Promoting and supporting language development in multilingual and multicultural early childhood settings
Work Package 3: Early Language
Promoting and supporting language development in
multilingual and multicultural early childhood settings
This project has been funded with support from the European Commission. This publication [communication] reflects the views only of the author, and the
Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.
Euline Cutrim Schmid
• Aims of the “Early Language” component of
the TODDLER project
• Overview of data collection process
• Summary of findings
• Theoretical underpinnings
• Best practice examples
• Criteria for the evaluation of best practice
• identify families’ and practitioners’ attitudes
towards different languages and cultures
• Identify examples of best practice (innovative
projects and initiatives) that enhance
language learning and multicultural awareness
in pre-school settings
– Characteristics of childcare/daycare center
– Characteristics of the children attending the childcare/daycare center
– Characteristics of the Early Years Practitioners working in the
– Types of input the children are exposed to, the kinds of interactions they
engage in and the topics that are addressed by both EYPs and children
– Strategies used by the childcare/daycare center to promote multilingualism
and multiculturalism in everyday situations
Best Practice Examples
– innovative approaches to support and promote the development of the L1 as
well as additional languages in early childhood settings
– Examples provided by the various European partners involved in the project
Belgium – Flanders
Belgium – Wallonia
Quantitative Observation Data
• In total 238 observations from 9 partner
• 3 points of time of observation
June/July 1st 2011
November 2nd 2011 – February 2012
June/July 3rd 2012
• Data Analysis with SPSS Software
Summary of Findings I
– The great majority of the EYPs see linguistic and cultural diversity as an
– Most EYPs do not feel confident on how to deal with multilingualism and
multiculturalism in their everyday work
– 3 out of 9 ECEC settings offer special language support programs for the
acquisition of children’s mother tongues.
– 5 out of 9 ECEC settings offer special language support programs for the
acquisition of the ambient language.
– Parents tend to consider the ambient language as more important or at least
as important as the L1.
– Most common activities promoting multilingualism and multiculturalism in the
• working with books and stories that represent different social and cultural realities
• celebrating multicultural festivals
• working with books written in other languages than the ambient language.
• cultural differences are represented through pictures, artifacts, maps
Summary of Findings II
Observation Checklists (language input and interaction)
– 48% of the children had an L1 other than the ambient language, and 20% of
EYPs had an L1 other than the ambient language.
– Although most settings investigated were characterized by a large number of
children with a migration background, the data seem to indicate that their
home languages are not always effectively acknowledged.
– In average the results show that the input level and the level of language
support are below ideal standards.
– The data show considerable variation among the different countries.
Best Practice Examples
– There are a good number of top-down and bottom-up initiatives promoting
multilingual and multicultural education in Europe.
– In the process of including children’s diverse linguistic and cultural
backgrounds, there is the danger of emphasizing the difference.
– Some educational approaches that work very well in specific countries would
not necessarily be successful (or even possible) in other countries due to the
different policies, beliefs, curricula and so on.
The Training Module
Reflecting on the learning conditions for disadvantaged children
in early childhood settings, with a specific focus on early
language acquisition. This module includes:
a) tools for examining the amount and quality of language
support in pre-school settings
b) theoretical input on early language development,
c) case studies developed in nine European countries,
d) examples of best practice based on criteria discussed in the
scientific literature and
e) Reflective questions
f) references to web resources.
Examples of Best Practice
– Linguists emphasize the important role played by instructors in
creating supportive language learning opportunities (Vygotsky, 1978;
Bruner, 1983, Krashen, 1981, Long, 1980).
– Most linguists agree upon the fact that children should be encouraged
to continue their native language development (Baker, 2011)
– Linguists highlight the important role of the first language in the child's
learning and in their acquisition of additional languages (e.g.
Cummins, 1981, Lambert, 1987)
– The more each language in the child’s repertoire is developed, the
higher the chance that the child develops optimally (Griebel, et. al,
– EYPs who are multilingual or “plurilingual” are in a better position to
help children to build their plurilingual resources (Siraj-Blatchford &
Example of Best Practice: Norway
The ‘World of Book’ Project
Førresfjorden barnehage municipal early childhood education
center for children (age 1-5)
1. How can we offer every child good reading experiences according to
their age level?
2. How can we promote and stimulate the children’s mother tongue
without staff members that speak their languages?
Based on current policy - White paper no. 41 (2008), which
states that: “Children belonging to indigenous groups and
linguistic and cultural minorities must be supported to be part of
both majority and minority cultures”.
The World of Book Project
1. Book Boxes
– A book box contains a picture book with objects/props related to the story of this specific book.
– Rationale: When these objects/props are used together with the reading of the text, the children can
get some extra support to understand the story.
– 16 different book boxes have been created.
2. Translation of Picture Books
– The 16 picture books were translated to all the languages represented in the kindergarten.
– Process: members of staff copy the book, get the text translated in the family language (they use
professional translators), fill in the translated text, laminate the pages and tie them with metal rings.
3. Parents as Crucial Collaborators
– Parents are seen as crucial collaborators when new books are introduced.
– The translated picture books are handed out to parents who read these books for their child at home.
