Page 18 - FIS World November 2021
P. 18

On the Road to Translanguaging
Het meer is the lake but das Meer is the sea
 Students are encouraged to use a variety of resources to communicate, regardless of the language being spoken
“What is the biggest lake in the Netherlands?” Jasmijn and Merel, Dutch students in Grade 4 and 5, ask their class after a mini lesson on the Netherlands and living with water. A Korean classmate looks at the large Dutch map in front of the classroom
and hesitantly answers: “The Iss... Aiss... IJsselmeer?” Correct! But FISW Grade 5 teacher Andrea Uhl is confused. “Wait, did you say meer? Is it a sea then?” A couple of students explain that it used to be a sea, but it really is a lake now because of the long dam that was built, and in Dutch, sea is zee and lake is meer. “The same as in German,” a student adds. Spanish and German student Tim rectifies that: “No, it is the opposite!”
We just witnessed a spontaneous reflection on three languages at the end of the unit, Sharing the Planet, where Grade 4 and 5 students focused on water. Inviting home languages and cultures into the classroom happens regularly, especially at the beginning of a unit when students think about connections and activate prior knowledge. In this case, while the content was about the Netherlands, connections were made by students from the United States and South Korea, and the discussion led to the whole class connecting more languages.
It is an example of translanguaging: offering students opportunities and encouraging them to use all their language resources to communicate more effectively, withoutboundariesbetweenthem.Teacherssupport this by talking about languages, naming similarities and differences between languages, and maybe even
exploring the reasons by checking the historical roots of the words, and by explicitly noticing and celebratingthelanguagerepertoiresofthestudents. Translanguaging is not just putting translated words on the wall. That can be a start, but it is so much more than that.
FISW English Language Acquisition (ELA) teacher, Megan Dreher, uses the analogy she heard from English language learners (ELL) teaching specialist Tan Huynh: if you want to teach Michael Jordan cricket, the best place to start is with what he already knows from basketball. It is an assets-based perspective: all of the knowledge and skills the students already have in other languages can be used in learning. Therefore, in Ms. Dreher’s ELA classes, there is always room for the students’ home languages as well, whether they are reading a book in their home language and then listening to it in English, or getting sentence starters both in their home language and English to support their learning in English. Scott Hardgrove, who teaches Grade 6-8 English, also provides his students with books or videos in their home languages. “Literacy lessons aren’t necessarily only for English literacy, so a literacy study of a story can also be done with the story in a home language version.”
One of Ms. Dreher’s favorite lessons was one in Grade 5 connected to the unit How We Express Ourselves. Students were identifying text features in articles from newspapers around the world in different languages. In their research, it did not matter whether students spoke the language of an article,
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