How to support bilingual and multilingual learners

A huge thank you to Eowyn Crisfield for joining me for today’s ‘fireside chat’, all about improving the learning experiences of bilingual and multilingual learners.

We invited Eowyn to join us as a number of schools have recently approached us, drawn by Learning Ladders software enabling schools to very easily create their own bespoke curriculum for teaching any language, in any language to native and non-native speakers.  And because our remote learning platform – Ladders at Home – has a unique ‘Translation‘ function which means all home learning, be that tasks or tutorials, can be accessed by learners (and their parents) in any one of 100+ languages at the touch of a button.

If you are a school who has bilingual or multilingual learners, or needs to teach languages in multiple languages, then do reach out to arrange a free short demo of how the software works, and how we can help you.

Anyway, back to the chat with Eowyn Crisfield!

The recording of the session is below, and we’ll be adding to this blog post over the next few days with more information and resources as mentioned in the session, so do check back.

In the meantime do enjoy, and share with colleagues!


Bilingual Families: A practical language planning guide’

Linguistic and Cultural Innovation in Schools: The Languages of Challenge’


Supporting Bilingual & Multilingual Learners webinar transcription.

This is a computed-generated transcription of the webinar is below, for those who may find this useful. Please note these are automated and not checked, so we take no responsibility of errors, inaccuracies or oddities!

Matt (Learning Ladders) Hello, everybody, and welcome to our webinar / fireside chat. This is very much an interactive session, so if you have any questions or comments, do type them into the Q&A section of Zoom. And if you want to introduce yourself in the chat, do that. It’s always nice to know where people are from, so just say hello in the chat and we can sort of share where everybody is from.

So in terms of the session for today, obviously we’re talking about bilingual and multilingual learners and how we can improve their learning in schools. I’m Matt Koster-Marcon, I’m a former teacher and the founder of Learning Ladders Education. We also have Eowyn Crisfield, who’s a senior lecturer, Oxford Brookes University and author of Linguistic and Cultural Innovation in Schools.

For those of you who are not familiar with Learning Ladders we have functionality within the system that enables any teacher, any school, to design, implement, track, record and share any curriculum for any language, in any language. So this issue can be planned for, managed and reported alongside every other subject, all in on system, giving a complete picture of every learner. Multicultural schools, multilingual learners is very much part of what we do here. Hence, this webinar.

If you go to our website, which is Learning Ladders.Info and you go to the news section, you’ll find all the blogs and all the information that we’re talking about today on here. We’ve done a whole range of these in the past, so hopefully they’re interesting and we’re going to focus on some particular things today.

I’m just going to give you a quick tour of Learning Ladders. For those of you who are not familiar with the Learning Ladders software so that you know exactly what we’re talking about, otherwise you might be in the dark. Learning Ladders is a software system that is used by lots of international schools around the world, and it’s used for curriculum design. It’s used for tracking, for parental engagement, for reporting, for data analytics and a whole load of things.

But one of the things that you can do very easily within the platform is create your own curriculum, and that’s particularly relevant for a lot of our schools because they will do that in any language. So, for example, we have content within here. This particular example is in in Arabic for a lot of our schools in the Middle East who need to teach Arabic as part of their teaching programme parts of their curriculum, either for native or non-native speakers. We have schools in China who will use this for Mandarin schools all around the world, as well as obviously European languages.

So when we’re talking later on about implementing language curricula within the system, we’re talking about this particular functionality within Learning Ladders, which enables you to set up and implement your curriculum for any language, in any language within the system.

We’ll probably also touch about how that looks for remote learning, how that looks for upskilling parents. And when we’re talking about that, what we’re talking about is the remote learning platform of Learning Ladders. So again, for those of you not familiar with that, what this looks like is me logging in here into the remote learning platform. This is the child that I’m looking at. These are all the goals that this child is currently working on based on every individual child’s individual objectives in the school’s curriculum. But. Each one of these then links to supporting tutorials and resources written by our team here. And each of those up skills, parents and the children about exactly what this particular learning objective is than the bit that’s relevant for today is all of these are available in over 100 languages at the click of a button.

So you literally go through the system, change the language to whatever you want, and it will make all of this accessible in any language for you. Now, that’s obviously extremely useful because as a school, what that means is you can create your curriculum in your home language. For most of our schools, that’s English. Publish it to parents, but then they can consume it in whatever language they want. So that’s what we’re talking about when we’re talking about making stuff accessible later on, designing the curriculum, sharing it with children and sharing it with parents in this way.

So that’s my that’s my little bringing everybody up to speed in terms of the system and how that works and what we’re talking about here. Let’s get back to the main event of today, and I wonder if I can get you two to join us and say a quick hello, maybe do a quick introduction and then we’ll crack through with with some of the questions that we pre-prepared. And like I said, do. For those of you on the session, do adding questions into the into the Q&A as we go and we’ll cover those and pick them up.


Eowyn Crisfield Thanks very much. Thank you for having me today. I don’t have a fire beside me, so we’ll just have to be imagining the fire. So my name is Eowyn Critchfield. I’m a Canadian raised and educated language specialist mentioned on a senior lecturer at Oxford Brookes. That is true, but I also spend the majority of my time working in and with international schools around the world on their languages provisions, whether that’s Yale, the host country, language, home languages or world languages.


Matt (Learning Ladders) All right. So you’re very much the expert in the room, and I’m going to try and get you to do as much talking to me and do a little more talking as possible. We have an incredibly diverse audience. I’m just looking at where everybody is coming from here. So thank you for letting us know we’ve got the Netherlands, Kenya, Rwanda, Sweden, Qatar, Casablanca, Amsterdam, Korea, all sorts of places. So we have a truly international audience, which is fantastic. Let’s start with some of the questions that we talked about before. A couple of the things that we identified to start with were around, I guess, just understanding where you’re at from a school’s perspective and an initial audience. Maybe if you’d like to put some flesh on the bones for that one.


