Author: Sahar Mohamedelkhatim Abdrahman Mohamednour | Published on 1 February 2024
Question: How can I support learners in a multilingual environment?
Answer: By making small changes to our current teaching practice.
Ways in which you can support learners in a multilingual environment include:
- Create a welcoming classroom environment by using positive language like encouragement (“You are doing a great job.”), affirmation ('You are capable of solving this.'), constructive feedback ('You are progressing. Here is how you can improve.'), and a respectful tone ('Thank you for your patience.'), and try to be approachable and supportive.
- Learn, understand and respect the diverse cultural backgrounds of your students, listen to their needs and concerns and always provide a safe and comfortable space.
- Encourage students to share their languages, cultures and traditions, emphasise respectful listening and discourage teasing or belittling someone for their language skills.
- Be creative: tailor your methods to better suit your students. Use visual aids that can be understood by all and hands-on activities and group work to include students with different language backgrounds (The “Paper airplane challenge" is a good example of a language neutral activity. The challenge is to create the best paper airplane within a time limit and then fly them and see whose design flies the farthest). These methods transcend language barriers, making it easier for all students to understand and engage with the content.
- Use clear and concise language. Avoid idiomatic expressions and make sure your instructions are simple and clear so the learners grasp the concepts more effectively and confusion is reduced.
- Be patient and show empathy. Multilingual students may face many challenges with English phonetics and accents so encourage them to ask questions.
- Develop professionally. Work on yourself and keep up to date with the best strategies in teaching multilingual students. Attend workshops, conferences and training sessions focused on multilingual education. Bodies like TESOL (teachers of English to speakers of other languages), and the British Council are excellent example of organisations that offer various workshops, training sessions and online webinars focused on multilingual education. (sign up for the British Council course on English in the Multilingual classroom)
- Be flexible in your teaching methods and know that every student is unique. For example, a flexible teacher should adjust their lesson plan to accommodate a student who has fallen behind due to learning difficulties. Identify specific gaps and understand precisely where the student is struggling and then provide extra help like one-on-one or small-group sessions. By individualising support a teacher can effectively help a student who has fallen behind to catch up.