Emerging Bilinguals and Bow-Ties

Learning in a different language can be a challenge when not given enough time. Bow-ties are a formal language many don't speak, and learning to tie one can mimic the needs of emerging bilinguals.

This 20 minute lesson shows teachers how to tie a bow-tie and addresses emerging bilinguals and dual language learners by drawing a comparison to the language of formal wear. It’s based on “Disciplinary Literacy for English Language Learners” by Almanza de Schonewise and Klinger. (PDF)
(Estimated Running Time: 15-20 Minutes)


Teachers will be able to define bow tie, Windsor knot, four-in-hand knot, and half-Windsor knot, Sheltered English Instruction, and Collaborative Strategic Reading.
Teachers will be able to identify elements of Sheltered English Instruction in the lesson.
Teachers will be able to demonstrate how to tie one or more of the four knots.
Teacherss will be able to critique Emerging Bilingual strategies on the basis that the strategies listed in the article are primarily designed for equal or majority English speaking classrooms.


Required materials are normal text, recommended but not required materials are italicized

  • Bow-ties
  • Neck-ties
  • Image guide to tying a bow-tie (PNG)
  • Video of tying a bow-tie
  • Instructions on how to tie a bow-tie

Essential Question(s):

What do does “success” mean in regards to EBs?

Big Ideas:

  • Emerging Bilinguals can be academically successful.
  • Success for Emerging Bilinguals is defined in academic terms.
  • Success for Emerging Bilinguals emphasizes English.
  • Success for Emerging Bilinguals is often considered indoctrination to US academia.
  • Success for Emerging Bilinguals can sometimes ignore cultural needs or differences.
  • Because success for Emerging Bilinguals is in English academia, even good Emerging Bilingual programs may ignore a student’s capabilities in their other language.
  • Emerging Bilingual programs are reliant on English instruction and English classmates.
  • Emerging Bilinguals need vocabulary to be successful, as grammar is often innately learned.
  • Emerging Bilinguals need time to process to be successful, since they lack automaticity.
  • Emerging Bilinguals need support in both languages outside the classroom to be successful.
  • Emerging Bilinguals need a sense of self-worth that is not maligned by their slower learning curve.
  • Academia and Administration define the needs of Emerging Bilinguals instead of the Emerging Bilinguals themselves.

Inquiry Exercise:

(2-3 Minutes)
What is an Emerging Bilingual or Dual Language Learner? How is language and dialect different? Can we consider students with dialectical differences similar to emerging bilinguals?

Introduction to New Material:

(5-7 Minutes)
In their article, Almanza de Schonewise and Klinger discuss many of the issues facing the education of Emerging Bilinguals. In the latter third, they outline three techniques and give vague overviews of their application to help EBs: Sheltered English Instruction, Vocabulary Instruction and Collaborative Strategic Reading. The first and last of these describe specific methodologies that can be applied in a classroom, while vocabulary instruction merely encourages differentiation and lists a few techniques to do so.

In Sheltered English Instruction, the intention is to slow down and provide EBs with more space to succeed. In Collaborative Strategic Reading, EBs are partnered up, preferably with a successful English speaker, in order to better success and be supported. These two ideas are not mutually exclusive.

Because my French isn’t good enough to be comfortable putting you at a disadvantage, we’re going to use my class privilege and discuss language and skill within upper class gentrification. More specifically, I’m going to teach you how to tie a bow-tie using some of the methodologies of Sheltered English Instruction.

There are dozens of different types of knots . The Boy Scouts offer badges in knot tying, and most are used in camping, climbing and sailing, all leisure activities for those people in privilege. In addition, there are four common types of neck-tie knots: Windsor, Half-Windsor, Four-in-Hand Knot, and a Bow-Tie Knot. Each has its own level of social statement when with the upper-crusters.

The Four-in-Hand Knot is your basic neck-tie knot worn by most business men; it’s simple and straight forward, though it occasionally ends up a little lopsided.

The Windsor Knot is the king of neck-tie knots, requiring extra loops that prevent the lop-sidedness and create a perfectly triangular knot. At boarding school, we were required to wear ties three days a week, and those that could tie a good Windsor were often treated with more respect.

The Half-Windsor also creates a more triangular knot and is less lop-sided, but doesn’t use as much tie in the knot; for people who couldn’t afford extremely nice, thin, silk ties, this allowed thicker, cheaper materials to mimic the slightly fancier Windsor knot without puffing out.

I do have some neck ties here for you to play with, but we’re going to concentrate on the ultimate formal neckwear: the bow-tie.

Guided Practice:

(3 Minutes)
In front of you, you have a bow tie. You also have a visual diagram, a list of instructions, and my tablet with two or three videos showing you how to tie it. In Sheltered English Instruction, they emphasize choosing less material, hence why we’re only using bow-ties, and delving into it in greater depth to allow more processing time. I will walk you through tying a bow-tie once right now. After, in your independent practice, I want you to use a video to help you tie it, the picture to help you tie it, and the instructions to help you tie it.

Demonstrate and explain how to tie a bow-tie, have them tie it along with you.

How many of you had tied a tie before? How many of you know how to tie more than 3 types of knots? If you knew 3 or less, you can think of this exercise as mimicking the experience of being an emerging bilingual in the classroom. How does that change how you feel about the repetition of tying a bow-tie?

Individual Practice:

(3-5 Minutes)
Ok, so now, you will tie your bow-tie without my help 3 times, using each of the guides provided. Don’t worry if you don’t get it right; it’s difficult. While you’re doing this, reflect on which aid, including our group tying, worked best for you. Also consider whether you think your best knot happened because of the materials or because you were given the time to practice.


(2 Minutes)
Knots have a certain language of their own. Additionally, neck ties and bow-ties speak specifically to a class difference and an expectation of etiquette. When working with EBs, we can give them vocabulary, effectively dressing them in a tuxedo, and they can functionally pass in their English classrooms, but we’re doing them a disservice not being patient and letting them gain a deeper understanding, i.e. knowing what each knot will say to people already indoctrinated to this other culture. As you think about the techniques you’ll use to deal with EBs, make sure you consider whether you’re providing them the tools for social mobility or if you’re merely playing dress-up.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *