Multilingual Teaching
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Multilingual Teaching


[ ♪ background music ♪ ] Hello, my name is Roma Chumak-Horbatsch.
I am an Associate Professor in the School of Early Childhood Studies at Ryerson University,
in Toronto, Canada. In this video, I bring you important information
about multilingual teaching, a pedagogy that is gaining in momentum and popularity in countries
with high immigration, where learning centres and classrooms are filled with children from
many different language backgrounds. Let’s start with five questions:
What is multilingual teaching? What are the main features of this pedagogy?
What does the research say about multilingual teaching?
Why adopt his pedagogy? Where does multilingual teaching happen?
As I address these questions, I will provide basic information about multilingual teaching.
For more detailed information, I invite you to have a look at these two multilingual teaching
guides. The first question: What is multilingual teaching?
Here’s a three-part answer to this question. Multilingual teaching is:
an educational response to changing school populations;
a new way to teach in “language rich” schools;
an inclusive pedagogy that reflects, supports, extends and enriches the social and linguistic
realities of all learners. What does this mean?
It means that as teachers become aware of the linguistic diversity in their classrooms,
they review their practice and shift their teaching from a monolingual to a multilingual
focus. Multilingual teaching is also known as: Linguistically
responsive teaching, Linguistically Appropriate Practice (LAP), Plurilingual pedagogy, Teaching
through a multilingual lens, Humanizing pedagogy, and a critical movement in education.
Now let’s look at the main features of multilingual teaching.
Multilingual teaching: upsets and challenges the traditional separation
of languages found in schools; restores home languages to their rightful
place as important language learning “allies.” transforms teaching and learning;
shifts the curriculum from the local to the global and links the home and the school.
Multilingual teaching: engages all learners in language and literacy
discovery and sharing; uses learners’ prior knowledge as a starting
point in learning; brings home languages “out of hiding”;
helps newcomers move from a passive place in the classroom to active participation in
the curriculum. And finally, multilingual teaching is supported
by learning and bilingual concepts, theories, frameworks and orientations.
Let’s move on to the next question: What does the research say about multilingual teaching?
Multilingual teaching is supported and explained by learning and bilingual concepts, theories,
frameworks and orientations. It is not a stand-alone idea or notion, but
a pedagogy with solid research grounding. A simple tree will help us better understand
this. It will also illustrate how multilingual practice
and theory go hand in hand. As you know, a tree has two parts: one part
is visible (the leaves and the branches), and the other part is invisible (the roots).
Arborists or tree specialists tell us that these two parts are interdependent and interconnected.
This means that what happens to one part of the tree affects the other part.
For example, the health of the leaves and branches effects the health of the roots;
and in the same way, the state of the roots impacts the health of the leaves and the branches.
Like the simple tree, the multilingual teaching tree has two parts.
One part of the multilingual tree is visible. This includes multilingual practice, classroom
activities, initiatives, and projects. The other part of the multilingual teaching
tree is invisible. It includes bilingual theories, frameworks
and orientations that support and explain this pedagogy.
Let’s have a closer look at the invisible support of multilingual teaching.
The concept of social justice is central to all teaching, and critical to multilingual
pedagogy. It promotes tolerance, freedom, inclusion
and equality for every learner. In the multilingual classroom, then, everyone
is included and invited to participate. Research tells us that prior knowledge is
central in learning; when we learn something new, we use what we already know.
This means that every learner has a knowledge base and a set of skills.
The multilingual teacher builds on and extends this prior understanding.
For example, in multilingual classrooms home languages are used as a starting point in
the learning of the school language. Strength-based orientation comes from social
work practice. It focuses on the positive, the strong and
the good in each and every learner. In contrast to the deficit view that looks
at what is wrong, what is missing and what is incomplete, the strength based orientation
looks for and builds on learners’ strengths, skills and abilities.
For every child, then, the multilingual teacher asks: what is good here?
For Social constructivists, learning is a personal and a social journey.
