Your multilingual pupils are getting ready to go back to school and they are keen to tell you all about their Summer holidays. Some will be shy, some won’t feel confident speaking English after a long period in their grandparents’ home abroad, some will want to say something, but the special word they are looking for will not “come out” in English…
The first few days back after the long Summer break will help children settle into their new routine, get to know each other and the new teacher and talk about themselves. This is a great time for discovering more about your pupils’ languages and to start thinking about how to make the best use of multilingualism throughout the school year.
To find out more about the languages spoken in your class you can use The languages in my life (downloadable here). This is a questionnaire designed to suit every child, no matter how many languages they know. It will be very useful at the start of the year. You might also want to repeat the same activity at the end of the year to see whether there has been a change in your pupils’ interest in other languages or to find out whether they feel they can do more in Irish than they did at the start of the year.
Reflecting on language and making use of the full linguistic repertoire of children is something that truly benefits every child in the class. Research has shown that migrant children who are encouraged to develop their mother tongue either in school or in complementary education (like Saturday schools) perform better in school than children who don’t.
It goes without saying that when children know that you have an interest in the language they speak at home they get a great confidence boost and your relationship with the child and the family will benefit.
When teachers promote a plurilingual approach in their activities across subjects, children who don’t speak another language at home may become more interested in using Irish and they will see language learning as an asset.
You don’t need to be a language whiz to make this happen in your class. Your pupils are the language experts, you just need to facilitate.
This website and the Language Explorers activity book will accompany on this journey.