Eowyn Crisfield So schools can’t really dig into developing curriculum and pedagogy until they know who their students are on what they need. And and there’s there’s no kind of clear premade tool to do this, but it’s really important to have a clear understanding of your students language profiles because one language always influences another. And so we see an international education, a lot of highly mobile families and highly mobile children. And when they come in, we we often ask questions like Where is your, where’s the mother from? Where’s the father from? And we use those passports as kind of a proxy for the languages the children might speak, and it may be completely inaccurate representation. And so the three things that it’s really important to know about your students is what is the language that they are strongest in? What other languages are a part of their linguistic profile? And what is their level in the school language? And so when we look at provisioning for our multilingual learners, all of those different areas of language will interact with each other. And if we only know a part of the picture, we only know part of the learner. And so in particular, things like knowing how a child’s development is in their strongest language will give us information about how much support they may need in learning English. If their own language development is really strong, then probably their English development will happen more quickly and more easily. If they come from a complex language background, they don’t have an easily identifiable, dominant language or whatever we identify as the dominant language isn’t really where it needs to be. Then that’s a child who’s who’s who’s very likely to need additional support to learning English. And so without all those pieces of the puzzle, we often find these things out down the road. Three months and six months in. This child is struggling. They’re not doing what we think they should be doing, and then we have to go back and try and figure it out. So we do need to have a really robust process for finding out accurate language information, but also finding out what that means in terms of development. And so there’s, you know, there’s not an easy, easy suite of language assessments we can use. So we need to develop our own because how we would develop, how we would, how we would assess the Dutch of a child who’s never lived in the Netherlands but has a Dutch father is very different than how we assess the Dutch as a Dutch child living in the Netherlands, being educated in Dutch. So the kind of the tools we have that come from kind of a national base are not going to be adequate or appropriate in in assessing international children. So we need to really think carefully about what do we need to know and how do we need to find it out?


Matt (Learning Ladders) I think personally, that’s I mean, I can add any questions. People in the United States in those three things, just those simple three things that question there about what level is the child proficient at in the schools language, I think is going to open up so much conversation because you’re right. I mean, as a company that specialises in data that is possibly not always asked. I guess the obvious question then is, you know, I’m putting myself in the position. You know, I’m back in the classroom and I have as you to use your example. I have a Dutch speaker who’s got a Dutch father but never been to the Netherlands. But I don’t speak any Dutch. Nobody in the school does. How do I go about assessing their proficiency in the various different languages in real terms? How would I do that?


Eowyn Crisfield So there are different ways you can do it the most straightforward way. Well, the first thing you need to know is you need to know the language resources of your entire school. So when we talk about knowing the students profiles, we also need to know our staff profiles because there may be somebody on staff who actually also has a Dutch father or mother and can speak Dutch. And you just don’t know it because they, you know, it doesn’t. It’s an obvious part of their profile for lack of anybody in the school who speaks that child’s language. You work with the parents and you know, you work with the parents in a collaborative way. We do this a lot for SDM assessments as well because the testing and assessment in a language the child doesn’t know is not going to be effective. So you may have the child and the parents sit in the room and say, Can you ask your child to write a paragraph about what they did on the weekend in Dutch? And then you watch and you watch the process and you can tell if a child is writing fluently. If a child is writing with complexity by the length of their sentences and how they use grammar. So you can, you know, an experienced teacher can tell by the product if the language shows an alphabet. If not, then you need to look at how how do we have additional language resources, you know, for school based in China? And we need to have assessments of the children’s Chinese that we need to train a Chinese teacher to do those assessments for us. So sometimes you can do it internally, sometimes collaboratively with parents. And sometimes you do need to build a relationship with an outside expert.


Matt (Learning Ladders) That’s not going to make sense to us, so then we then we’re moving on to the next thing, so we’ve done our audit. We know that we have this incredibly diverse class in front of us, which is probably the situation faced by most people here. We’ve we’ve done as much information, as much digging as we can. We’ve done all that kind of work. What what then comes next?


Eowyn Crisfield I guess so that depends on your school. Ideally, what comes next is a language pathways document that will take the child from entry in your school until whatever the end of your school will be. They may not stay with you that long, but we have to think about the pathway all the way through. What languages do we offer? How do we offer them? What will be the best fit for this child given their profile? And if this isn’t working out, where will we sidestep? Where will we reassess and sidestep? And so, you know, if you have children coming in at age four, the language pathway will take you through early years junior school and secondary school all the way out to whatever they’re doing to begin with different pathways for different profiles of children. And then in an ideal world, the school would have a plan for how they’re supporting the home language development of all of their students and host country language development for all of their students. And that, again, it needs to be bespoke. You have children coming in who are internationally mobile children, but who speak French at home. You can’t just take resources from France and tests from France and use those with those children. So what happens most commonly? But that’s going to show them to be wanting or lacking in French because they don’t have the same experience. And so you absolutely need to step by step, build your own curriculum for each language that you teach. And you can have a framework so that if your school is dedicated or committed to teaching home languages, you shouldn’t have all the different teachers doing whatever they want, because then you get the Italians making pizza and the French doing dictation and and nobody’s happy. But you should have a framework that says, you know, in year one home language classes, these are the themes that we do. This is what we’re working on developing. And then that happens in different languages. And you’ll obviously have to have different levels because you may have children coming in with French declared as a home language who are very, very strong and French and others who have not so much. And so you, you need that differentiation. And then you do the same for host country language teaching and again, depending on your situation teaching of. For example, Arabic in the Middle East as a host country language, you’ll have to have different groupings either. Children who are transient globally mobile only going to be there for two or three years. What’s your framework for teaching Arabic that will be meaningful and useful to them at children from Arabic speaking backgrounds and children who are fluent in Arabic? And so you really need to think about the trajectory for those different groups and build the curriculum that fits your student population and your school.


