Using L1 in the Classroom

In this learning activity, the teacher has set an overarching theme of “Questions about Rules and Laws”. When the question “What is the role and responsibility of your school?” is asked, the student responds in her primary (L1) language (Spanish). She tells her partner that making rules in school is the responsibility of the principal and teachers, and sometimes the students participate as well.  She goes on to say that her father makes the rules in her house and tells them when to eat and do their homework.  Her partner responds in English and tells a little bit about her home rules as well. She clearly understands the classroom discussion, and is better able to participate using L1.

By allowing the use of L1 in the classroom, this teacher is supporting her English learners (ELs) in multiple ways:

She is allowing primary language support to occur in a natural and supportive way, while at the same time keeping these students highly motivated. When allowed to occasionally rely on their L1, ELs are encouraged to build on prior knowledge and experiences as well as culture. For beginning ELs, using their L1 can be very beneficial. As they progress in their learning, their use of English will increase and they will be more willing to experiment and take risks with English. In the meantime, instead of going through long explanations in English, it is sometimes easier and more efficient for ELs to give a translation of a vocabulary item or an explanation of a grammar point. Using their L1 gives ELs a sense of security and acknowledges their identity, allowing them to minimize the stress they may feel in classrooms.

Suggested extension activities: