Explicit Teaching for Transfer

Biliteracy refers to instruction in two languages with the goal that all students attain high levels of literacy in both languages. Research affirms that explicit teaching of cross-linguistic transfer in biliteracy contexts enhances students’ mastery and control of linguistic resources across languages. (Bialystok, 2007; Howard, Sugarman, Christian, Lindholm-Leary & Rogers, 2007) As the California English Language Arts/English Language Development Framework (CDE 2014) states, “Rather than leaving this linguistic transfer up to chance, teachers should approach transfer intentionally and strategically.” (Chapter 9, pp. 14-15).

Organizing instruction explicitly for transfer:

  • Alleviates students burden of having to learn a skill or concept in a language they do not yet understand
  • Enables access to rigorous grade-level skill set
  • Provides three instructional venues for teaching and learning the same skill set

When, How, and in What Language

Transfer of skill instruction demands that we think about when, how, and in what language cross-linguistic transfer is taught. There are three instructional contexts for teaching the same cross-linguistic skill set:

L1 LessonTransfer LessonL2 Lesson
Teaching skills in primary languageL1 skills linked to L2Teaching skills in the new language
Concept introduced, taught and independently practicedCross-linguistic transfer relationship between
L1 and L2
explained on previously taught concept or skill
Previously taught concept or skill reviewed and practice in L2

The transfer lesson follows the primary language lesson and is followed by the target language lesson. This progression provides three opportunities for teaching, learning, and negotiating the same skill or concept, using a coherent sequence and instructional model.

The transfer lesson, therefore, is comparable to a bridge that provides the opportunity for consciously and purposefully teaching for transfer through standards-based cognitive planning.

Bridge and Bridging

Beeman and Urow (2012) define the terms bridge and bridging as follows:

  • The Bridge is the instructional moment in teaching dual language when teachers bring the two languages together, guiding students to engage in contrastive analysis of the two languages and transfer the academic content they have learned in one language to the other language.
  • Bridging involves the use of cross-linguistic strategies and leads to the development of metalinguistic awareness.