Matt (Learning Ladders) We’re talking about a lot of customisation, this is not an off the shelf solution. I can go to a particular website and download Dutch or Arabic or something and put it on my school is really, I guess, the message from that.


Eowyn Crisfield Absolutely. And I think, you know, one of the things that we know from second language acquisition research is that all of our research up to date has been about measuring the bilingual against how a monolingual uses that language. And actually, that’s a false measure. So I speak English and French, and my Dutch is reasonably good. When I’m speaking English, all of those languages are in there. So I sometimes say things in English that. Only English monolingual English people wouldn’t say it doesn’t mean it’s wrong, it just means it’s different. But when our measure is a particular variety of English and how a particular speaker uses it, our bilingual children are constantly found to be laughing. They’re not as good in English, they’re not as good in their home language. They’re not as good on the host country language. And that’s actually a deficit mentality. We should be looking at how we measure each child. Against what exposure they’ve had, what opportunities they’ve had and what other languages they speak, and so what we need is a picture this child speaks five languages. Here’s where they are in each of those languages. And as long as one of them is age appropriate, that child is OK. If you have a child who speaks five languages and none of them are at the right level, that’s a child who needs interventions. But we really need to step away from thinking that the monolingual native speaker is some kind of ideal because that sets our children up for failure. Because when you take that French curriculum from France for seven year old children and use it with seven year old French children living in Thailand, they will not do well. And it’s not because they’re not linguistically gifted, it’s because they are a kind of bedrock, a comprehensive of all of the things they know about language and all the languages they have, rather than being only one narrow thing.


Matt (Learning Ladders) The presumably then the taking, the extrapolating that further than this, this must have an implication for your whole curriculum design, not just your sort of languages and stuff, you know, in terms of cultural references and appropriateness and accessibility to everybody this this then permeates through everything you’re doing if you know you’ve got this kind of multicultural community of children.


Eowyn Crisfield Absolutely, and I’ve been saying for years and years that international education needs to recognise that languages are our centre, languages are at the heart of everything we do, whether it’s children learning English as the school, as the language of instruction, whether it’s supporting home language, as host country languages, world language, you see how many languages are involved in international schools and at so many different levels. Every language teacher has kids coming in every year new to the language, and they’ve got to readjust and start again because they’re in year four French and they’ve got somebody brand new to your four never had French before. And so instead of thinking about language as something on the periphery which we often do, we need to think about languages in the centre and how do we connect across the rest of our curriculum to make sure that we’re supporting our students linguistic development in the round, rather than in these little boxes that end up on report cards?


Matt (Learning Ladders) Really good advice there. I’m going to move on to the next bit in terms of advice for building this programme and how we might do that, but just again, a prompt if people want to add in questions and then just type them into the Q&A and we’ll pick those up as we go along. So the next steps in them that we were going to talk about is I’m an international student. You know, a lot of our customers, a huge international schools, 100 plus languages across the schools. So anyone, Cox can have easily 20 30 languages in it, even teaching in London. When I was teaching in London, my class, you know, you could easily have 10 languages. How do you go about building an in-house programme for this?


Eowyn Crisfield That depends on how dedicated you are there. You know, there there. So quite a few years ago, I wrote a framework of home language teaching in international schools and what I do, what I did was kind of classify different approaches. There’s the no approach approach, which is we don’t do anything for home languages. There’s the extracurricular approach, which is we’re going to give you a room. And you can find a Danish teacher and have your kids learn Danish, and that’s fine. The next is the parallel approach, which is we’re going to give you time in the school day, so everybody does their home language Monday, Wednesday, Friday from 10 to 11. But somebody else has to find the teachers and figure out what they’re teaching. So it’s parallel minutes in the school day, but much. And then the final one is integrated. And that’s where the school takes full responsibility and says we have a home language block where all students are studying their home languages. We provide the teachers or the teaching staff. We provide the curriculum framework and it’s reported on report cards. So that’s obviously the nirvana, and not very many schools get there because it’s really hard. But there are lots of ways we can move within those frameworks to do a better job than we’re currently doing. So, for example, the International School of The Hague has a really innovative model where they have they use their their cars, which is like community service from the upper secondary school. Those kids get some tutor or some training, and they come down into the primary school several times a week or once or twice a week to spend time in a language group with children who speak their language working on something to do with the curriculum. So no cost organisationally needs needs attention. But every child to the best of their ability gets some opportunity to use their own language at school for learning. So that’s kind of a structural model. But there’s also a lot that we can do in classrooms when we know the profiles of our students. We can integrate multilingualism right into our classroom. A lot of times called trans language, but it’s about looking at meaningful ways to draw on children’s linguistic resources to enhance the learning of the whole class. So there’s everything from kind of a huge macro structure to just mini bits in classrooms that can happen where there, where the infrastructure isn’t there. There can still be good practise.


Matt (Learning Ladders) You’ve touched on one of the first questions that we’ve got him, which is what is your opinion of using trans language and approach in a diverse classroom of land?


