social and political tensions in the United States. While the 1998 California Proposition 227 “effectively eliminated bilingual education for English-learning students” (Williams, 2017, para. 15), integration law across many states find immersion to be fertile ground for the “integration of students from different racial and linguistic backgrounds” (Uzzell & Ayscue, 2021, p. 24), but at what cost? As Anderson (2005) describes, laws centered on desegregation and integration often serve to “[assert] definitional or constitutional equality, while sidestepping the institutional mechanisms of educational inequality, [destroying] the name (segregation) while leaving the game (racial subordination) intact” (p. 31). Immersion finds itself in a tricky predicament: it is a proven approach to education that reduces the impact of systemic racism and oppression by sustaining teaching and learning spaces where diverse students measurably overcome the achievement and opportunity gaps found in English-only programs. However, when demographics begin to show higher numbers of students of color demonstrating positive academic achievement, the programs become more and more appealing to White families who are able to easily displace students of color and/or economically disadvantaged students. 

These tensions around race and language in education are increasingly the focus of popular discourse on public education and show up frequently in news coverage and on social media. The previously mentioned Atlantic article by Williams (2017) describes how “[m]ultilingualism is hot, especially in gentrifying urban areas with shifting populations… [and] school districts are using dual-immersion programs to encourage new residents to send their children to schools in their own zip codes and to provide equitable educational opportunities for all kids” (para. 25). Williams goes on to uncover the problem, however, that “in some places, this ultimately results in a system in which English-dominant students get access to Spanish-English dual immersion programs, while native Spanish-speaking students are consigned to English-only programs” (Williams, 2017, para. 30). While at first immersion can serve to integrate, Scanlan and Palmer (2009) point out that more needs to be done: “without directly addressing issues of race and class and explicitly serving children along all lines of diversity preset in a community, [DLI programs] may end up serving the needs of those whose sense of entitlement most calls out to be served” (p. 412).

It is not to say that there is no way out of the segregation dilemma that immersion is facing: when reflecting on Brown, Anderson (2005) points to the work of Derrick Bell, noting that racially subordinate groups in pursuit of social educational equality should “rely less on judicial decisions and more on grassroots movements, political action, and ideological challenges to the continuing institutional arrangements and underlying cultural norms of racial and educational inequality” (p. 32). That is to say, while both state and federal law play their role in public education, so does local policy, procedure, leadership, and influence from stakeholders. Schools and districts have a plethora of options and interpretations available to them when making decisions about their integration programing, and they can approach their immersion enrollment and administration in a way that stays true to the approach that creates the educational equity inherent to the model. Williams (2017) recommends using a double lottery for enrolling balanced numbers of English- and target-language speakers in two-immersion programs. In St. Paul Public Schools, their 2020-2023 Achievement and Integration Plan pairs a racially identifiable immersion program with another immersion program that was not identified and plans for integrated activities and cultural exchange (ISD 625 St. Paul Public Schools, 2020). This will allow for the integrity of each program, while also establishing a partnership for the schools to learn from and interact with each other. In the 2020-2023 Minneapolis Public Schools Achievement and Integration Plan, the role of immersion programming in integrating schools is called out up front (Minneapolis Public Schools, 2020). Rather than pushing students in or out of specific programs, the district aims to expand the programming to more schools and, therefore, make immersion accessible to more students. 

A foremost internal challenge for immersion has long been tied to “one of the most valuable resources… teachers” (Uzzell & Ayscue, 2021, p. 24). Highly qualified immersion teachers are notoriously in short supply, and with the supply and demand challenges for teachers at the moment, immersion is no exception. As Williams (2017) states, “there simply aren’t enough bilingual teachers to simultaneously meet all ELs’ needs and satisfy growing demand from privileged families” (para. 39) and he goes on to describe a bilingual pre-k class roster of 22 with a waiting list of 675 students. Clearly, the idea of supply and demand is almost inadequate in describing the need for bilingual teachers. In response to the current tensions and needs in the world of immersion education, Uzzell and Ayscue (2021) call for changes to federal language policy to better support and encourage bilingual education, the development of grants that would allow local districts to implement immersion programs for integration purposes, and both funding and guidance for schools to implement equity-centered programs. At the state level, the authors identify the need for additional financial and technical support to implement DLI programs as a tool for integration, access to adequate materials in the PL, and additional compensation to offset the increased workload and better recruit and retain DLI teachers.

