Results of a 2014-2015 School-Based Action Research Study

Rahat Naqvi, Elaine Schmidt

Urban School Board Teachers and Specialists

Funded By: Alberta Centre for Child, Family, & Community Research
english and spanish english and tagalog english and urdu


Part 1: Purpose
Part 2: Middle School Case Study
Part 3: Language Engagement Strategies

    1. Map DLBs to Curriculum
    2. Explore Identity and Community
    3. Design Multimodal Tasks
    4. Foster Language Awareness

Part 4: Q & A
Part 5: Optional Approaches

Part 1: Purpose

Our Big Question: How does the multilingual lens inform identity?

Studies indicate decreasing levels of literacy engagement among students in grade six and higher (Williams, Friesen & Milton, 2009; Willms, 2003).  Consequently literacy growth in the mainstream middle school classroom is a topic of importance for native English speakers as well as for English Language Learners (ELLs).

This school-based action research study had two objectives: to determine the effect of a dual language reading program on middle school student’s literacy engagement within a multilingual and multicultural school environment; and, to investigate the role of teachers, specifically in terms of designing for literacy growth within this context.

These guidelines are based on the action research experience of two teachers and a case study of two grade 5 and two grade 7 classes during the 2014-15 school year.

dbl chartpng_Page1

Part 2: Middle School Case Study

Grade 5 and Grade 7 mainstream classroom teachers engaged the DLB tool in the design for learning of various curricular objectives.


  • Provide authentic integration of ELL and mainstream learning
  • Develop language awareness (metalinguistic awareness)
  • Increase intercultural awareness
  • Explore alternative entry points and approaches toward curricular objectives


  • Readers are an English speaker and a native speaker of the second language in the book i.e. the teacher and a guest reader (parent or community member).
  • The same book title is read in three different languages followed by the English version e.g. on Monday Urdu and English, on Wednesday Spanish and English, and on Friday Tagalog and English.
  • Three reading sessions of a different story each week take place for ten weeks.
  • The readings are accomplished one page at a time with the readers standing side-by-side, alternating languages and sharing visuals.
  • Linguistic prompts and/or student task objectives inform the follow-up discussion of the DLBs with the teacher and guest reader.

Grade 5 DLB reading of “Fox Fables” in English and Urdu; see Dual Language Books Video Process

Student reflections from grade 5 and grade 7 student survey

  • ‘Language is a big part of describing culture’ Jonathon
  • ‘I found that everybody has a unique and diverse culture and personality. You should always respect other people.’ Sarah
  • ‘I learned writing skills’ Annik
  • ’I’m going to notice the similarities between other languages after this’  Margaritte
  • ’I learned there is a lot more diversity in this class than I thought there was’ Sam
  • ’creativity can be expressed through a book’ Laureen
  • ’they [cultures] are all different and the same’ Svetlana
  • ’I learned public speaking [in front of the class]; how to read properly’ Tarik
dlb-E, T & U

Page of a Student Written DLB in English, Urdu & Tagalog

Part 3:  Language Engagement Strategies

a. Map Dual Language Books to Curriculum

Discussing strategies for noticing English language features, developing literacy using DLBs, and making connections to the Social Studies POS; see Dual Language Books Video-Curriculum1; read more at Learn Alberta

Describing how DLBs can support development of story writing objectives in the grade 7 Language Arts POS; see Dual Language Books Video-Curriculum2; read more at Learn Alberta

Discussing strategies for using Language Portfolio tools in relation to grade 5 Language Arts POS, and describing the student story planning process; see Dual Language Books Video-Curriculum3; read more at Learn Alberta


A Student’s Dual Language Storyboard

b. Explore Identity and Community

Discussing multi-ethnic context of Cinderella story and explaining note-taking tools in student Language Portfolio; see Dual Language Books Video-Identity1

Describing how a student makes the link between Chinese New Year and the anti-bullying theme in the school within his own DLB story; see Dual Language Books Video-Identity2

c. Design Multimodal Tasks

Discussing multi-ethnic context of Cinderella story and explaining note taking tools in student Language Portfolio; see Dual Language Books Video-Identity 1

Discussing strategies using Language Portfolio tools in relation to grade 5 Language Arts POS, and describing the student story planning process; see Dual Language Books Video-Curriculum3

Examples:  Student DLB Stories

d. Foster Language Awareness

Discussing strategies for noticing English language features, developing literacy using DLBs, and making Social Studies POS connections; see Dual Language Books Video-Curriculum1

Guest reader responding to student questions; Video to be Posted

Students identifying Spanish words and phrases; Video to be Posted

response journal

Language awareness records in a student’s Language Portfolio

Part 4:  Q & A 

Questions & Answers for Planning a DLB Reading Program 

What is the time frame and process needed for conducting a DLB study?   

Below is one scenario that could be followed for planning a DLB study:

dlb timeline

DLB study

  •  gather student and guest reader feedback to adapt study tasks as needed during study
  • evaluate and reflect on DLB tool effectiveness in relation to chosen outcomes and feedback


Where can the dual language books be sourced and purchased?        

Mantra Lingua: &

Some school libraries and the public library systems have a good selection of DLBs.

Which stories are available and in which languages?

In the Mantra Lingua collection stories are written in English and 63 languages, and can be sorted according to age group, language, reader language level, etc.

How does one choose the languages and the books?

Teachers will make these choices based on school community demographics, curriculum, student age, the classroom cultures and dynamics, and other relevant learning objectives such as school initiatives.

How does one find guest readers and what do the readers do?

Guest readers might be family or community members and can be identified through school or classroom communications.  In some contexts other students in the school might be guest readers.

The guest reader demonstrates the language and answers student questions. It is a powerful role in that he/she is also the purveyor of the culture(s) associated with the language.

How can learning be focused using DLBs?

See videos shared in Part 3: Language Engagement Strategies

Who can I contact for more information about research with DLBs in the classroom?

Dr. Rahat Naqvi, Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary

Part 5: Optional Approaches

Teacher suggestions for alternative learning objectives using DLBs

1. Integration with a second language program in the school

The Cinderella story exists in many languages and could highlight a variety of cultural and linguistic features across cultures and languages.

2. Specific needs of ELL students

An interaction space for teachers and new arrivals who have limited English language skills.

3. Curricular organizational tool

Unit openers for making curricular connections, or as a unit kick-off e.g. start fables unit with ‘Fox Fables’ through a multilingual lens.

4. Inquiry process focus

A dual language story is explored through an inquiry approach (culture, language, other content connections).

5. Bilingual learning

A study involving the native language of ELL students in the class and English; OR, English and the school second language program; OR, a language that has a specific relevance in the grade curriculum; OR, integration in a bilingual program context e.g. English-Chinese Bilingual.

6. Curricular thematic focus

The story and language chosen might be about animals, a moral, a geographic context, etc.

7. Skill focus

 Over the course of the school year revisit a few skills or concepts illustrated through DLBs, e.g. imagery and visualizing concepts, analyzing story structure.

8. ELL learners & community identity and interaction

The languages chosen is determined by guest reader accessibility in the school community and creates the potential for cross grade buddy projects and school-community interaction

9. Student writing, publishing and sharing (presentation skills)

A variety of authentic audiences could be targeted using dual language stories.

10. An exploration of the nature of communication using multilingual language tools.

Growth of language awareness involving tools such as DLBs, visual dictionaries, or personal translation devices.