Given the diversity of cultural backgrounds in our schools today, helping students maintain their mother tongue should be part of lessons in every classroom. By doing so we can help students feel a sense of pride in where they come from and their cultural heritage. It is also helpful for parents who are trying to encourage their children to maintain the use of their native tongue at home, as it will help their child see the value in this. Incorporating the use of a child’s mother tongue in your classroom doesn’t require extensive extra planning, in fact many ideas can be incorporated easily into your day-to-day lessons!
a) Read Aloud: In addition to asking students to read books to the class in English, have students bring books to share in their mother tongue and translate!
b) Silent Reading: Allow students to read books in their mother tongue once or twice a week during silent reading time.
c) Show & Tell: Students can bring items from their home country during show and tell to share with the class. They can describe the objects in both their mother tongue and in English.
d) Multilingual Projects: Have students complete projects in multiple languages. Students can first write in English, and then provide written translations alongside.
e) Multilingual Posters: Have students provide translations to posters and signage in the classroom.
f) Parent Volunteers: Invite parents into the classroom to share photos, stories, objects, etc. from their home country.
g) Snack Time: Have students bring in snacks to share from their home country during snack or lunchtime.
h) Music: Ask students to bring in music from their home countries to play while students are working.
i) Songs/Poems: Students can teach the class songs and poems in their mother tongue, and translate in English.
j) Current Events: Have students bring in and share news articles from their home countries. These articles can be in their mother tongue, or in English.
k) Pen pals: Arrange pen pals for students from their home countries.
l) Multilingual Class Blog: Start a class blog where students can share ideas and thoughts in both English and their mother tongue.
Have you found ways to incorporate the use of your students' mother tongues in your classroom? We’d love to hear them!