Eowyn Crisfield So my opinion is that trans language and can be really effective for different reasons. It can be useful for scaffolding content for learners who can’t access it to the school language. It can be useful for scaffolding language development. We know that one language can help build another, and it can be really useful for enriching the learning experiences of all children. Imagine if you have students who are all you can do on ecosystems and everybody goes away and research an ecosystem in one of their countries of origin and they come together and share. We want to get a lot of different kinds of ecosystems then, which is the content. That said, I think that we need to be measured and and careful about how we use other languages in the classroom that you can’t just say everybody, do whatever they want because we also need to make sure that the students are developing the matricula language. And so it takes quite a lot of professional development for teachers to really grasp. How do I use it in ways that are effective and meaningful and in ways that the teacher still has a grasp on the the outcomes of that learning. But but when it’s done well, I think it’s amazing.


Matt (Learning Ladders) Clearly, I should have had to step in before that question, which is just to explain for those people not familiar, like myself, Trina’s languaging approach, what is the trans languages approach?


Eowyn Crisfield So trans language and approach it, I mean, it’s many, many things to many people. But the iteration I use comes from research in Wales on bilingual programmes where you alternate and vary the language of input and output in the learning cycle. So in its early iterations, for example, the kids in a history class were reading English history textbook and then talking about it in Welsh and writing about it in Welsh. So it’s that moving across languages for particular practical purposes or ideological purposes. And so the way that I structure it in schools, as you think about input processing and output, what parts, what we do in English and what parts will students have the support to do in their other languages, either against a curriculum, access language, learning support or just for curriculum enrichment? And you know, one of the greatest uses of trans language is to diversify your curriculum. It’s an automatic tool to diversification of resources, perspectives, ways of thinking and ways of doing. But it’s not something that you can walk into a classroom and do the day you hear a day after you hear about it.


Matt (Learning Ladders) Or you can try to get slightly less field, but I suppose from a perspective, would you advocate interest? I mean, we work with lots of senior leadership teams on in schools and stuff, and it would probably be fair to say it would be unusual to have the language specialist on the senior leadership team. Is that something you think should be more generally thought about by school management teams to get that more from Thompson?


Eowyn Crisfield Absolutely. And I think when I work with schools, I always give them kind of a report of my findings and on every single one, it will say you need to have a head of languages and the head of languages needs to have oversight of e-mail and home languages of host country languages in world languages because they are all interconnected. If you’ve got those teams working off in boxes, if your e-mail teacher has a student who’s struggling, they need to know who the home country language person is that they can go to to put together the pieces of the puzzle. And so just because of how much place language is taken, international schools in particular, there should be a head of languages. They should be on the SLT. And you’re right, they rarely are. And they’re also rarely leadership. So I have met in all my years of doing this. It’s been a long time two heads of school who came from all languages. Background.


Matt (Learning Ladders) OK, so for all of you who were on the call, who are ahead of languages and looking to get into senior leadership positions, will will clip that bit into a GIF that you can sort of you can play at your next senior leadership meeting. All right, fantastic. Another question that’s come in. In what ways, if any, students challenges connected to the program’s leadership and communication structure in international schools?


Eowyn Crisfield Can you run that one by me one more time?


Matt (Learning Ladders) What ways archaeal students challenges connected to the program’s leadership and communications stock sessions? Because I’m not sure I fully understand my question, but I wanted to follow up on that question and we’ll maybe colour it later. I’m not sure I quite get what you’re looking at now. I’m guessing this is to do with


Eowyn Crisfield so I get I mean, if I’ve interpreted the question properly, I would say that. If leadership doesn’t have a clear understanding about the challenges that learners with Val have an approach and some kind of process and framework in place for classroom teachers to know how to support them and understand them and how to provision for them effectively, then there would be a direct connexion between the leadership knowledge in approaches and how well students with IAO do. And again, Yale is often boxed off. You know, here’s a little room go do your thing without really understanding good practise. And without that, understanding good practise students with the eye won’t do as well.


Matt (Learning Ladders) And do you think sometimes that it’s as he said, it’s a lot of the schools operate in very high pressure inspection driven sort of regulatory frameworks, fee paying parents who demand certain sort of outcomes and stuff like that. So there’s a huge amount of pressure on leadership teams in schools. So obviously, if you ask people in a conference that they’ll clearly say they want to do what’s right for the children, and yes, they completely buy into this. But playing devil’s advocate then in terms of the end, if anyone was to push back and say, I completely agree with the theory, but the reality is I’ve got to get these kids through the regulatory framework and inspections, I’m guessing the question is more, is there research and evidence to suggest that actually, if you do take a step back and do this in the long run, it sounds like it should have a much greater beneficial effect on all of that learning.


Eowyn Crisfield Well, so you know, the research shows quite clearly that the stronger a student’s home language, the better they’ll learn English, the more easily they’ll learn English. And that literacy in the home languages in the home language is linked to stronger literacy in English as well. And so there’s absolutely and that’s not only from English, that’s Turkish speaking news in the Netherlands. That’s for Spanish speaking youth. In the United States, there’s a very clear cognitive relationship between development in a child’s first or home language and development of the new language at school. And so there’s absolutely an evidence base to say this is the right thing to do. And schools do need to do teacher education. One of the things I hear quite a lot is well, but if we do that, the parents won’t like it and they’ll push back. But what do you let the parents determine your curriculum? No, you say this is the curriculum we offer because this is the school we are. And if you want an IB curriculum, you go to another school or if you want an SLT Curriculum Lab, go to another school. Parents choose the curriculum and then the school is liberated to deliver it. But yet we allow parents to have a lot of influence sometimes over our language provisions. And and there’s no more reason to think that parents understand language education any better than they understand regular education. So sometimes we need to kind of take a kind of a firm stance that this is what the evidence base shows. This is how we do this for the best of your children and then take a step back and let the parents live with that. But you do need clear documentation for parents. You do need clear strategies in place. You do need their documentation for new staff and you can do it. And I know that there’s actually there’s a head teacher on here that I worked with for many years. I won’t name her in case it embarrasses her, but she’s from the British School of Amsterdam and with their school. One of the things they did early on was to start explaining to parents, We’re going to put your children with other children who speak their language because that’s what’s right and good for them. You know, they’re they’re young, they don’t understand. They need to be able to talk to somebody and play with somebody who understands them. And you know, there’s definitely parent pushback because we don’t pay for an international private British school for our children to continue learning Japanese now. But taking the principled approach they just start about having that is part of the process. This is what we do because it’s right and now they don’t get parent pushback anymore. And so you can take a principled stance and say this is what’s right and good and parents will. If you’re, you know, firm in your own convictions, buy into that.