Example of Best Practice: Germany
Fairy Tale Treasure: A Multicultural Project
1. Using fairy tales to promote multicultural awareness.
2. Raising children’s awareness to the fact that different cultures share
similar wishes and dreams, values and beliefs, which are then
reflected in the fairy tales they create.
In this storytelling project, the EYPs acknowledged the multicultural character
of the crèche group and used the children’s diverse backgrounds to enrich the
Fairy Tale Treasure: A Multicultural Project
1. Step 1 (preliminary phase)
– identifying the nationalities/cultures represented in the (crèche)
– finding fairy tales in the ambient culture which share similarities with fairy tales
from other cultures represented in the group
– For this specific project, the fairy tales “Der Fischer und Seine Frau” (German)
and “The Lucky Fish” (Thai) were chosen because some children in the crèche
group had a Thai background.
2. Step 2 (implementing the project – Day 1)
– On the first day, the EYPs worked with the German fairy tale. The children were
taken into an imaginary journey into the land of the fairy tales and listened to
the story “Der Fischer und Seine Frau”.
– After the first storytelling phase, the EYPs encouraged the children to reflect on
the fairy tale together by asking comprehension questions.
– A special focus was given to the main characters and their names. The children
were shown pictures of the main characters and asked to repeat their names.
– These pictures were then hung on the classroom wall.
Fairy Tale Treasure: A Multicultural Project
3. Step 3 (implementing the project – Day 2)
– On the second day the children were told the Thai fairy tale in the ambient
– Reference is made to the culture, from which the foreign fairy tales comes:
Thailand. Attention is also drawn to the child in the group who has a Thai
– In the follow-up phase the children were encouraged to reflect on the
similarities between the two fairy tales in terms of plot, characters, general
message and so on.
– Since both stories used the same archetypes of characters, the EYPs worked
with the same pictures of characters, which had been hung on the wall on the
previous day. This time, however, the children were introduced to their names
– After repeating the new words orally, the children were shown the written
versions of characters names in German and Thai. which were then added to
the pictures on the wall.
– The Thai child was invited to participate actively, by checking the pronunciation
of Thai words and by paying special attention to the written versions.
Criteria for Best Practice
Split up into small groups
• Discuss some criteria for best practice in promoting
multilingualism and multiculturalism in early childhood
• You can use the examples that have been presented as a
• Create a list with 10 criteria (e.g. EYPs take into account
children’s previous cultural experiences in the design and
implementation of different activities)
• The list should be created by taking the following aspects into
account a) theoretical underpinnings b) practical work
experience and c) practicability in a stressful daily routine
Examples of criteria for the evaluation of
best practice in promoting multilingualism
and multiculturalism in early childhood
Examples of Criteria I
– acknowledges , celebrates and reflects the different
cultures present in the community (e.g. classrooms have
multicultural displays e.g. flags, toys, etc…).
– adopts a multicultural curriculum.
– recruits EYPs and support staff who are multilingual
– develops projects focusing on multilingual (ML) and
multicultural (ML) issues.
– Develops MC and ML related projects that have a long
Examples of Criteria II
– have a good degree of awareness about their own language, the language of the children and
about language development in general.
– are equipped with resources (time/staff/material/in-service training/money) to support the
language development of children from various linguistic and cultural backgrounds.
– use effective scaffolding techniques to support the development of the home language and of
– take into account children’s previous cultural experiences in the design and implementation of
– use objects or artifacts that reflect the cultures of the children.
– Work closely with parents (e.g. staff members support parents in choosing appropriate language
learning resources to be used at home).
– Create opportunities for children to join in and express themselves even if they don’t have a good
command of the ambient language. (e.g. by using songs and rhymes)
– Support language development during all ECEC activities, even if they don’t have a focus on
language (e. g. toilet time and games)
– Help children who don’t have a good command of the ambient language to develop effective
compensation strategies that allow them to use the language in spite of their gaps in knowledge.
– Learn a few words/phrases in children’s L1s in order to be able to communicate with children in the
first stages of integration.
Examples of Criteria III
– Receive adequate support for acquiring the ambient language.
– Receive adequate support for continuing their native language
– Are exposed to native or at least near-native levels of ambient
language and/or L1.
– are allowed to use their home languages at the ECEC setting in
interaction with other children or even with EYPs.
– Are exposed to stories, songs, games and other activities that
represent different cultures.
– are encouraged to engage with bi- or multilingual materials (e.g.
– are encouraged to use objects and educational resources that reflect
the ambient culture as well as other cultures.
Examples of Criteria IV
– participate in the design and implementation of minority language
learning activities as ‘language experts’.
– receive information about the importance of learning the L1.
– receive especial support (e.g. photo books, translation) for
understanding the principles and structure of the ECEC setting.
– are invited to share cultural knowledge (e.g. stories, legends, games)
with EYPs, which can then be incorporated into ECEC activities.
– are provided with resources to support their children’s linguistic
development at home (e.g. they use bilingual resources at home )
– Take part in or observe ECEC activities in order to grasp a better
understanding of their child’s language acquisition processes in that
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