Oracy and literacy

Many people in the world are multilingual but little know that speaking several languages brings numerous advantages to the development of the brain and mind. Multilingualism develops memory, concentration, rapid adaptation, attention, emotion regulation, and behaviour control. These cognitive skills are fundamental not only for language learning but also for knowledge acquisition in other domains, like mathematics, because they make it easy for a multilingual person to recognise elements, set goals, and solve problems quickly and efficiently.

With all being said, multilingualism has real advantages for people. Pre-school children can benefit from them the most because they are at the beginning of their developmental journey. That is why in those lucky classrooms that include children who are speakers of different home languages, multilingualism should be cherished as a resource and educators should develop both oracy in a home language and multiliteracies.

Bialystok, E. (2017). The bilingual adaptation: How minds accommodate experience. Psychological Bulletin, 143(3), 233-262.

Celic, C., & Seltzer, K. (2011). Translanguaging: A CUNY-NYSIEB guide for educators. New York City, NY: The City University of New York.

Chumak-Horbatsch, R. (2012). Linguistically appropriate practice: A guide for working with young immigrant children (2nd ed.). Toronto, CA: University of Toronto Press.


There are multiple activities that the teachers can use for the oral integration of all languages and cultures that children in the classroom represent.

Daily, teachers weave children’s home languages in the routinised activities. This includes such rituals as greeting children in all home languages every morning, making effort to pronounce the names of the children correctly, and apologising for children that they do not speak their home languages. In this way, teachers help children to feel more empowered and valued in the classroom, as well as present their home languages. Teachers can also include in these daily rituals the provision of positive feedback in children’s home languages (words like ‘good’, ‘bravo’ in home languages), which provides an emotional impact.

Teachers design an activity that includes listening to the stories in each of the home languages of children using portable speakers. The incorporation of technology allows teachers to arrange the listening activities in different languages of children, which is especially useful when teachers do not speak these languages. Teachers can play the audios of the stories from the picture books that they read to children in the classroom. In this way, they combine the reading/telling the story from the book in the language of instruction and listening to the same story in the home language of each child. If teachers cannot find the pre-recorded audios of the stories in home languages on the Internet or CDs, they can ask children’s (great)parents, school community members, or older students to translate the stories from the language of instruction to children’s home languages, record the translation, and play it in the class.

Alike the previous activity, this one includes the use of technology by teachers such as CDs, USBs, and sound systems. Once a week, teachers arrange the music day in one of the home languages of children. The choice of songs is given to a student or a group of students who have the same home language. The selected songs are played several times during the school day. Each week, another home language group selects the songs, and the activity is repeated for them. This activity is interactive and fun for children and exposes them to different languages in an entertaining way.

In this activity, teachers use a voice recorder that can also reproduce the sound. While asking children to say the same word or sentence in each of the home languages, teachers record them one by one. After the recording of home languages is done, teachers play the audio recording to children and ask them to identify the language and the speaker. This activity combines both language production and reception and trains the children’s language awareness.

This activity does not necessitate the use of devices, teachers can use paper materials. Teachers create a table and fill in its columns with the names of different home languages. They also mark or highlight home languages names with different colours. After that, they say the colour or show the colour on the table and ask those children who speak these languages to raise their hands. This is another activity that develops the language awareness of children.

A playful and fun exercise, this activity involves many home languages and only one ball. A teacher holds a ball and says a word in the language of instruction (Luxembourgish). After the word is articulated, the teacher passes the ball to a child next to them. The child says the same word but in their home language and passes the ball to the next child. The action repeats until all children’s languages are represented in the classroom. After a while, children can play it alone without the teacher as they get to know the concept.

To make it even more fun, teachers can incorporate music into this activity. In this way, the teacher pronounces a word and passes the ball to the next child. The child passes the ball further without saying the word in their home language. The ball goes around until the music stops. The child who holds the ball once the music stops translates the word into their home language. The activity repeats.

Teachers need a picture on which many colourful and bright objects are depicted. Teachers ask children to name the objects on the picture in their home languages and/or in Luxembourgish. This activity also includes both language production (by one child at a time) and reception (by all other children). The bright and colourful objects make the activity catchy and serve as good visual illustrations for other children to remember the words from the home languages of other children.

Teachers prepare the cards that contain a symbol or a word in the language of instruction. A teacher shows a card to all children, goes through the table of home languages (as in activity 4) one by one, and asks each child to name the word in their home language. In case some children do not know the word, the teacher suggests that they ask their parents at home and communicate the word to the class the next day.

Teachers say words representing a day (for example, Saturday) and a month (for example, April) in the language of instruction and suggest to all children to translate the words into different home languages. As children translate, they can additionally put the cards with these words in each respective language on the blackboard to reinforce the visualisation.

