Learning to write is one of the most complex cognitive and motor processes of language learning at school. It is challenging to memorise the coding of correspondences between sounds and graphemes and practice motor skills when drawing the alphabet! The effort is much greater for plurilinguals whose repertoire is encoded with different symbols and alphabets, which are topographically displayed differently on the page.
In this blog post, we look at some of the findings of children’s kindergarten practices collected by the researchers at the University of Algarve in Portugal. The data were obtained in the Cluster of Schools of Vila do Bispo. This cluster of schools is one of the most multilingual and multicultural in the region. In almost all classes more than half of the children do not have Portuguese as their first language. In some cases more than 80% of them are in this situation. This blogpost focuses on findings from a class in the kindergarten where linguistically sensitive teaching (LST) is real and where cultural aspects are utilised in practice.
The Listiac reflections carried out within our initial teacher education (ITE) and among our future teachers pointed to some possibilities of improvement regarding their preparedness. In fact, some of the weaknesses expressed by our student teachers were their lack of training (regarding resources, tools, strategies and experience), their lack of culture and languages knowledge, and their lack of good examples (during the internship period, for example).
During the most difficult hours of the first long Covid-19 lock down, a teacher wondered how to get her students to work from home, using the resources they had at their disposal, in particular the languages they practiced or knew. She felt the interest and surprise of her students and the emergence of a relationship of trust that continues to this day.
The global societies of the 21st century are more and more characterized by heterogeneity, plurilingualism, and multiculturalism. As a consequence, an increasing number of people speak different languages and are affected by diverse cultural traditions. It is therefore crucial that we all possess linguistic and cultural sensitivity. With the help of the Slovenian Ministry of Education, Science, and Sport, the Listiac project partners from the University of Ljubljana, Faculty of Education have reached out to various cultural institutions and event-organizers in order to join forces in achieving this goal.
The relentless pandemic situation has urged us to be creative in finding ways to witness examples of plurilingual approaches and linguistically sensitive teaching (LST) in school practices. Exploiting the richness and versatility of various virtual spaces has opened new possibilities. A group of student teachers of Vytautas Magnus University undertook a project to examine how schools make use of their media presence, such as their webpages or social media, to communicate and expose their activities oriented towards plurilingualism, cultural awareness, linguistic inclusion, and overall endorsement of tolerance. In what follows in this blog, we share the reflections of what student teachers have learnt from carrying out their projects and discussing them with their colleagues in class.
By bringing native speakers of a given target language into the classroom, students have the opportunity to experience a myriad of positive language and cultural benefits, such as precise phonetic instruction, cultural input, and the sociolinguistic insight that comes with interacting with one’s mother tongue from a young age. Despite these positive elements, one problem often arises when the language teacher is not yet proficient in the language of the country in which they are teaching. How can they help to bridge the understanding gap when the students may be at a beginner level, or when certain language explanations are needed?