Students learn discrete, abstract skills (like weak and strong vowels, or the difference between the hard and soft c) best by using words, sentences, and paragraphs they already understand. For that reason, the words used to teach these skills come from words that are tied to a unit of instruction or other highly comprehensible context, like their own names. You can see the comprehensible instruction of weak and strong vowels in this video series: Nombres cortos y largos.  

At its most basic level, teaching for biliteracy refers to literacy instruction in two languages.  Effective biliteracy instruction plans for and enables students to use reading, writing, listening, and speaking for a wide range of purposes in two languages, during every school day.

The Bridge is the pre-planned instructional moment when teachers bring Spanish (or other non-English language) and English together to encourage students to explore the similarities and differences in the phonology (sound system), morphology (word formation), syntax and grammar (word order of sentences and other language rules), and pragmatics (language use) between the two languages, that is, to undertake contrastive analysis and to transfer what they have learned from one language to the other.  The Bridge occurs in transitional bilingual, dual language, one-way immersion, two-way immersion and ESL instruction.

The Bridge is the part of a biliteracy unit of instruction (BUF) that has been planned and organized by the teacher to help students develop metalinguistic awareness.  Bridging, however, is more flexible and spontaneous, and is student driven.  Bridging occurs during the Bridge and whenever students make metalinguistic connections between two languages.

BUF stands for Biliteracy Unit Framework, and is the acronym used to refer to biliteracy units of instruction.

Depending on the program of instruction and the age of the students, a BUF can roughly last anywhere from two to four weeks.

The Bridge is just one of the three linguistic spaces that makes up a biliteracy unit of study, or BUF.  The Bridge and the subsequent contrastive analysis between the two languages may take anywhere from 45 minutes on one day (usually for older students with higher levels of bilingualism) to 15-20 minutes over several days (for students just developing their bilingual abilities).


The three linguistic spaces in a biliteracy unit of study are:  Spanish (or another non-English language), the Bridge (where the two languages are brought together), and English.

We have found that even young children can effectively engage in the contrastive analysis between their languages, and can learn about cognates.

The metalinguistic focus for the Bridge is determined by the needs of the students and by the words or phrases that will be bridged.  For example, if there are many cognates among the words to be bridged and students have not yet learned about cognates, then cognates would be an appropriate area for metalinguistic analysis.  If, on the other hand, there are few cognates among the words bridged, but there are words with j and h, and students are interchanging the j and h in their writing, then the phonological difference between j and h in Spanish and English would be an appropriate metalinguistic focus.

The extension activity that occurs in the other language after the Bridge provides the students with the opportunity to practice the terms bridged in all four language domains (listening, speaking, reading and writing) within a different context.

The Bridge is most effective when it is done at the end of a unit of instruction, after the students have learned content in one language, and are ready to put new labels (in the other language) on this learned content.  The Bridge is not concurrent translation or flip-flopping or code-switching.

The Bridge is bi-directional:  It goes from content learned in Spanish to an Extension in English.  And it goes from content learned in English to an extension in Spanish.

The biliteracy unit framework (BUF) for teaching for biliteracy organizes the two languages strategically to avoid flip-flopping and concurrent translation. While a unit spans three linguistic spaces, the only time Spanish and English are used together is during the Bridge. During Spanish time, the teacher uses comprehensible strategies so that all students develop language and learn content in Spanish, and during English time, the teacher uses comprehensible strategies in English that teach both language and content.