“I Don’t Speak Science”: Preparing Monolingual Teachers to Work with Multilingual Learners

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International Handbook of Research on Multicultural Science Education




Academic language in science is a barrier for many students that inhibits learning, success, and interest. This is an added barrier for multilingual students learning English in American schools. The majority of teachers in the United States are monolingual English speakers who are increasingly teaching English learners (ELs) and bilingual/multilingual students. Education coursework and experiences geared toward meeting the needs of multilingual students are commonly relegated to isolated courses, if they are provided at all. Due to the limited exposure to research and methods for teaching culturally and linguistically diverse students, many monolingual teachers feel inadequately prepared to adapt teaching strategies to help multilingual learners. This is compounded with many teachers’ lack of confidence in their scientific pedagogical content knowledge. In this chapter, the researchers draw on their teaching experiences in K-12 and teacher education classrooms, to explore how the conscious teaching of academic language strategies in science can help students connect with science and multilingualism. We present a case study based on an in-class roleplay that was carried out in an elementary science methods course, to help us explore how monolingual preservice teachers (PSTs) learn to understand and support multilingual learners. PSTs who participated in the roleplay reflected that the activity increased their empathy, as well as their understanding of why explicit academic language supports are necessary for multilingual students. We argue that for PSTs such experiences should be embedded throughout their teacher preparation coursework to reinforce the importance of using explicit academic language supports for not only multilingual learners but for all learners.


Georgia Southern University faculty members, Alexandra J. Reyes and Katie Brkich co-authored “I Don’t Speak Science”: Preparing Monolingual Teachers to Work with Multilingual Learners.


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