Cristina Sandza-Donovan, Barbieri School, Framingham, MA
Marleny Perdomo, Key Elementary School, Arlington, VA


Program Background Unit Plan Lesson Plan Teaching the Lesson Supplementary Materials


This lesson requires high-level cognitive and linguistic skills and is therefore appropriate for dual language students in the upper elementary grades. A unique and important feature of this unit is that it is taught in a parallel way in both languages, thus promoting not only a deep understanding of figurative and literal meanings in each language, but also the development of cross-linguistic connections. The concurrent English lessons should not be direct translations of the lessons in Spanish; however, similar themes of figurative and literal language should be explored using English vocabulary, and connections should be drawn between language and culture, just as with the Spanish proverbs.

Because this unit demands high-level skills in both cognitive and linguistic domains, it is important that the cooperative groups be heterogeneous with respect to language proficiency and academic ability. This will help ensure that all groups will be able to complete the task successfully, and that all individuals within each group will participate and understand what they have done.

In addition, because of the high-level demands of this task, it is essential that the teacher provide a number of supports for student work. For example, beginning the unit by reading fables and deriving the meaning of proverbs from those fables helps students develop an awareness that the meaning of proverbs cannot be inferred from the words in the proverb alone, but rather must be derived from context. This understanding then translates to the activities in the lesson described here, as each group is given a short story that provides the context for each proverb. Similarly, because each group is required to create a poster that includes both an illustration and an explanation of its proverb and then to present this poster to the class, students in the class are able to base their understanding of each proverb on a combination of pictorial, text, and oral information.

Finally, as a way to promote cross-linguistic connections and to allow children to use their first language to solidify learning in the second language, students are provided with a homework activity that requires them to integrate the knowledge acquired in each language by matching across languages in order to determine which are stated similarly, which are stated differently, and which only exist in one language or the other. Students then classify the proverbs into these three categories and write some ideas about why certain proverbs might be more universal and be stated similarly in both languages, while others might be language or culture specific, and either be stated differently in each language or only exist in one language or the other. Opportunities such as these for students to make explicit cross-linguistic connections are essential in TWI programs.