Critical Approaches to Heritage Language Education

July 20–24, 2020 • Synchronous 1-week online institute

This institute is now FULL.
The wait list is also FULL.

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J. Eik Diggs and Jenna Cushing-Leubner

Teaching heritage learners is not the same as teaching learners of a foreign language. Heritage languages are languages other than English that are spoken in homes, communities, and extended families. Although many of our students come from vibrant multilingual contexts, unless bilingual options are available, youth seldom have access to expanding their home/community languages (and literacy in them) in schools, which are predominantly English environments. When students are given the opportunity to use, learn, and expand on their heritage languages, they are able to tap into an abundance of resources and knowledge.

Participants in this workshop will examine social justice topics, community-based learning for growing heritage language (literacy), and language arts approaches for heritage language development. Participants will collaborate; connect experiences of heritage teachers and learners to research on multilingual development; and learn how to bring communities, classrooms, and digital storytelling together to create powerful heritage language learning environments.


  • This is a synchronous online institute that will run from 9 am-4 pm CDT. The schedule includes many synchronous presentations throughout the day as well as time for independent or partner/group work and a break for lunch.
  • You must be available to participate for the entire day Monday–Friday.
  • Make sure to review the tech requirements for this institute.

Program Schedule (9am-4pm)
Day 1 Knowing Our Languages and Learners
  • Who are Heritage Language Speakers/Learners?
  • Heritage vs. Foreign Language Learning
  • Principles of Heritage Language Instruction
Day 2 Curriculum Development: Identity Texts
  • Identity Texts
  • Multimodal Texts
Day 3 Curriculum Development:
Communities & Content
  • Content, Project, and Community-Based Learning
  • PhotoVoice: Multimodal, Arts-Integrated Texts
  • Youth-Led Participatory Action Research & Critical Service Learning
Day 4 Language Arts and Advocacy
  • Using a Language Arts Approach
  • State Seals of Multilingualism
Day 5 Teaching and Learning Together
  • Collaborative Unit/Lesson Creation
  • Heritage Language Teaching Cohorts

After this institute, you will be able to:

  • Recognize who our heritage language learners are;
  • Identify ways to maintain and strengthen multilingualism, public voice, and literacy confidence in the classroom;

  • Understand various youth-driven pedagogical models to support heritage learners and facilitate school-community engagement and partnerships;

  • Utilize multimodal tools and techniques to create heritage language specific texts and materials;

  • Apply identity texts as an approach to showcase and support language growth; and

  • Generate ways to support heritage learners in your classroom.


Jenna Cushing-Leubner is Assistant Professor in Curriculum and Instruction at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater and coordinator of the World and Heritage Languages Education licensure program, where she also teaches in the ESL and Bilingual/Bicultural education program. She taught in bilingual and ESL contexts for 12 years and has spent the last eight years working with teachers, youth, and community members to create Spanish and Hmong heritage language classes and ESL classes that emphasize multilingualism, social justice, youth research, and transformative learning environments. She is the creator and coordinator of a web-based certificate and additional licensure program in Heritage Language Education through UW-Whitewater.

J. Eik Diggs is a licensed Spanish language and ESL teacher with eight years of experience with heritage language curriculum design and teaching. She developed and taught a multi-year high school Spanish as a Heritage Language program in Minneapolis, Minnesota, infusing ethnic studies, the arts, identity work, and youth participatory action research. She anchors her language teaching in intra-ethnic studies and social justice content, and focuses on developing young people who are strong in their multiple identities and backgrounds. She is a PhD student at the University of Arizona, where she is working with school and community partners to develop Grow Your Own initiatives to increase the numbers of socially-conscious multilingual teachers of color.

Target Audience
This institute is designed for teachers of heritage language, foreign language, Indigenous language, and English as a Second Language at the secondary through the postsecondary level.

Quote MarksRight quote marksThis is the best professional development activity I have participated in. I expected to gain skills to be a more effective instructor. Not only did I gain that, but I also gained a better understanding of our educational system, my students, and even myself.
Elizabeth Barrios, 2019 Participant
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Center for Advanced Research on Language Acquisition (CARLA) • 140 University International Center • 331 - 17th Ave SE • Minneapolis, MN 55414