Children construct knowledge, they tell us, from direct personal experience and also from
interactions with peers and adults. In the multilingual classroom, the exploration
of language and literacy, engages all learners and helps them develop a deeper understanding
of how texts work and how language is used across curriculum contexts.
Dynamic bilingualism is a new way of looking at bilinguals.
This theory describes the two languages of a bilingual as fluid, dynamic and interconnected.
It focuses on language use rather than on skills bilinguals have in their two languages.
Translanguaging is a term that describes how bilinguals naturally and spontaneously use
their two languages: they use their entire language repertoire to manage the communicative
needs they encounter. With this in mind, multilingual teachers open
their classrooms doors to all languages. The focus of multiliteracies pedagogy is making
teaching more inclusive of cultural, linguistic, communicative, and technological diversity.
It engages all learners by including their experiences, backgrounds and interests in
all aspects of the curriculum. This pedagogy moves beyond the traditional,
linear definition of literacy (the ability to read and write) and takes into account
how literacy has been influenced by social, linguistic, cultural, and technological changes.
In the multilingual classroom, then, learners are encouraged to prepare and share texts
using the language or languages of their choice and a wide range of multimodal resources such
as audio, images, sound, graphics and drama. The right to participation comes directly
from the UNICEF Conventions on the Rights of the Child.
It serves as a reminder that every child has the right to be included and to participate
in the classroom. Taken together the invisible part of the multilingual
teaching tree, the concepts, frameworks, theories and orientations give credence and validity
to multilingual teaching. Now let’s go back to the multilingual teaching
tree. Like the visible and invisible parts of the
simple tree, the two parts of the multilingual teaching tree – the multilingual practice
and the underlying explanations – work together and are closely connected.
An understanding of this theory-practice connection will help sustain multilingual teaching and
ensure that it remain an ongoing addendum to the prescribed curriculum.
With this understanding, the multilingual teacher will be prepared to say with confidence:
This is what I do, and this is why I do it. We now turn to the fourth question: why adopt
multilingual teaching? The short and fast answer to this question
comes from Gary Howard, an American educator who says: “As diversity grows, so must we.”
Due to international migration, transnational population mobility, and globalization, school
populations worldwide have changed. They are becoming increasingly “language-rich”
with learners from many language backgrounds. Let’s look at some numbers.
According to this UNICEF document entitled “Uprooted”, fifty million children have
left their homes since 2016. Many of these children enter childcare centres
and schools in their host country, significantly changing the population.
In addition to changing school populations, here are four additional reasons to adopt
multilingual teaching. Monolingual teaching does not work in language-rich
classrooms. When everything happens in the school language
newcomers become disengaged and find it difficult to navigate their new environment, learn the
school language and participate in the curriculum. Recent research has provided us with an updated
understanding of terms that are central to multilingual teaching: these include language,
literacy, multilingualism, learners, learning, language learning and the teacher.
Findings from recent research studies have established the following:
children can manage and effectively navigate more than one language;
bilingualism has a positive impact on learners’ personal, social, linguistic and cognitive
development; bilingual children use language differently
than monolinguals; and finally, multilingual environments can
enhance the communicative skills of all children. Adopting multilingual pedagogy helps stop
language loss. Including home language in the classroom sends
a clear message to bilingual children: your language is important.
This message encourages children to continue using their home languages and grow bilingually.
When this happens home languages will be developed, not lost.
In multilingual classrooms, everyone benefits. When classroom doors are open to languages,
everyone wins: all children, newcomers, bilinguals and monolinguals, teachers, school staff,
and school community. We now turn to our last question: where does
multilingual teaching happen? Multilingual teaching is adopted in countries
with high immigration and in language rich childcare centres, preschools, classrooms
and specialized programs such as music, art, sports, language intervention.
More and more teachers in these countries are responding to the linguistic diversity
in their classrooms, retooling their instructional practice and adopting multilingual teaching.
Finally, let’s put all of this together. Multilingual teaching is the “go to” pedagogy
in language rich classrooms. It is a powerful pedagogy that is transforming
teaching and learning. It enriches all learners and adds challenge
and excitement to teaching! [ ♪ background music ♪ ]

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