Hej, Hello, Sannu…
Getting to know each other in our multilingual class


Aoife McCarrick

Dublin City University

“Teach me and I’ll remember, involve me and I’ll learn”- Benjamin Franklin. 
One day as I was taking a break from schoolwork, I stumbled across this quote online. It resonated with me as it embodies the inclusive nature of activities which encourage children to develop a sense of pride in their mother tongues. 
If you are reading this blogpost, you are clearly passionate about using linguistic diversity as a tool to create an inclusive classroom, but you may not know how to actually achieve this. Fear not! I am here to help you! What I love about these activities is that they can be adapted and implemented into any third, fourth or fifth class. This lesson creates a space for all children to share their language experiences. The learning outcomes are greatly focused on children’s social and emotional development. This means that you must reassure children that it is okay if they are unable to spell or pronounce the greetings correctly. 
Introduce the lesson by briefly sharing the learning intentions with the children. The Name Hunt activity is excellent for initiating dialogue amongst the children as they don’t feel the pressure of sharing an answer with their teacher. 
For inspiration on questions, you can have a look at my Table here

Children are actively learning as they move around the class and they must converse with their classmates in order to complete the task. Your role is to stand back, observe the conversations, while providing prompts when necessary. Allow students to complete the table using whatever language they like! Conclude this activity by inviting students to share their answers and make sure to continue questioning the class until all languages have been included. Stress that all languages hold equal importance.

Getting to know each other in our multilingual class
Keeping with the upbeat momentum of this lesson, you will then move onto the creation of the class WordCloud using the software Mentimeter. Encourage students to discuss and share their greetings in pairs before individually writing hello in their chosen language. The children’s words will combine to create a word cloud. This activity is excellent for helping children build connections between languages as they can visually link similarities and differences between languages. For instance, hej in Swedish is similar to hi in English! 
I recommend using arts-based subjects as a medium to facilitate plurilingual teaching and learning. Music and art are subjects that create a platform for children to learn in a fun, engaging and inexplicit way. This is why after the previous two activities, I would continue by working on a multilingual song. Introduce The Hello Song by allowing children to listen to it and then proceed to teach the song line by line, through call and response. You may be thinking, how does this activity promote linguistic diversity? Well, once the children have a good grasp of the lyrics, you tell them that it is their turn to become songwriters. Open up the lyrics on the Interactive Whiteboard and swap the greetings in the original lyrics with the greetings that your students previously shared in the lesson introduction! Finally, create actions with the help of the children once they have a good grasp of the lyrics to help them remember the lyrics. 
Using these strategies means that you are accommodating visual, aural, and kinaesthetic learners. My favourite line in the song is: “We speak in many different ways! Though some things may be different, we’re children just the same!’. The final activity is a whole class art collage that promotes unity and highlights the fact that all languages are equally valued in the classroom. To create this, give each child a black jigsaw template which they will use to write a greeting with an accompanying meaning on. Encourage children to write the name of the language. Remember to give these artists freedom in designing their jigsaw piece! 
I hope you will find these ideas useful for your classroom! You too will embark on a huge learning journey if you create opportunities for children to use their mother tongues in school. You will learn new things from and about your students by implementing these activities      

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