Translanguaging in Practice: Part A

Patrice Thompson, 2022

Patrice Thompson joins Paul in the first of a series of three blogs on the real world implementation of a mindset and practice. Paul and Patrice met as instructor and student at Moreland University. During the 2022-2023 school year, Patrice, fourth grade homeroom teacher and team lead at Shekou International School in Shenzhen, China, is putting her MEd thesis into practice.

The Plan

This school year we will integrate translanguaging as a regular teaching practice in the SIS upper primary pedagogy culture.

The plan is divided into two halves. In the first half of the year, we will pilot the use of translanguaging in the fourth grade program through goal setting, collecting student data, and mindful integration of multilingual practices into daily lessons. After winter break, we will take the insights gained by the fourth grade team and share it during team leadership meetings in order to promote translanguaging throughout the school culture.

The school leadership knows about these plans and the head of school, principal, and vice principal of upper primary are all on board. It is crucial to have their support and to inform them of progress along the way. They know that translanguaging not only aligns with the school’s values and language policy, it is also now an official part of the International Baccalaureate’s PYP programme. As a newly minted PYP school within the last few years, making translanguaging a part of the learning culture will help Shekou International School grow in its intended direction. 

Key to our success will be demonstrating the value of and providing support for translanguaging in the various programs across the school. After coordinating with the school principal, we agreed to bring the student support team on board to plan school-wide professional development over several sessions this school year. Our first session will be on October 20. The Chinese Bilingual Program and the French International Program are also on board. We will be informing parents through a future workshop or two. Translanguaging will also be added to the agenda of the DEIJ committee. Grade 4 as a team has agreed to focus on translanguaging as an important part of our team goal for the year, and a 5-minute segment of our precious weekly meeting time has been dedicated to it. 

To keep tabs on how we are doing, we will gather student and teacher survey data, three times this semester, regarding the growing “translanguaging mindset.” Once a week we’ll also interview students about their feelings toward other languages. Finally, with the other multilingual speakers in the school, we’ll hopefully be able to create and model a multilingual habitus to encourage students to feel excited about hearing other languages, including Chinese and English, of course, but also Spanish and Afrikaans.

Anticipated Challenges

We are aware that anything new, especially adding a practice that represents a shift in the established school culture, will be difficult. There are a few hurdles we think we can predict and therefore plan for. We’re also aware that we might run across some unanticipated challenges! We’ll report on any of those in the second and third blogs of this series.

At the moment, we are ready to tackle these possible challenges. To start, this is a newer approach to teaching multilingual students. We imagine that we’ll have to be quite intentional in reminding teachers and students about the option of home language integration. Additionally, while teacher attitudes in the fourth grade program appear to be inclusive and enthusiastic about translanguaging, it would be natural to encounter some pushback and lack of follow-through from teachers in the rest of the school. Everyone is busy, of course, and schools tend to start new initiatives rather frequently. That’s why gathering data to show the usefulness of translanguaging will be so important in the first semester. 

Students will likely not be used to doing research or using academic language in their home language. And of course, as the head of school pointed out, parents more often than not expect their children to focus solely on English at school (even if translanguaging is pedagogically a great support for English learning). We emphasized the benefits and data to support home languages with parents in a recent meeting. Finally, fourth grade is an important year in which students are doing more independent research. Finding multilingual resources for an array of topics can be quite challenging. Hopefully, our supportive parent community can help out with this.

Hopes for outcomes

First and most important, the students need to benefit from this initiative on a personal level. We hope that, through the mindful use of their home language, students will feel that their home language and culture is valued by their teacher and community. Additionally, to build a better world for young and old, we hope for increased international mindedness and inclusion throughout the school.

2 thoughts on “Translanguaging in Practice: Part A”

  1. Wonderful planning for exploring capacity in language equity in schools. The valuing and honouring home languages impacts student identity as well as cognitive development. Do reach out to the ECIS MLIE special interest group to engage in sharing these trans-languaging / interlingual practices.

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