BIC – Brazilian Immersion Conference for Educators
Report on Conference Attended at Beit Yaakov School
in São Paulo, Brazil, on September 6th and 7th, 2015
Luiza Maia, Resource Center Language Development Specialist/Coordinator and
Edno Vieira, Resource Center language Development Specialist
This conference focused on all schools and teachers who deal with bilingual education. It was quite a surprise to see that there are many schools in Brazil that are investing in that. I was very impressed with teachers’ quality and level of English. Schools from all over Brazil were represented by 546 teachers from: Pará, Bahia, Rio Grande do Sul, Piauí, Pernambuco, Ceará, Paraná, Minas Gerais, Santa Catarina, Rio de Janeiro, Brasilia, Mato Grosso do Sul, Alagoas, and of course, from all over the state of São Paulo. There were 10 presenters from the USA and many exhibitors from diverse educational companies.
The conference required that we all downloaded an application called Whova, through which we had access to all attendees’ names and addresses; we also had all the events listed and could easily program ourselves. We could also have our business cards uploaded and available to anyone who wished to contact us.
The campus of Beit Yaacov School was impressive and open for guided visits during lunch breaks. The food provided was excellent. The only drawback was the distance and location of school which was about 30 minutes from out hotel in Higienópolis in an industrial area of São Paulo.
The daily plan included a plenary session in the AM, then a short break followed by several workshops we could choose from. After lunch there was another plenary session followed by a break and then another session of several workshops we could choose to attend.
The first plenary session was offered by Dr. Fred Genessee, professor emeritus in the Psychology Department at McGill University, Montreal Canada. He spoke on “Literacy Development in a Second Language”. He mentioned the importance of exposure and reading; he also pointed out that skills in one language transfer to the other (bootstrapping). This presenter recommended to keep the teaching of languages separate; he also recommended that that oral competence must be developed before reading competence; he pointed out that academic language must be taught first since the beginning grades, explicitly, at age level and at all times. The only second language (L2) rule of usage motivates students to use the language, increases its use and enhances academic language. To use language is to learn language.
The second plenary session with Dr. Kathy Escamilla, from Colorado University in Boulder, CO., was about bi-literacy where she pointed out that this is a higher form of literacy. The unique features of a bi-literacy program are: languages are placed side by side (reduce negative perceptions of each language); its language components are paired literacy, oracy, metalanguage, focus on writing, development of cross-language connections, and strategic use of language.
She pointed out that we need to be aware that one language differences might interfere with the other language acquisition, although it can also be seen as an opportunity to develop cross-language strategies.
The third plenary session we attended was with Donna Coch, Ed.D., from Dartmouth College, was on what neuroscience teaches us about the brain processes used during reading. Research using PET scans showed us that all the brain is involved in the usage of language; when reading we borrow, build, recycle and through extended reading we develop, specialize and connect. She explained that there are three basic processes involved in reading: visual (symbols that make meaning), auditory (phonology/spoken language) and meaning (vocabulary / parent talk, reading, schema) – reading builds on speech processing.
Besides the plenary sessions, we had a plethora of workshops to choose from. One was on differentiated assessment and instruction with Barbara Field who presented a new test called I-Ready which identifies students’ needs, recommends differentiated approaches when needed and monitors with easy accessible reports. Rachel Treaster from Kagan Professional Development led us through very interesting techniques to control classroom attention and noise as well as activities that are engaging and help accelerate learning. Jamie Leite, who is the director of Utah Dual Language Immersion, described to us how the program was created and implemented. Their immersion objectives were Academic achievement, Bilingualism/biliteracy and Cultural competence – ABC – excellent presentation as well.
Here is Mr. Vieira’s overview of the experience:
“I attended 7 lectures regarding language acquisition in immersion contexts. They were very interesting and gave me more elements to distinguish a bilingual school from an American one.
All the workshops I attended regarding language acquisition were very clear and proved once more that it is possible to acquire two languages, English and Portuguese, at the same time (something I was really in doubt about, I confess). The last lecture I attended was about our brain and the reading acquisition process. I liked it very much. The presenter showed us excellent exercises that shows how our brain works in the process of acquiring literacy. We also experienced these exercises ourselves.
I like being at conferences and congresses, but only when I learn new things and in this conference I learned a lot and I became really satisfied to see that our school OLM is much ahead in literacy and language acquisition. New courses and new congresses are welcome! "