Interestingly, the call for immersion teachers has begun to intertwine with the growing field of research on teachers of color as both scholarship and, increasingly, legislation, are calling out the multitude of benefits that educators of color have on student achievement and school integration. This is just another example of the dialogue between the changes that Brown called for and our current pursuit of equitable learning environments for students. Furthermore, it serves as an opportunity to emphasize that it is the racial and linguistic diversity, rather than an imposition of Whiteness, that makes the teaching and learning in an integrated setting (in this case, immersion) a richer and more fruitful experience for all students.

Concluding thoughts and next steps for immersion

There is little doubt that, in spite of the cultural tug-of-war around race and language – whose children have access to which educational benefits, the urgency of global citizenship, and the shifting and settling of the education system after two years of a pandemic – immersion will continue to avail itself to the needs of an increasingly diverse American society. The United States is on a long road of ever-changing demographics and an increasingly multilingual populace, with many schools enrolling students who speak a language other than English at home on a daily basis. After sustaining a predictable demographic for decades or longer, many districts are now finding that their demographics have changed radically in the past few years and will continue to change for the foreseeable future. Immersion is poised as a potential resource for many schools and districts facing resegregation and devastating achievement and opportunity gaps based on race and class. For immersion educators and families who choose immersion, their beliefs about education are frequently in tandem with the idea that “the goal of teaching and learning with youth of color [is] not ultimately to see how closely students could perform White middle-class norms but to explore, honor, extend, and problematize their heritage and community practices” (Paris & Alim, 2014, p. 86). It is our belief that this task is one that immersion programs can (and should) readily take on through the successes and challenges to come. 


  1. Under Minnesota state law, school desegregation/integration programs are guided by Minnesota Administrative Rule 3535, parts 0100 to 0180 (hereafter “the Rule”), and Minnesota Statutes, section 124D.86 (hereafter “the Statute”). The Rule falls under Chapter 3535, Equal Opportunity in Schools, and has a stated purpose that addresses nine areas, the first of which is to “recognize the primary goal of public education is to enable all students to have opportunities to achieve academic success” (Minnesota Administrative Rules, 3535.0100). The purpose of the Rule further seeks to commit Minnesota’s public schools to support ideals of integration, prevent segregation, promote school choice, and provide equitable access to resources with the goal of addressing academic achievement (Minnesota Administrative Rules, 3535.0100). Section 3535.0120 of the Rule requires school districts to collect and submit to the state data regarding the racial composition of each school and grade level. (Mattheis, 2009, p. 19)


Achievement and Integration for Minnesota. Office of the Revisor of Statutes. §124D.861(2022). https://www.revisor.mn.gov/statutes/cite/124D.861 

American Councils for International Education. (2021). 2021 Canvass of dual language and immersion (DLI) programs in US public schools. American Councils Research Center. https://www.americancouncils.org/sites/default/files/documents/pages/2021-10/Canvass%20DLI%20-%20October%202021-2_ac.pdf 

Anderson, J. D. (2005). Still desegregated, still unequal: Lessons from up north. Educational Researcher, 35(1), 30–33. https://doi.org/10.3102/0013189X035001030  

Brown v. Board of Education, 347 U.S. 483 (1954).

Center for Advanced Research on Language Acquisition. (2022). Bibliographies on language immersion education. Regents of the University of Minnesota. https://carla.umn.edu/immersion/bibs/search.php 

Collier, V. P., & Thomas, W. P. (2002). Reforming education policies for English learners means better schools for all. The State Education Standard, 3(1), 30–36.

Collier, V. P., & Thomas, W. P. (2017). Validating the power of bilingual schooling: Thirty-two years of large-scale, longitudinal research. Annual Review of Applied Linguistics, 37, 203–217. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0267190517000034 

Flores, N., & Rosa, J. (2015). Undoing appropriateness: Raciolinguistic ideologies and language diversity in education. Harvard Educational Review, 85(2), 149–171. https://doi.org/10.17763/0017-8055.85.2.149 

Flores, N., Tseng, A., & Subtirelu, N. (2021). Bilingualism for all or just for the rich and white? Introducing a raciolinguistic perspective to dual language education. In N. Flores, A. Tseng, & N. Subtirelu (Eds.), Bilingualism for all? Raciolinguistic perspectives on dual language education in the United States (pp. 2–18). Multilingual Matters.

