Series Post: Is Your Bilingual Baby Confused? (And What the Classification Stage Looks Like)

It’s the last day of our series post about a common question: “Is she confused?!”

While exposing our toddler to two languages, we have been proactive in teaching her sign language, being aware that she is in the sponge stage, and patiently awaiting this classification stage.  

While the current toddler stage Guapa is in we could call the sponge, there will eventually be a stage of classification. This is the current stage for most of my 4th grade dual language students.

By school year I am a teacher, and by summer I am a wife and mommy… Not really, but that’s how it feels sometimes! And always with a healthy dose of switching back and forth between languages!

As a teacher, I take great pride in how my classroom looks. I always want our classroom environment to be a warm, welcoming place. The dual language program I am currently working for has strategically chosen to use color coding to help students differentiate between their two languages.

English = blue

Spanish = green

Simple, right?

So the whole classroom becomes this green and blue ocean of language, and I took inspiration for this year’s entire classroom to reflect this color scheme, with a splash of a yellow wall.

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(That’s also called flexible seating… no desks! Check out our classroom blog for the students’ take on this seating arrangement!)

Once the classroom environment was ready, then the real language learning fun begins. During lessons, students are busy creating language posters that are constantly helping them to classify their vocabularies. Is that an English word? Or a Spanish word? Do I spell it with an “f” in Spanish or a “ph” in English?

Any words written in Spanish are green, and any words written in English are blue.  These visuals could contain just one language or could include both as students analyze the similarities and differences.

From day one of the school year, this color-coded system drives the recorded learning around the classroom. Here’s an example of our student-determined contract from the 2013-2014 school year:

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The colors help students visually differentiate between their two languages, and all students signed the contract (hidden for obvious reasons 😉 ).

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Also from the 2013-2014 school year (apparently I took a lot of pictures that year! I need to take more of our awesome classroom this year) is a list of those cognates I’ve written about, that vocabulary gold any bilingual learner should dive into! Students can see their bilingual vocabulary side-by-side, and we add to to this poster all year long!

(We roll it at the top and add more paper on the bottom whenever necessary! At the end of the school year, we roll the whole thing out and students are amazed at how many cognates they know!)

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I even use this color coding for the class procedures. Our dismissal cheer changes slightly each year, but here was our cheer from (again) 2013-2014. Depending if the day was an “English day” or a “Spanish day”, we would do the cheer in the corresponding language. I start the sentence and students finish with the underlined word(s).

For example:

Me: Have a great…

Kids: EVENING! (usually screaming because, well, they’re kids)

Me: Watch out for…

Kids: CARS! (or something else to watch out for)

Me: See you…

Kids: TOMORROW!

It’s a fun way to send them out the door for their backpacks, and established procedures in which both languages are alternated again helps their minds in the classification process.

So there you have it: The Classification Stage at the fourth grade level.

Guapa isn’t there yet, but that’s okay! For now we’re enjoying the sponge stage!

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And that wraps up our first series of posts! What a week it has been! I am able to track where viewers are when they check out the blog, and we’ve had people from all over the world! India, Norway, Australia,, Chile, Peru, Costa Rica, etc.! How exciting! Thank you for your help to get the word out – Raising bilingual babies is possible!

As a quick recap, we discussed the question, “Is she confused?!” to which I have a one second answer (No!) and these posts to explain why that is my answer!

Sign Language: How to Bridge the Language Gap in Those First Years

The Sponge Stage: Accepting All Language Output

The Classification Stage: We’ll Get There Eventually!

For now I must recognize that my home life with Guapa is mostly in the sponge stage, while my work life with students is mostly in the classification stage.

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A sweet candid pic when Guapa was 15 months

More to come! What do you want to hear more about?

More language bloopers? More resources? More strategy ideas?

Let us know! Until next time… ¡Adios!

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