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  • Writer's pictureVeronica Chia

Breaching the language barrier

Coming from France, English is not my native language, nor is it the language I speak at home. As a result, I developed an interest in teaching students with different language backgrounds. 

The facilitators at Monash Tech School implement several strategies and use various resources to cater for students with language backgrounds other than English. During my placement, I interviewed the facilitators of the Superhumans, Superpowers and Superhealth programs (Tori, Veronica and Chava), who were very happy to share their different practices with me.

Using hands-on activities & external tools

Facilitators at Monash Tech School use different hands-on activities, and their explanations include a lot of visuals that students can connect with, and learn from, while overcoming the language barrier. Some parts of the content, such as medical conditions, are represented through tangible representation; for example, looking through goggles to represent an eye condition. To make the program inclusive, every video showed on the program also comes with closed captions. Furthermore, students are provided with iPads and laptops so that they can use Google Translate (where they can look up a list of key terms given by facilitators), or visit additional websites to get more knowledge on the topic at hand.

Scaffolding through group work & peer teaching

As the program at Monash Tech School is done through collaborative work, students with different language backgrounds can select activities and questions they are more comfortable with, and answer questions in simple English as well, using bullet-points for example. Scaffolding is also provided through the peer teaching strategy. Students with different language backgrounds can be paired up or work alongside peers who speak the same language as they do (but at a more advanced level), or with native English speakers who can help them during the different activities.

Getting help from the staff or from preservice teachers

As they know their students very well, the school teachers accompanying the students can be of great help for those with a different language background. Sometimes, pre-service teachers also understand the language that students speak, so they can translate the content for the students or the questions that EAL students may have.

written by Priscilla Martin

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