Fortune, T., & Jorstad, H. L. (1996). U.S. immersion programs: A national survey. Foreign Language Annals, 29(2), 163–178. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1944-9720.1996.tb02325.x

García, O. (2009). Bilingual education in the 21st century: A global perspective. Wiley-Blackwell.

García, O. (2020). The education of Latinx bilingual children in times of isolation: Unlearning and relearning. MinneTESOL Journal, 36(1). Retrievable from https://minnetesoljournal.org/ 

Gómez, L., Freeman, D., & Freeman, Y. (2005). Dual language education: A promising 50–50 model. Bilingual Research Journal, 29(1), 145–164. https://doi.org/10.1080/15235882.2005.10162828  

Howard E. R., Sugarman J., Christian D. (2003). Trends in two-way immersion education: A review of the research. Center for Research on the Education of Students Placed at Risk.

ISD 625 St. Paul Public Schools. (2020, May 24). Achievement and integration plan: July 1, 2020 to June 20, 2023. St. Paul Public Schools. https://www.spps.org/page/29231 

Kim, Y. K., Hutchison, L. A., & Winsler, A. (2015). Bilingual education in the United States: An historical overview and examination of two-way immersion. Educational Review, 67(2), 236–252. https://doi.org/10.1080/00131911.2013.865593 

Krueger, D. (2008). Immersion education, ethnicity, and income: Immersion students in urban districts. The ACIE Newsletter, 12(1). Accessed 5 October, 2022 at https://carla.umn.edu/immersion/acie/vol12/no1/nov_2008_research_report.html

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Lyster, R. (2007). Learning and teaching languages through content: A counterbalanced approach. John Benjamins Publishing Company.

Mattheis, A. H. (2009). School integration in Twin Cities metro area interdistrict collaboratives: Implementation and interpretation of the Minnesota State desegregation/integration rule [unpublished master’s thesis]. University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN. https://hdl.handle.net/11299/60107 

Mayo, J. B. (2007). Quiet warriors: Black teachers’ memories of integration in two Virginia localities. Multicultural Perspectives, 9(2), 17–25. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/15210960701386251

Minneapolis Public Schools. (2020). Achievement and integration plan: July 1, 2020 to June 20, 2023. Minneapolis Public Schools. https://equity.mpls.k12.mn.us/equity_and_integration

Palmer, D. (2010). Race, power, and equity in a multiethnic urban elementary school with a dual-language “strand” program. Anthropology & Education Quarterly, 41(1), 94–114. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1548-1492.2010.01069.x 

Paris, D., & Alim, H. (2014) What are we seeking to sustain through culturally sustaining pedagogy? A loving critique forward. Harvard Educational Review, 84(1), 85–100. https://doi.org/10.17763/haer.84.1.982l873k2ht16m77 

Scanlan, M., & Palmer, D. (2009). Race, power, and (in)equality within two-way immersion settings. The Urban Review, 41(5), 391-415. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11256-008-0111-0 

Tedick, D., & Lyster, R. (2020). Scaffolding language development in immersion and dual language classrooms. Routledge.

Thomas, W. P., & Collier, V. P. (1997). School effectiveness for language minority students. National Clearinghouse for English Language Acquisition.

Thomas, W. P., & Collier, V. P. (2002). A national study of school effectiveness for language minority students’ long-term academic achievement. Center for Research on Education, Diversity and Excellence, University of California-Santa Cruz.