Matt (Learning Ladders) With younger learners, for example, would you suggest that schools think about advising parents to read to, you know, I’m thinking primary and early is read to children in their home language rather than in English, particularly if they’re more fluent in their home language?


Eowyn Crisfield Absolutely. So the parent’s job is the development of the home language, the school job, the school’s job is the development of school language. And if everybody does their job right, there’s better outcomes for the children than if people are trying to do each other’s job or school. There’s any work in the home language development because the state has issues that come in when children are educated, another language will often mean they don’t value their own language, so the school valuing their own language is important. But the at home the parents should be doing homework in their language, reading in their language, playing games in their language.


Matt (Learning Ladders) Again, I mean, that touches on the Learning Ladders plug, I suppose, is the reason why we have that functionality that schools can create content, create remote learning, create homework, create remote learning tasks in English, but then it can be consumed by the children and the parents in their home languages. Precisely, I suppose, for that reason, so that it’s a lot more accessible so they can do that automatically. And you don’t have to be able to speak those hundred languages. You can, you know, do set your set your tasks and stuff, and it will do that for you. So so would then. I mean, as as the as the father of two very young children and I have an Italian wife, so we’re sort of in this zone as well, purely out of personal interest, then would they be with the advice to be possibly doing more of the kind of guided reading and word wall type tasks in Italian for us as well? That’s our home language.


Eowyn Crisfield Yeah, I mean, I wouldn’t say you need to set up a word wall in your home. It’s a bit hard core. Your children are going to feel like they’re at school all the time, but absolutely drawing on what they’re doing in school and talking about it in Italian and, you know, reading about it in Italian. So you’re supporting the content and supporting language acquisition in Italian based on what they’re learning at school. I don’t know how your Italian is, but I


Matt (Learning Ladders) mean, they’re so unnaturally bad at me, which is


Eowyn Crisfield one of the one of the best things you can do is to start interacting with your kids in Italian, even if it’s just on a, you know, can you can you help daddy learn how to say that in Italian? Because in a in a such a predominantly English environment, the message that they’re getting is actually English is all we need. Only mum does Italian. So your support, even if it’s not going to help them develop their Italian explicitly, will support their continued valuing of Italian as a language. Because you value it even though you live here and are, as you said, not very good at languages,


Matt (Learning Ladders) it is an English thing, you know, we have to be like that. I mean, taking side note social event, but I mean, it’s interesting, though, in that whole area that there’s a lot of there’s been a lot of talk recently here in England about the power of adding subtitles to TV for kids when they’re doing that. So a lot of the time, I’m sure, in home in multicultural settings, they’re going to be watching TV in different languages nowadays on Netflix and Prime and Disney and all that stuff. It’s perfectly possible we do it. So those subtitles in Italian, in Dutch, in whatever it else, presumably a just as valid and valuable as doing it in any other language.


Eowyn Crisfield Absolutely. Yeah. And it depends on what the kids are paying attention to. If they understand the English, they’re probably not going to be reading Italian subtitles. But it can work as a scaffold towards the other language if they’re listening to the Italian and the Italian is as strong, the subtitles in English can help them.


Matt (Learning Ladders) And we got a couple more questions come in say, sorry, I’m going to stop dominating is my own personal personal consultation here. So just an observation, I think from Tarik, which is thank you. Many world languages are far more aurally dominant than written or read Arabic as a suggestion as maybe one of those. Another question here What recommendations can you get the native Arabic teachers who are required to teach in English to a large number of students whose mother language is Arabic? It’s an interesting one. So the challenge, the challenge of being an Arabic native speaker, speaking to other Arabic native speakers, but having to teach English so.


Eowyn Crisfield So this is this is a situation in which trans language can be immensely beneficial, but also quite difficult to sell and to manage. So it’s it’s both sides, the pool. I mean, when you’re working with Arabic speaking children. With the goal of them learning English, there is always a tendency for them to speak Arabic together and to want to speak Arabic to the teacher. We all do that. I mean, know if you go to the Costa del Sol in Spain, it’s all English people speaking Spanish together. If you go to South Florida, it’s all English people speaking English together and Spanish speaking areas. We tend to. And naturally, you normally want to use our own language with people who share a dominant language with. And so it’s how you create space and opportunities for kids to use it effectively for learning rather than for it to overcome the English. So, for example, you may have them read a poem in Arabic. Or write a poem in Arabic and then work together in groups to translate that poem into English. And while they’re talking about the translation, it’s OK for them to speak in Arabic because they’re going to have really good discussions about. You think that’s the right word? I don’t think that’s the right word. I think we need to use a different verb tense. So they’re refining their understanding of how the transfer from Arabic to English happens. And then you have them share their English poems together and publish them. And so the output is English poem. But the process you use to get there means that they’re English. Poems are probably going to be a lot better than if you just have a whole class and say, write a poem in English and all, and you’ll get really basic, uninteresting poems. So it’s understanding the technique behind how do we move from prior knowledge to new and English? How do we move from known language to new language in English with a really keen eye on teacher task design to make sure that what we’re paying attention to is the development of English at the end of the day?


