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Changing Demography of International Schools and its Impact on Learning

By Kassandra Rieck,
PYP Learning Support Teacher
Madhavi Sindhe,
PYP EAL Teacher

Kassandra Rieck

Madhavi Sindhe

Effective teaching at international schools requires a change in mindset. We are entering a paradigm shift known as the Multilingualism Turn, where teachers may need to embrace a student’s home-language to support acquisition of English in their lessons. Student Support Services (SSS) teams at leading schools like Stonehill have recognised this change and are working with teachers to streamline their programmes and practices to meet the unique needs of their EAL and LS learners.

Recently two members of the PYP SSS Department, Ms. Kassandra Rieck (LS) and Ms. Madhavi Sindhe (EAL) attended a course online taught by Dr. Virginia Rojas, a world-renowned expert in language acquisition on the changing demography of international schools and its impact on teaching and learning with EAL students. The course highlighted the importance of recognising students’ assets or strengths over their deficit.  This means that teachers need to focus on ‘what they can do,’ rather than comparing them to native English speakers and highlighting ‘what they can’t do.’  In most cases, EAL learners have a strong foundation in their home-language suggesting teachers use this ‘asset’ to allow them to access content.  A common strategy for this is translanguaging.  Translanguage is a type of linguistic scaffold where teachers front-load vocabulary and content providing content in home-language. A very effective way of doing this is by using ‘shower reading.’ This is where the teacher looks for a text that’s been translated into an EAL’s home-language which they can pre-read before being taught concepts and content in English in lessons.

Stonehill International School

Peer collaboration is the most effective form of learning.  Based on Vygotsky’s theory of Constructivism, where students learn through interactions with others to construct meaning and understanding, teachers need to embrace strategies modelling cooperative learning.  This is learning through social-interaction.  This is why teacher-talk should be kept to a minimum and student cooperation should be maximised.  These cooperative learning strategies are ideal for EAL and LS learners.  Through mixed-ability groups, students help each other to access the content and produce outcomes.  Translanguaging is ideal for these cooperative learning groups, and should be fully encouraged.  However, output needs to be in the language of instruction so that teachers can monitor student understanding.

Have we wet your appetite?  Please join the SSS Department at The Learning Hub on Friday 1st-Saturday 2nd December 2023 where we will workshop these strategies so that you can gain the confidence you need to implement them in your lessons.  For those of you interested in Dr. Virginia Rojas’ resources, they can be conveniently found here.