Uzzell, E. M., & Ayscue, J. B. (2021). Racial integration through two-way dual language immersion: A case study. Education Policy Analysis Archives, 29(48), 3-35. https://doi.org/10.14507/epaa.29.5949

Valdés, G. (1997) Dual-language immersion programs: A cautionary note concerning the education of language-minority students. Harvard Educational Review, 67(3), 391–429. https://doi.org/10.17763/haer.67.3.n5q175qp86120948 

Williams, C. (2017, December 28). The intrusion of White families into bilingual schools. The Atlantic. Accessed 12 October 12, 2022 at https://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2017/12/the-middle-class-takeover-of-bilingual-schools/549278/ 



Croix Clayton

Translingual content-integrated literature curricula can provide ESL/EFL learners with acquisitional, metalinguistic, and affective benefits. Haiku, the compact Japanese verse form, may be an ideal choice of literary genre to integrate in this way, due to its clarity and simplicity.
Keywords: Literature, Translanguaging, Haiku, SLA, Literacy

Throughout history, scholars have argued for the educational value of literature. To the philosopher Kongzi (孔子), better known in the West as Confucius, poetry was morally edifying and taught a sense of social duty. Some 25 centuries later, Canadian literary theorist Northrup Frye proposed that literature’s subjectivity pushes learners to develop critical and creative habits of mind (Frye, 1964). English as a second/foreign language (ESL/EFL) educators have valued literature as authentic source material and noted how its emotional themes inspire student participation and investment (Daskalovska & Dimova, 2012). However, in my experience, many instructors avoid using literature for fear of not being qualified, or of students not being advanced enough to handle the ‘literary’ register.

This paper will make a case for pedagogic translingualism—which is the limited introduction of  students’ first language (L1) into the second language (L2) classroom—as a tool to put literary texts within the reach of students at any level of English competence. Furthermore, I will argue that the use of haiku, the traditional Japanese verse form, amplifies this advantage because it delivers all the affective power of sophisticated literature, but with brevity and directness of expression that make it an ideal entry-point, not just for students with limited English vocabulary, but also for ESL teachers who are curious about literature and want to experiment with using it in their classrooms.

What is pedagogic translingualism?

Perhaps as a consequence of both rapid globalization and the demographic growth of multiethnic polities in the West (Duarte, 2020), language education in recent decades has become strongly concerned with multilingualism (May, 2014), a phenomenon which has been described under a multitude of names: bilingualism, multilingualism, translingualism, translanguaging, code-switching, code-mixing, etc. For our purposes, translingualism will do.

Translingual research has examined a variety of phenomena, from multilingual interlocutors’ apparently natural tendency to mix their codes freely during conversation, to policy-driven sociolinguistic questions about language rights in education, to issues of how L1 ability and use might influence L2 acquisition and learning (Butzkamm & Caldwell, 2009). It is the latter area which is relevant here. Building on Cummins’ (1979) interdependence hypothesis, which suggests that greater mastery of the L1 may facilitate subsequent mastery of the L2, especially in the realm of literacy, pedagogic translingualism proposes that space be set aside within the L2 classroom for the use of student L1 (Cook, 2010; MacSwan, 2020).

Benefits of pedagogic translingualism

Pedagogic translingualism is said to underwrite efficient vocabulary acquisition (Lee & Macaro, 2013), help develop metalinguistic awareness (de la Campa & Nassaji, 2009), and increase affective investment in the classroom (Ellwood, 2008). This final effect may originate in a sense of validation some learners report feeling when their ethnolinguistic identity is recognized (Huang, 2010). Furthermore, vocabulary acquisition and metalinguistic awareness are of great relevance to students with low literacy levels in their L1, who are more likely than their peers to face difficulty developing these features of L2 literacy (Bigelow & Tarone, 2004). As such, ESL programs interested in building English literacy among L1 pre-literate learners may have particular reason to explore pedagogic translingualism.

Literature for language teaching

The reasons for incorporating literature into an ESL syllabus are not always obvious. Scholars have argued that pragmatic pedagogic concerns have “marginalized” literature (Deng, 2006, p. 62), and that fashions in the humanities have elevated sociocultural commentary at the expense of artistic expression (Abbs, 1994). In the words of Yin Qiping and Chen Shubo of China’s storied Zhejiang University, literature is often dismissed as a “…soft option, an indulgence or mere trimming to decorate the hard center of the market-oriented syllabus,” a mistake they call “corrosive” to English teaching in China, the West, and beyond (Yin & Chen, 2002, p. 318).

Benefits of literature for language teaching

ESL learners may derive several advantages from the teaching of literature; it constitutes a valuable resource of authentic L2 material, provides an efficient tool for constructing linguistic competence, and fosters student participation through affective engagement.