For this activity, children are asked to bring the objects that represent their home cultures and countries to the classroom. These can be clothes, dolls, or toys. In the classroom, teachers arrange the playing activity in which children name the objects in their home languages.

In this activity, teachers suggest children to play with animal figures. During the play, teachers take the initiative and name the animals in the home language of each child. Thus, in this activity, it is not children who pronounce the words but teachers. In case teachers say the words wrongly, children can correct them.

This creative activity involves several children at once. Teachers ask children to choose a story (a fairy tale or a story from a storybook) to play it out as if in a theatre. In preparation for the play, children choose which character they want to play and pick up the clothes. The most interesting part is that children also choose the language(s) in which they want to play. Consequently, when they present the story, they may use several languages in a single play, composing a rich multilingual context of language immersion.

Similarly to the previous activity, this one engages children to use their home languages in a play mode. But in this case, children play a chosen story not themselves but using the puppets. Since each child manipulates one puppet, every puppet speaks a different language—the home language of each respective child. The play of the puppet theatre is shown to other children in the classroom, again creating a language immersion multilingual space.

Teachers design an activity in which they together with children organise a classroom supermarket. Together, they decide on its name and create a list of everything that is needed for it, like money, checkout, vouchers, advertisements, baskets, signs. After that, teachers ask parents to bring multilingual containers to the classroom that will be used in the supermarket. Children organise and sort the containers by language, size, and category. In this way, children learn to recognise languages. The supermarket can be themed, for example, the Egyptian market.

In this activity, teachers encourage children to share the daily rituals that they and their family go through before eating at home. These rituals of mealtimes can include reciting or singing a prayer, wishing each other good appetite, and so on. Teachers can also ask children to teach the class how to say ‘Gudden Appetit’ in their home languages. The activity of saying ‘Gudden Appetit’ in different home languages or copying mealtime rituals of different cultures can become a daily activity in the class.

Link: https://www.omniglot.com/language/phrases/bonappetit.htm

Alike the previous activity, this one is linked to the mealtime routine of children, in particular, breakfast. Teachers ask children to paint their typical breakfast and then explain it to the class. Since students can come from different cultures, their visualisation of eating habits may vary, creating an informative multicultural space in the classroom. In addition to this, the inclusion of terms denoting food and cutlery in home languages reinforces the exposure to different home cultures of children.

This activity is only for teachers to keep track of children’s achievements in the development of oral skills in languages (in general, in Luxembourgish, and in the home language).
Teachers are recommended to record the linguistic performance of each child at regular intervals. Teachers can create a table with several columns to fill in. The first column fits the names of children, and the second column describes the tasks that children were asked to complete. In the column entitled ‘General language performance’, teachers assess each child’s skills of using their entire linguistic repertoire (without the distinction between named languages) for complex thoughts, convincing, comparing, contrasting, giving directions, telling things, telling jokes, and so on. In the following two columns called ‘Luxembourgish language performance’ and ‘Home language performance’ teachers differentiate between languages and assess children’s performance in Luxembourgish and in the home language separately.
Additionally, teachers can create a table in which they describe in more details the progress in Luxembourgish and the home language. After writing the child’s name, age, and date, teachers assess children’s oral skills such as listening and talking. They can write such assessments like “Listens carefully” “Follows instructions and directions”, “Talks to the group”, “Tells/continues stories”, “Plays with the language”, “Translanguages”, and so on.

Alike children’s oracy in their home languages, the development of writing and reading in home languages is extremely important. There are several activities that can be employed to enhance multiliteracies in the classroom:

Book of home languages

Teachers suggest children making a book together. The book will contain the writing in all home languages that are present in the class. Each home language is given its own page in the book, and children write their names under their home language.

Multilingual newspaper

This activity allows the collaboration of teachers, children, and parents. Teachers suggest children designing a newspaper that will contain the information in different home languages and the language of instruction. First, children decide on a newspaper title together. Then, they appoint staff (publishers, journalists, photographers). Next, the newspaper’s size and the number of pages are planed together. The plan of article topics is also done with all children. The topics can concern class events, excursions, visitors, special days, celebrations, and so on. In other words, they reflect the everyday life of the class. At the production stage, parents are asked to help children to write the articles in their home languages and find photos and illustrations to articles. After the material is ready, teachers help children to prepare the layout. When it is time to present, the finished newspaper is read to the children. Parents are invited to participate too by reading their parts of the newspaper in their home languages.

Presentation of a book

In this activity, children are asked to present a book that has been read aloud to the class. To express themselves, each child is invited to use both Luxembourgish and their home language, meaning their full linguistic repertoire. Other children help to translate the words from their home languages to the rest of the class.

