Teaching in Spanish: Six big ideas to drive instruction

September 11, 2023

Lea este artículo en español.

In the field of language learning, frameworks and standards are key for making both classroom and program-level decisions. Teachers utilize standards to plan their daily instruction and assessment. Teacher leaders and administrators at the school and district adapt standards frameworks to make curriculum, program and policy decisions. The multiple applications of standards frameworks speak to the great need for this type of document in the field. Nonetheless, standards frameworks for language learning are not common. To fulfill this need, WIDA has developed the Marco de los estándares del desarrollo auténtico del lenguaje español (Marco DALE).  

As a standards framework, the Marco DALE identifies the background, theories and foundational elements that inform the conceptualization, design and execution of standards. These elements of the framework are captured in the ideas principales — the Big Ideas that speak to the theory behind the Standards Statements. In this article, we present the six ideas principales of the Marco DALE: equity, integration, collaboration, interaction, multiliteracies and transculturalism. Educators using WIDA’s language frameworks, the WIDA English Language Development Standards Framework, 2020 Edition, and the Marco de referencia de las artes del lenguaje del español de WIDA (Marco ALE), will notice a strong relationship between the ideas principales of the Marco DALE, the Big Ideas of the WIDA ELD Standards Framework, 2020 Edition, and the ideologías orientadoras of the Marco ALE. In the development of the Marco DALE, WIDA Español redesigned the Big Ideas of equity, integration and collaboration with a particular focus on Spanish language development in bilingual settings. Likewise, the development team reimagined the ideologías orientadoras of interaction, multiliteracies and transculturalism for language development. The outcome of this work has allowed us to present the six ideas principales described below.

Equity of opportunity and access is a belief that WIDA supports. It is extremely important to offer good quality education to bi/multilingual students. Our students come from diverse backgrounds, which is why they deserve to have access to a good educational system. When designing curriculum and instruction, schools must take into account the personal and educational experiences and the language and culture of students in order to develop a good system of equitable opportunities. The goals of increasing equity for bi/multilingual students should be visible in the language expectations in relation to each grade-level cluster so they can be measured in order to see the progress of each student.

Integration of language and academic content is another Big Idea that WIDA has supported since it produced its first language learning standards. This idea promotes a strong relationship that leads to the simultaneous learning of language and content. It ensures that students have a meaningful and purposeful way of learning language by utilizing academic content as a context for language learning. This approach also provides students with the opportunity to learn academic content and not fall behind their peers due to a lack of language proficiency. Educators using the Marco DALE will notice that the document is organized in such a way that it prioritizes this integration of language and academic content.

Collaboration among the teaching community is important for the development of bi/multilingual learners. Knowing how to collaborate effectively is essential among teachers, administrators, families and communities as co-educating presents effective strategies for bilingual success. Members of the educational community should set goals for student learning and assessment to obtain and use evidence of language development. Content and language teachers can work together to plan an explicit system and support language development — as well as academic learning across the content areas.

Interaction with others is another Big Idea of the Marco DALE. This one expresses the importance of an exchange of ideas with others through different forms of communication and situations. It highlights the importance of interaction in the language development process. WIDA deeply believes that students acquire more language when they can use it in meaningful communication. This idea also promotes language interaction that goes beyond conversation, since it encourages the meaningful engagement among students through spoken and non-spoken words and through a diversity of mediums — including presentations, images and other ways of communication.

It is important to promote teaching through multiliteracies for the development of the Spanish language. Multiliteracies is an idea of how to analyze, interpret and construct meanings and identities using different multimodal artifacts, such as the combination of two or more means of communication (e.g., audio, linguistic, visual, spatial, tactile/kinesthetic). It is essential that these methods are present while teaching. When teachers present activities in the classroom, they should be interactive so students can use different modalities and different languages with their peers or families. For example, translanguaging used with family or with peers is putting multiliteracies into action since language is an expression of the linguistic mode.

Transculturalism demonstrated by bi/multilingual individuals wraps up the Big Ideas of the Marco DALE. Through the enactment of this Big Idea, the Marco DALE highlights the dynamic and fluid movement and navigation across communities, which includes the use of translanguaging. This idea is particularly important for Spanish language learning in the U.S. because bi/multilingual students are in constant exposure to a diversity of Spanish(es) from different countries and different regions within those countries. They are also learning in bilingual settings where English is always present. Promoting transculturalism allows for educators and students to see connections across their cultures and their language practices.

The Big Ideas of the Marco DALE expressed above are meant to inform the Spanish language development of bi/multilingual learners. Their application in the language learning classroom allows for educators to enhance their practice and students to learn in environments that promote their language development. It is important to recognize that these Big Ideas have deep implications on the curriculum, assessment and lesson planning process, but they can also inform stronger policies, programs and systems that promote bilingual education and multilingual gains of students. Lastly, although these ideas principales were designed as part of the Marco DALE, their application is not limited to Spanish language development. Other bilingual and dual language communities should be able to adapt these ideas principales and utilize them in ways that reflect the local language practices.

The Marco DALE launches on October 24, 2023. For more information, visit the Marco DALE webpage.


Share this story      

Nominate an Educator

WIDA's Featured Educator is a monthly feature article that highlights classroom, district, or state-level educators who are making a difference in the lives of multilingual learners. Nominate an outstanding colleague today!

Submit a Nomination