First, literary texts are authentic, which is to say texts produced for communicative purposes within a given speech community are said to be preferable to texts merely produced for the purpose of language teaching, as they may provide a more accurate model for cultural and linguistic learning (Aladini & Farahbod, 2020). Next, evidence for literature’s utility in developing student linguistic competence has been attested to in domains of fluency and accuracy (Babaee & Yahya, 2014), in all four of the ‘macro’ skills of reading, writing, speaking, and listening (Shazu, 2014), and at various levels of linguistic awareness: lexical, syntactic, discoursal, and metalinguistic (Bibby & McIlroy, 2013). Third, literature can inspire student investment and participation. Simply put, many learners find poetry and storytelling more affectively engaging than exclusively linguistic instruction (Mason & Krashen, 2004; Vural, 2013). One study found the incorporation of English poetry in an ESL course led 72% of learners to report an increased sense of their own expressiveness in English, and 83% to report sensations of joy and freedom associated with the poetry activity (Liao, 2018).

Haiku for ESL classes

If literary texts generally have value for ESL classrooms, then haiku—the famous miniaturized Japanese verse form—has, I will argue, a particular use for teachers who are new to using literature in language teaching, and also for low/intermediate ESL students (especially those with reading struggles). In both cases, it is the clarity and brevity of haiku that makes it ideal. According to Atsushi Iida, haiku offers learners of all backgrounds “opportunities to develop their language proficiency while giving them chances for self-discovery” (2010, p. 61). The pedagogic utility of haiku stems in part from how its minimal form incentivizes direct expression. While many students (and, sadly, teachers) mistakenly believe that poetry requires a sophisticated command of obscure vocabulary (Liao, 2018), haiku’s simplicity makes it useful even for students with beginner-level English skills. A haiku can be read in a matter of seconds, and its pithy nature virtually guarantees that students will not get lost searching for the author’s meaning—a fear that may prevent English instructors from wading into the sometimes-cloudy waters of literature. In sum, haiku are so brief, so concentrated (often a mere seventeen syllables in Japanese) that they allow even very low proficiency learners to experience the advantages of literature in ESL.

From sandwiches to the stars: A curricular guide

The following is a rough guide to designing a content-integrated translingual ESL unit using haiku poetry. It takes advantage of literature’s capacity to inspire student affective investment, haiku’s potential to ease cognitive burdens on both low-literacy students and teachers who are new to literature, and the affective and vocabulary-building benefits of pedagogic translingualism. Furthermore, haiku also presents teachers with an opportunity to build multicultural learning into the ESL classroom. The unprecedented global popularity that Japanese animated films have achieved in recent years (Garcia, 2013) may increase student interest in haiku coursework even beyond the bonus translingualism and the arts already impart.

Finding the perfect haiku 

Curious ESL instructors are invited to begin designing their translingual literature lesson by searching for haiku at the library or on the internet. Good poetry produces kinesthetic reactions; you’ll know you’ve found gold when you smile, feel goosebumps, or choke up a little. One can hardly miss, however, with the following poets, all of whom can be found in Haiku: An Anthology of Japanese Poets (Addiss et al., 2009). Kobayashi Issa (1763–1828) describes human emotional and psychological states with pathos and humor.

All the time I pray to Buddha
I keep on
     killing mosquitoes

Masaoka Shiki (1867–1902) wrote in a modern style that is sharply observational and realistic.

Pruning a rose
sound of scissors
on a bright May day

Matsuo Basho (1644-1694) shows the natural world in sublime detail, as in the following verse, which is very famous in Japan:

A day of quiet gladness,—
     Mount Fuji is veiled
In misty rain

These are merely a few of the most famous haiku writers, as a cursory search will reveal.

