Multilingual classroom

In societies with a high population of immigrants like Luxembourg, multilingualism is a reality for both adults and children. For a young child, the most linguistically diverse environment is a classroom, and it is managed by a teacher. That is why the development of the child’s diverse linguistic repertoire greatly depends on the language-related efforts of a teacher who can support the development of multilingualism in the class by capitalising on children’s home languages. For a teacher to be a successful architect of multilingual classrooms, they need to have decent materials to work with. The following list presents the description of the activities that will provide a teacher with such materials:

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.

Language table

To know more about students and their linguistic repertoires, teachers need to collect information about languages that are present in the classroom. They can create a table of languages in which they put a name of the language, write down how many speakers of a given language there are in the classroom, and note their names. They can also include short information about the country or countries in which the language is spoken, including information about the country’s flag, the writing system with the examples of letters, and the system of numbers that is used in the country. This basic but core information will help teachers to be aware of the linguistic diversity of their classroom and to respond to the children’s multilingualism more mindfully.

Bilingual picture dictionaries

Once teachers know about the variety of languages in their classroom, they need to be prepared to manage the multilingual communicative situations in which misunderstandings may occur. To avoid misunderstandings, teachers could use bilingual dictionaries, in particular, bilingual picture dictionaries if they teach pre-school children. The use of such dictionaries helps to avoid confusion and facilitates the understanding between teachers and students. It also shows to children that teachers are open to their linguistic repertoires and are ready to learn together with them. Such actions potentially create a stronger emotional bond between teachers and students and promote children’s feeling of acceptance and belonging to the classroom community.

Multilingual books

To promote a multilingual environment, teachers need to make sure that children have access to the books in their home languages in the classroom. To ease the access and search, multilingual classroom books can be categorised into three separate groups: books in Luxembourgish, dual language books, and books in home languages. Categorisation of classroom books can be done together with children, transforming this task into a literacy development activity for children. It is advisable to check books every day or week.

For example, the Ministry of National Education of Luxembourg also offers a catalogue of children books that is available on their website.

Multilingual songs

Singing songs in different home languages is another activity that contributes to the development of a multilingual classroom. With the help of parents, other home language speakers, or the Internet, a teacher can translate different children songs to home languages spoken by children. These songs may be the songs linked to the classroom routine like good morning songs, weather songs, tidy up songs, and farewell songs. They can also be well-known songs like Old MacDonald or Frère Jacques. This activity of learning the versions of the songs in different languages, first, exposes children to multilingualism thus enriches their linguistic repertoire and, second, strengthens their literacy in the home language.

For example, the Ministry of National Education of Luxembourg also offers a catalogue of children books that is available on their website.

Colour-coded home languages

Teachers can mark different home languages with different colours. For example, Luxembourgish is marked with blue, German with red, Portuguese with green, and so on. This colour code may be useful and practical in further activities related to home languages and the development of multiliteracies.

For example, the Ministry of National Education of Luxembourg also offers a catalogue of children books that is available on their website.

Words with multilingual translation

Visual materials like flashcards and posters are always very helpful for language learning and maintenance. When it comes to young children, colourful flashcards with words, especially when they are accompanied by visual representations, catch children’s attention easily. That is why teachers should use flashcards with words translated to different home languages in literacy development activities. When children are exposed to different languages simultaneously on a single flashcard, this builds the association between languages, and the words get remembered faster. Some prepared multilingual materials including flashcards can be found on the website below.
Link: Schoolslinks

Numbers with multilingual translation

Similar to words, the translation of numbers to different home languages of children can be used as material in classroom activities. They can be put on the flashcards or sorted into tables. There are many resources online that help teachers find the translation of numbers (and many other materials) to different languages:
Links: CountingNumbersIlanguages

Colours with multilingual translation

Like words and numbers, the name of colours can be translated to different home languages and used in further literacy development activities in the classroom.
Link: Multilingual

Days with multilingual translation

Following the same pattern, days of the week can be translated into different languages. For teachers, it is then very easy to daily use children’s home languages in the routinised activities, for example in the morning greetings.

Link: Days

Months with multilingual translation

The names of months can also be translated to various home languages of children. The translation of months, as well as the translation of days, can be put on the flashcards or on the posters hung in the classroom so that both teachers and children have daily access to the words in different languages. This facilitates their frequent use.
Link: Months

Seasons with multilingual translation

Additionally, teachers can find the translation of names of the seasons to different home languages of children.
Link: Seasons

Posters with multilingual translation

Separate posters should be created containing the translation of the words ‘Hello’ and ‘Bye’ in all languages of children. This material is useful for daily use, that is why it should be exhibited in the classroom so that children and teachers have quick access to the translation.
Link: Schoolslinks

Multilingual labels

To expose children to all home languages, teachers can use labels in different languages to mark the objects in the classroom. The labels are multilingual, meaning containing the names of a word in different languages.

Home languages tree

Fun and engaging, this activity is about crafting a tree of home languages in the classroom. Together with children, teachers cut a tree trunk with branches out of cardboard or paper. Then, they add the ‘leaves’ to the branches, each leaf representing a home language of a child. The leaves can be in the form of flags of a home country, words in the home language, photos and child’s drawings that represent the language, or greetings in the home language.

Multilingual puzzles

Children work together to solve multilingual puzzles. The puzzles can include different tasks such as the identification or definition of words, numbers that count to a special day, symbols, pictures/photo that portray strong emotions, and phrases written in the home languages of children in the classroom. The puzzles can be dedicated to someone’s birthday, family events of a child, classroom or school events, holiday, classroom rule, highlights of stories that were read in the classroom, newspapers or advertisement clips in all home languages, a theme of the day, and so on.

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