3 Ways to Validate Students' Primary Language

We want to validate cultural respect and the responsibility we all have towards acceptance of diversity in our classroom, as well as foster a classroom environment where being multilingual is celebrated, validated, and makes students feel empowered. Here are three ways to validate your multilingual students in the classroom. Remember, you don’t need to understand a language in order to validate it.

1. Primary Language Retell

Pull a small group of students near one of our Input Charts. Discuss with the students about the importance of being multilingual. They should feel proud to have the skill of knowing more than one language.

Next, model for the students how you would retell or summarize the story (Input Chart) in a language other than the target language (if possible, if not use target language).

Now, it’s the students' turn. Invite students to teach you their language by retelling or summarizing the Input Chart in their language. Validate and celebrate the language they produce, and thank them for teaching you their language.

For the words they do not know in their primary language, we can ask students to go home and ask their family members to teach them how to say the word in that language.

2. Primary Language 10/2

During your direct instruction, an easy way to validate primary language, is by giving students a quick 10/2, or “turn and talk”. During the turn and talk, students will retell to their neighbor what we just learned whole-class, but will tell them in their primary language. For example, if we completed an Input Chart on the life cycle of a butterfly, I may say to my students “Turn and tell/teach your neighbor the life cycle of the butterfly in your primary language”. This is an easy way to validate our amazing multilingual students without the need for materials and with minimal prep.

3. Primary Language Word Cards

During Team Tasks, you may assign teams the job of creating “Primary Language Word Cards”. Their task will be to walk the walls of the classroom, and if they see any academic language that they know how to say in their primary language, they will write it down on a word card or sticky note, and stick it on the chart next to the word. This is an excellent way to support our multilingual students, and gives them ownership of the academic language around the walls.


Like everything we practice in Be GLAD, it all ties back to the research. Academic success depends on the cognitive development in the first language. (Cummins, Ramirez, Collier/Thomas, Wong-Fillmore, and Ada). We invite you to use these three strategies to help support the primary language piece in your classrooms.

Watch a video on this topic here:

Site Achievement Director

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