Matt (Learning Ladders) That’s pretty good advice. I hope that’s really useful for a lot of questions come in. Do you think collaboration is the key to support multilingual learners? What strategies do you use to share with schools? That’s a contemporary question. It’s quite a big, big area. I’m guessing there’s lots of different collaboration between lots of people.


Eowyn Crisfield So, I mean, yes, absolutely. Collaboration is important because what one teacher knows, so what the Yale teacher knows about a child is needs to be put together with what the parents know about the child’s development in their own language and how they’re doing their maths class and how they’re doing in their host country language. Plus, all those pieces of the puzzle come together to give you a clear picture of how child is doing. That said, collaboration is that, you know, the most difficult thing to manage effectively in schools because time is always an issue. And so online collaboration where you have kind of folders of the child’s progress and development and you know what they’re working on a different language is really the best way for. So if I as a teacher, I’m concerned about a child, I can go in and say, How are they doing? So say that Arabic is their home language. Wow. Excuse me. How are they doing in their Abbott class? I’m just going to see, Oh, they’re getting A’s in Arabic. So obviously this is just an English language development process they’re still going through, or actually they’re really struggling in their Arabic literacy, too. So maybe we need to red flag. This is we need to do some investigation. And so there needs to be some kind of transparent system where everybody knows where to find the information about what they’re doing and how they’re doing across the different languages.


Matt (Learning Ladders) And that makes sense. I mean, again, I guess that’s the plug for the way that we try to do everything in one system so you can see everything very, very easily. All question from Jackie and I. This is for me. And with Learning Ladders Termly student work in their own language, the teachers can read the homework in the school’s language of instruction. Yeah, absolutely. A teacher can set the homework in the school’s language and then they teach the student can, can consume it, can reply, can do everything in whatever language they like. So it’s it works. It works in any combination, in any way. And Jackie, if you want a demo, we can arrange that afterwards. It’s not themselves. But is there another question come in? How can we support children of linguistic minorities, feel pride in their home languages in a predominantly anglophile or monolingual school environment? We have children who will deny being bilingual because of their peers. Wow. OK, that’s from Emily.


Eowyn Crisfield We experienced this when we moved from the Netherlands, from a European school. It was super diverse to the UK, to the kids what state schools and my older daughter came home after about a month and said, These people are relentlessly monolingual. OK, so picturesque. But actually, as she got to know her peers better, she came home one day. He’s got someone, so speaks French. She’s got a French father, or so-and-so actually has two Polish speaking parents, and she’s fluent in Polish. But all of this is kind of hidden because it isn’t celebrated by the school. Our kids can consider it to be anything good. And so it’s about making other languages visible in the social and physical environment of the school by making sure that you have displays in other languages by making sure you have in your assemblies. We’re going to focus in this month’s assembly on Urdu, and we’ve got seventy three Urdu speakers and they’re going to do a poem. You know, you’ve got to live with the languages of your students for them to feel like they have value. And so there are lots of great activities online that you can find, but it’s really about thinking about those two aspects of the physical environment and the social environment. How do we make language is something that is something interesting, something that kids have curiosity about. You know, one of the perpetual problems I find here is that all the little kids are trying to learn French. The vast majority of them have never been to France. They probably a lot of them never want to go to France because it’s the land of stinky cheese or snails or whatever. So why not teach them the language as their peers? If you, you know, if your schools in an area with a really large Polish population, why not be teaching the kids polish so that they can play football and Polish and Polish games and take the language needs to be used for communication? And if children don’t see how it’s going to fulfil a communicative need, then they are not motivated or interested and curious. And so it’s about digging down and showing that schools value what they have already, rather than some external idea of what language has value.


Matt (Learning Ladders) Yeah, I mean, I’m guessing I’m not sure aware where where he’s from. I mean, obviously we have a particular challenge here, I suppose in the UK at the moment with the political situation of what’s going on at the moment. So I imagine that’s kind of, yeah, that’s tough. So it’s got to come from the school culture. I guess it’s got to come from some


Eowyn Crisfield of


Matt (Learning Ladders) the schools that we worked with for what it’s worth to do that really well. Yeah, it’s a celebration of that diversity and stuff. It’s it’s an opportunity to simple things. You know, parents coming in are getting younger children and parents coming in and showing things from their culture and stuff, sporting events, you know, opportunities to do that.


Eowyn Crisfield I believe stories, story, reading, stories. Yeah. Other times story time organised for a festival in the Netherlands and multilingual reading of Of a very hungry caterpillar. And we would have readers come in and do it in 11, 12, 13 languages and the best one I ever saw. The kids were enraptured was a South African author who read it in his invented language. Right? So obviously it was an invented language nobody had ever been exposed to hip to it. But he was such a good reader that the kids were completely following along and they were learning words in his invented language. And so, you know, it doesn’t take much to create an environment where language has become something interesting rather than something that is detrimental to a child.


Matt (Learning Ladders) Let’s carry on into the other question. Thank you. For letting the questions in, by the way, I’m just going to rattle through these because they’re really interesting. So another question come in, how effective do you believe reading and simultaneously listening? The use of audio books with text is for developing English skills, for example, phonics, spelling and grammar.


Eowyn Crisfield Question from short answer For those I don’t know, I’m not actually literacy specialist. I know for some children who struggle with reading what audiobooks can be access into the world of stories, that’s really, really useful. But I don’t know of any particular research about phonics, spelling and grammar and audiobooks.