Multilingual sandwiches

Once you’ve identified a few works of haiku, begin considering your assessment and activities. Celic and Seltzer’s (2011) Translanguaging: A CUNY-NSIEB Guide for Educators provides numerous suggestions for creating unit-level translingual assessments and activities. For example, the Multilingual Collaborative Work: Reading Groups heading (p. 68), advises the ‘Read in English & Discuss in Any Language’ strategy. In this approach, students are given an English text to examine and work in small groups to answer comprehension questions and discuss the meaning of the text using English, their L1, or mixed code. In short, give your learners English materials and questions to discuss, but allow the discussion itself to drift into multiple languages, if the students find it useful. After the students have checked their understanding with one another, and brainstormed in their language of choice, they must produce output in English. Starting with English input and ending with English output provides ample opportunity for target language practice, but the L1-friendly stage in the middle allows students to check comprehension, be certain everyone understands the goal of the activity, and take advantage of the more sophisticated vocabulary and syntax for abstract thought (especially relevant for arts curricula) which they likely possess in their home language (Butzkamm & Caldwell, 2009). This staple of translingual coursework has been called the ‘sandwich activity,’ because the L1, once strictly banned from ESL, has found a place in the center of the process, neatly pressed between L2 input and L2 output (Cook, 2010).

The star diagram

But what exactly about the haiku will students discuss? One useful device for answering this question is Collie and Slater’s ‘star diagram’ (1990, p. 101).

Draw a large five-pointed star on a sheet of blank paper, then label the points of the star with conceptual or sensory touchstones, such as “(what do you) see and hear,” “(what do you) smell, taste and feel,” “what motion/kinesthetics take place,” “what emotions do you feel,” and “what do you think poet is trying to say?” Students may fill the page by writing their impressions (again, in their L1, English, or mixed code), or simply use the ‘points of the star’ to trigger oral responses in their small groups. Other options, especially when reading authentic Japanese haiku, include categories like “the natural world,” “truths about the human experience,” and “references to the seasons,” all of which feature prominently in haiku poetics. You can, of course, choose your own concepts for the five points of the star.

Writing their own haiku

A writing or speaking class may even go further, asking students to compose their own haiku in response to the readings. Since Japanese haiku have strict formal rules that may be less relevant in English (17 syllables broken into lines of five, seven, and five, for example), teachers may instead choose to assign their students what the novelist and poet Jack Kerouac defined as ‘Western haiku’: short poems that “say a lot in three lines” (Weinreich, 2003, p. x).

Kerouac, perhaps best known as a popularizer of the ‘Beat Generation,’ elaborated on Western haiku, suggesting they ought to be “airy and graceful” and also “very simple and free of any poetic trickery” (Weinreich, 2003, p. x). Nearly a century earlier, Masaoka Shiki had also emphasized simplicity, offering this advice to young haiku poets: “Take your materials from what is around you—if you see a dandelion, write about it; if it’s misty, write about the mist. The materials for poetry are all around you in profusion” (Trumbull, 2016, p. 101). ESL instructors interested in helping students experiment with creative writing through the haiku form could do worse than to follow Shiki and Kerouac’s guidelines.


The title of this article is one of Kerouac’s poems; it demonstrates the attention to detail, simplicity, and instantaneity of haiku at its best, an art form which encourages us to look closely at the natural world and to find personal significance in it, as does Prince Otsu in his famous meditation on impermanence, written shortly before his death (Addiss et al., 2009):

Today, catching sight of the mallards
crying over Lake Iware;
must I, too, vanish from this world?

Personal significance is also a major reason for literature’s utility in ESL. Literary curricula utilize authentic materials to foster affective engagement and linguistic competence, while translingual activities like the ‘sandwich’ legitimize learners’ L1, create emotional significance, and provide opportunity for efficient building of vocabulary and metalinguistic awareness. Instructors may try a brief translingual content-integrated haiku activity to get their toes wet in Kerouac’s birdbath, while those with more experience using the arts in ESL may prefer to design a full unit, leaping fully, like summer swimmers, into Prince Otsu’s vast and mallard-flown Lake Iware, so to speak. Either way, students and instructors both have much to gain from diving deeply into the translingual uses of literature. 

More materials can be found at the following sites: 



Abbs, P. (1994). The educational imperative. Falmer Press.

Addiss, S., Yamamoto, F., & Yamamoto, A. (2009). Haiku: An anthology of Japanese poems. Shambhala.