Bi- or multilingual books and texts

This activity is about reading a bilingual book in a language of instruction (Luxembourgish) and a home language (for example, in Arabic). In preparation for the activity, teachers need to borrow from the library or craft bilingual books in different home languages. The books can be created in the joined efforts of the school and families. Teachers can ask parents, school community members, and/or older students to translate the storybooks from Luxembourgish to the home languages. Teachers can also read the Luxembourgish text and directly ask the children in the class to translate some words into their home languages. Teachers themselves can also deliberately translate certain strategic words into the home languages while reading in Luxembourgish in the classroom and, in this way, prepare children for the vocabulary in home languages.
To implement this activity, parents are invited to come to the classroom. Teachers ask parents to participate in a bilingual book reading for children. First, a teacher reads the book in Luxembourgish, and then a parent reads the same book in their home language. After that, the book is read once again, but this time, page by page: a page in Luxembourgish followed by the same page in the home language and so on. Parents who read the story in their home language are asked to speak slowly and clearly and point to the pictures so that children have enough time to process the information in the new language and have some visualisation to connect the image to the new vocabulary. While reading the story in the home language, parents can ask children to translate some words from this language to Luxembourgish. They can also stop in the reading process and ask children, “What comes next?”, which enables the development of foresight. As the practice shows, children can grasp the meaning of the words in the new language and actively participate in the reading activity by answering the questions that the parent asks about the story.

Culturally relevant book

Alike in the previous activity of bilingual book reading, teachers invite parents to create a book about cultural relevance and read it in the classroom. Children are then asked different questions like “Are the characters like you and your family? Have you ever lived in such a place or been there on holiday? Could this story have happened this year? What do you think, are the characters of your age? Are the characters in the story boys or girls? Do characters talk like you and your family? How often do you hear such stories? Have you ever had such an experience as described in the story?” By provoking discussion, teachers create a space of immersion in different cultures and languages for children.

Multilingual cards

Teachers suggest children crafting greeting cards dedicated to different holidays. The holidays can be from different cultures. For example, birthdays, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Christmas, Ramadan, Hanukah, Chinese New Year, and so on. Children create the cards in their home languages and also in Luxembourgish.

book

Once a month, teachers ask children to write their name in Luxembourgish and in their home language (especially if their home language has a different script) and in a sign-in book.

School library

Teachers encourage parents to go to the school library with their children and look at the books. Parents can borrow bilingual books or books in their home language from the library and read them at home to children. The next day, they can bring the books back and borrow new books. In this way, those parents who cannot read in the language of instruction can read to their children stories in the home languages. When these same stories are later read by teachers in the classroom in Luxembourgish, children already know the story plots and can understand them.
Teachers can also organise open days once or twice a week after school to meet parents and have time to discuss children’s progress, advice some books for home reading, and answer parents’ questions.


Teachers create lists of cognates, the words from different home languages that have the same linguistic derivation. For example, Banann (Luxembourgish) – Banane (German) – banana (French) – banana (Portuguese) – banan (Polish). At the same time, teachers create a list of false cognates, the words from different home languages that look similar but have different meanings. For example, actual (English) – aktuell (German). Teachers ask children to find the words that are cognates and the words that are false cognates. In this way, children critically assess languages and develop their multiliteracy. In case of correctly identified false cognates, children are asked to say which word would be correct, for example, actual (English) – wirklich (German). Additionally, children are asked to visualise the words.

Four-box graphic

This activity is a wordplay with visualisation. On a blackboard or a sheet of paper, a teacher draws a graphic that consists of four boxes (sections). The first box contains a word written in many languages, including Luxembourgish and the home languages of all children in the class. The second box contains a picture that serves as a visualisation of the word. The third box contains a synonym of the word. And in the fourth box, each child writes a word or a phrase that represent for them a personal connection to the word.

Book of numbers

Teachers give each child a book with ten blank pages. Children are asked to draw pictures of familiar objects on the pages: the number of objects that children are allowed to draw on each page should correspond to the page number. In other words, children need to draw one object on the first page, two objects on the second page, three objects on the third page, and so on until ten. After that, children number the pages and write a word for each number in their home language. For example, they put the number ‘2’ on the second page and write ‘dois’ (Portuguese). Parents are also invited to help children in this literacy activity.

Protocol for languages and reading skills

Not involving children, this activity is for teachers to keep track of students’ development of literacy in different languages. Teachers are invited to create a table in which they record the progress of children in reading and writing skills in Luxembourgish and in their home languages. The table includes the name and age of the child, the date, and the description of the child’s linguistic behaviour. For example, teachers can write “Demonstrates reading-like behaviour: holds book straight, flips pages, looks and points words”, “Recognises his/her own name written down”, “Likes to write symbols on the paper”, and so on.

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