Matt (Learning Ladders) Yeah, I don’t actually, I’m afraid so. I’m sorry, and we can’t give you a specific answer on that one. I will see if anybody in the office does anything about that afterwards, and we’ll put it on the blog. All right, another question coming in here. This is the issue, and I always love questions about librarians and libraries. Had librarians and libraries contribute to the learning process of bilingual and multilingual learners?


Eowyn Crisfield Librarians can have such a huge impact on how kids feel about languages, how they feel about their own languages, how they feel about languages in general. And there’s kind of there’s the educational side and more the, you know, the kind of reading for pleasure side. But having books available in many different languages and not not making students make certain language choices. When my kids were at a European school library was hugely monolingual or hugely multilingual, and one day my son brought home a book in Finnish, he was seven. So from this book of Finnish and so we waited our way through when we looked up Finnish online, where’s it from and what made it sound like? And obviously, I’m sure I absolutely butchered it. But it didn’t Matt (Learning Ladders)er because he became quite interested in Finnish because they use dots and things. That was interesting. And so just forget that kind of sensitisation to multilingualism. But again, in parallel, if the librarian goes to find out what key texts are being used in different classes and sources, those in other languages in, say, secondary school, everybody’s doing Jekyll and Hyde, and you’ve got a student who’s new to English. They’re not going to read Jekyll and Hyde in English, but if you source it for them in Lithuanian, they can follow along with the story and then follow along with the discussion. So just having those mirroring key texts in other languages really is really useful for new new arrivals or students who are still in the the earlier phases of the English acquisition.


Matt (Learning Ladders) Point probably circles around with what you were talking about before that you need the language specialist on the SLT leadership team, you need that communication, that visibility, the Curriculum Lab bespoke, so that everybody knows this is what’s going on in our sort of community. It’s no good for the poor librarian to suddenly just have a child walk up one day and and ask for a particular textbook. I don’t know. Absolutely. So, OK, that makes sense. That poses the question. And we’ve got probably about 10 minutes left, so chance to answer a few more questions. We’ve been firing questions at you for a long time. You must be getting exhausted. Is there any other points coming out of things? I mean, if, if, if you had to give delegates on the call and stuff who were clearly from a whole range of different schools? Any sort of headline advice that they could go and action over the next few weeks? Is there anything that would sort of spring to mind? What would you ask? People suggest people focus on. Well, that’s a really difficult question, isn’t it?


Eowyn Crisfield Would I guess it really depends on where their school is on their journey. So some schools already have quite good processes in place for doing student language profiling when they arrive and for knowing the linguistic profiles of their students. So if that’s where that school is already, it’s about pushing forward to thinking about what is our responsibility to our students home language just to make sure that they’re not losing their own language in the quest of English. What are we doing currently to support home language development? And if we are not doing anything or we’re not doing enough, how do we shift that? And so just to start those conversations to learn a little bit about it, I mean, it’s going in with some research knowledge is really helpful. When I work with parents, I always tell parents, you have to understand the research around raising bilingual children because along the way, somebody is going to give you bad advice and you need to be able to say, actually, research shows that you can put anything. You want that to that and it shuts people up. But for teachers, it’s the same. If you yourself are passionate about children’s languages, do some learning so that you can go to your SLT and say, Did you know that the stronger a child’s home language development, the more easily they learn English? Oh, you did. Well, here are some things that we could do as a school to start promoting this. And so maybe starting small. You may already have started small and we want to level it up and say, how can we develop a curriculum framework for the 17 languages spoken by our students? How can we develop a framework that will allow kids to work in their own languages across the curriculum? How will we communicate with parents? Know we’re doing this unit to go back to ecosystems that talk about ecosystems all the time? I don’t know what a lot of science is, but we’re going to be doing a unit on ecosystems. Here are some key vocabulary your children need to know. Can you help them research an ecosystem in your country of origin and pay attention to what this vocabulary connects to and have them complete this drawing so that your scaffolding, the children’s content learning you’re helping develop their own language because we don’t talk about ecosystems sitting around the dinner table with our children. And so if somebody doesn’t help the parents dig into some higher level content, children’s home languages will stagnate as the school language continues to grow. And then we end up with children who don’t want to use our language anymore because they can’t use it for anything particularly meaningful. And so really, where you go next depends on where you are now.


Matt (Learning Ladders) We can probably help there. How about this as we take this as an action, by way, I mean, sort of Learning Ladders team and I’ll do this. I think we’ve we’ve covered some really good specific advice. So maybe, maybe this is something we can do that’s quite useful for people who who are on the call is we’ve you’ve already mentioned some specific examples will transcribe those and get those written off. You’ve mentioned that the research shows maybe let’s we’ll give some links to the research that we’re talking about that people can put in front of that. There are SLT and stuff as an action. And you’ve obviously got a couple of books. I’ll give a quick plug to those. But I mean, today they cover this sort of stuff. I’m presuming it’s a


Eowyn Crisfield linguistic and cultural innovation in schools is much more about the school context, and it’s actually case studies of lots of different schools in terms of how they’ve gone about shifting their practise. So it’s more for schools. The other one is for parents, but it’s also got a lot of the kind of foundational understandings around bilingualism. So it depends on if you want to commit to reading research or just commit to reading something that’s written in a much more accessible way.