Aladini, F., & Farahbod, F. (2020). Using a unique and long forgotten authentic material in the ESL classroom: Poetry. Theory and Practice in Language Studies, 10(1), 83-90. http://dx.doi.org/10.17507/tpls.1001.12 

Babaee, R., & Yahya, W.R.B.W. (2014). Significance of literature in foreign language teaching. International Education Studies, 7(4), 80-85. http://dx.doi.org/10.5539/ies.v7n4p80 

Bibby, S., & McIlroy, T. (2013). Literature in language teaching: What, why, and how. The Language Teacher, 37(5), 19-21. Retrievable from https://jalt-publications.org/ 

Bigelow, M., & Tarone, E. (2004). The role of literacy level in second language acquisition: Doesn’t who we study determine what we know? TESOL Quarterly, 38(4), 689-700. https://doi.org/10.2307/3588285 

Butzkamm, W., & Caldwell, J. (2009). The bilingual reform: A paradigm shift in foreign language teaching. Narr Studienbucher.

Celic, C., & Seltzer, K. (2011). Translanguaging: A CUNY-NYSIEB guide for educators. City of New York University Press.

Collie, J., & Slater S. (1990). Literature in the language classroom. Cambridge University Press.

Cook, G. (2010). Translation in language teaching. Oxford University Press.

Cummins, J. (1979). Linguistic interdependence and the education of bilingual children. Review of Educational Research, 49(2), 222-251. https://doi.org/10.2307/1169960 

Daskalovska, N., & Dimova, V. (2012). Why should literature be used in the language classroom? Procedia – Social and Behavioral Sciences, 46, 1182-1186. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.sbspro.2012.05.271   

de la Campa, J., & Nassaji, H. (2009). The amount, purpose, and reason for using L1 in L2 classrooms. Foreign Language Annals, 42(4), 742-759. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1944-9720.2009.01052.x 

Deng, T.Z. (2006). Ecocritical approach to English literature in a Chinese context. CELEA Journal, 29(6), 62-68.

Duarte, J. (2020). Translanguaging in the context of mainstream multilingual education. International Journal of Multilingualism, 17(2), 232-247. https://doi.org/10.1080/14790718.2018.1512607 

Ellwood, C. (2008). Questions of classroom identity: What can be learned from codeswitching in classroom peer group talk? The Modern Language Journal, 92(4), 538-557. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1540-4781.2008.00786.x 

Frye, N. (1964). The educated imagination. Indiana University Press.

Garcia, J. (2013). The rise in popularity of Japanese culture with American youth: Causes of the “cool Japan” phenomenon. Japan Studies Review, 17, 121-140.

Iida, A. (2010). Implications for teaching haiku in ESL and EFL contexts. The Language Teacher, 34(3). Retrievable from https://jalt-publications.org/ 

Lee, J.H., & Macaro, E. (2013). Investigating age in the use of L1 or English-only instruction: Vocabulary acquisition by EFL learners. The Modern Language Journal, 97(4), 887-901. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1540-4781.2013.12044.x 

Liao, F.Y. (2018). Prospective EFL teachers’ perceptions towards writing poetry in a second language: Difficulty, value, emotion, and attitude. Eurasian Journal of Applied Linguistics, 4(1), 1-16. https://doi.org/10.32601/ejal.460583 

MacSwan, J. (2020). Translanguage, language ontology, and civil rights. World Englishes, 39(2), 321-333. https://doi.org/10.1111/weng.12464 

Mason B., & Krashen, S. (2004). Is form-focused vocabulary instruction worthwhile? RELC Journal, 35(2), 179-185. https://doi.org/10.1177/003368820403500206 

May, S. (Ed.). (2014). The multilingual turn: Implications for SLA, TESOL, and bilingual education. Routledge.

Shazu, R. I. (2014). Use of literature in language teaching and learning: A critical assessment. Journal of Education and Practice, 5(7), 29-35.

Trumbull, C. (2016). Masaoka Shiki and the origins of shasei. Juxtapositions, 2(1), 87-122.

Vural, H. (2013). Use of literature to enhance motivation in ELT classes. Melvana International Journal of Education, 3(4), 15-23.

Weinreich, R. (Ed.). (2003). Jack Kerouac: Book of haikus. Penguin.

Yin, Q., & Chen, S. (2002). Teaching English literature in China: Importance, problems, and countermeasures. World Englishes, 21(2), 317-324. https://doi.org/10.1111/1467-971X.00251