Matt (Learning Ladders) But we’ll put them both on there. So we have we have a blog from you on our website already. We can do the recording of this. We’ll do some top tips. We’ll we’ll link to some of the research, we’ll link to the books and stuff that people can do as well. If you are a I know a lot of people on the call will be will be our customers will be Learning Ladders schools who subscribe. We can we have a chat room for various different things on our on our platform as well as maybe we can do things like that. If people have particular questions and want to amplify questions or ask for help for social media and stuff, then just tweet us and then I guess, add us in at Learning Ladders five is our hashtag Barzagli and we can maybe amplify those. Those are quite useful. Final, final point. I guess for me, I’ll just have a quick look. See if there’s any more questions that have come in. A couple of comments. So what would the steps be to developing a building, a home language programme for parents to support their children at home?


Eowyn Crisfield So it’s about making Connexions to your curriculum. So I mean, that kind of the easiest strategy would be for every unit of learning. You would touch a home learning strand. That you ask parents to do in their own languages, that’s complimentary, that’s not necessarily repeating, we don’t want to kill kids with homework, but they you just connect to and say as a part of the home learning. Instead of reading this book to your child in English, we’re going to ask you to find something to read to your child about chickens in your own language or whatever it is. And so just like thinking of it as a strand that goes home and then comes back. So everybody read about a book about chickens with your parents. What kinds of things did you learn about chickens from those books so that you’re making sure that you’re bringing it back in a meaningful ways that you’re not just saying, go do this at home, because then it doesn’t happen or it doesn’t happen in ways that are meaningful.


Matt (Learning Ladders) Yeah, I think that’s a fantastic idea. Final question. And then we’ll probably need to wrap up. This is close to my heart, obviously. So from Linda, Linda Joviality, I hope I’m pronouncing that right because my daughter’s school, Giovanna, so I teach Italian and I’m trying to use and find language strategies in my class grade nine multilingual, advanced Italian, I found out that they prefer to use English rather than their home language. And I think this is a shame. Do you have any experience in mother tongue programme in international schools?


Eowyn Crisfield So I don’t want to say as a hard line, year nine is too late. But what happens in international schools is if children have been educated into a system where their own languages aren’t used are particularly valued for that long. And then in year nine, their teacher says, Now I want to use these Italian, they kind of look around and think, Is this a trap? Is she trying to trick us? Or actually at that point, their English is more developed than their Italian, so to do it in Italian is more difficult or feels like twice the work. And so it’s not to say that you can’t start that late, but you need to start with the the agreement in discussion with your students about why you’re doing it. And let’s give it a try. So you need to have those conversations. I think it’s really a shame that you’re Italian. Your English is so great now, but you’re not so comfortable in Italian. Let’s try this thing together and then reflect on what it felt like and how we can integrate it as a part of a practise. And so it is hard for children to overcome what we call the monolingual habits that environment where everybody is multilingual but are all pretending that we only speak English and it feels like that’s the right way to continue. So it actually can feel quite countercultural to them. I’ve had that experience with the school I worked with in Kenya, where we’re trying to build trans language in Kiswahili and English across it and English international curriculum. They’re all like, why? Why do you want us to do that? And so they’re kind of there’s inbuilt ideas about the value of certain languages in education that we need to overcome. And so it’s not a shortcut.


Matt (Learning Ladders) I’m just going to share this screen here for those of you, because I’m getting a few questions come in. So these are our contact details. Questions have come in. Will the recording be shared yet? Absolutely. And we’ll share those things. It will probably take us a day or two to just put it up on the website. So bear with us and you’ll get an email saying that it’s live on the website or you can go to the blog. A couple of people have asked about demos, which is lovely. Obviously, we’d be delighted to do that if you contact Stellar and so we can sort those out as well. And we have one final question which is sneak down. I promise this will be the final one. And then we probably had better wrap up because we said about an hour and we’re getting there now. A question from CAT4 How can the home language be strong when it’s only spoken and read and not written, especially for young children exposed to another language at a very young age in a local school, not an international school?


Eowyn Crisfield And it is difficult because we know that contrary to popular belief, young children learn new languages very slowly and lose languages quite quickly. And so the language attrition that happens when children are put into a new language at school can be quite alarming. And so it’s really about the messaging to parents early on and consistently. Please keep using your language with your children. Please keep reading in your language, having it in the classroom, having it present to try and make sure that children stay in tune with that language until such time as they’re able to to learn to read in it. And once reading is solid, then it’s a language that they can continue to take with them. But we do see absolutely higher levels of attrition, of the whole language in children who start in international education at very young ages, and that’s something that we need to do a better job of it. And a lot of times if the school has an homogenous population, so if it’s all, I don’t know if it’s all Chinese speaking children in an English speaking school in China, the obvious solution is a bilingual programme instead of an English only, which will give you a better academic results and better results across those languages.


Matt (Learning Ladders) Fantastic. I think that’s been really, really useful. And thank you so much for that imparting so much, so much knowledge and wisdom in such a short space of time. I hope that’s been useful to everybody. Thank you, everybody as well for participating these fireside chats. Always fascinating and obviously only really work if everybody participates and throws in questions. So I hope we’ve been able to get to everybody’s question and answer everybody’s question. What we’ll do is, like I said, we’ll put it up on the website. The website will have the recording, but we also do have an auto transcribe, so you’ll get the full text. That’s that’s a computerised thing, I’m afraid. So apologies in advance for any typos on that. It’s an automated thing. But yeah, just wanted to wrap up and thank everybody for coming and participating. I hope that was useful. Good luck. Good luck having those meetings with the SLT trying to make this much more sort of front and centre. And yeah, maybe we should do a follow up in a few months time or something and get into it in a bit more detail. That’s it from us. I think I’m going to bid farewell and thank you again for that fantastic session. And everybody, thanks for having me. Have a wonderful rest of the day.

Eowyn Crisfield Languages across the curriculum

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