Multilingual Classroom

Tips for Teaching in a Multilingual Classroom

A diverse classroom is a great opportunity for growth and learning. However, the levels of fluency in English often vary among multilingual students, and it is your responsibility as the instructor to help all your students succeed. You can undergo language training for teachers, of course, but until you are confident enough to teach in different languages, here are some strategies you can use.

Facilitate effective communication

The first step is to get to know your students and how they communicate. You can ask them to fill out an online form or index cards with details about themselves and their communication experience in class. Also, encourage consultation during office hours. You can use consultation time or any one-on-one setting to offer constructive feedback on communication issues that they should be aware of, such as pronunciation.

Support various modes (like a question and comments box, email, and an online discussion board), and make sure that they understand your expectations for communication.

When presenting information, provide extra oral and visual support. Paraphrase or be redundant to help your students understand concepts, and use the board to write down keywords that might be hard to understand. Let your students reflect on the topics by making time for Q&A at the end of every discussion and having them write a minute paper afterwards about their key takeaways. 

Aside from taking notes, encourage your students to record lectures or class sessions. You can also do this yourself using lecture capture software.

Multilingual Classroom

Encourage everyone to participate

Clarify to your students what you expect for class participation. Establish rules for discussion, asking questions, and participation. And be clear about what each of those mean in your class.

When asking questions, do so one at a time, and allow them to think for a bit before offering a response. Plan your questions to guide their thinking, while considering the level of complexity. Listen to your students’ responses, and use active listening strategies. Consider how you listen. Allow them time to express themselves, focus on what they say, and pay attention to verbal and nonverbal cues.

Clarify expectations for writing tasks

When giving out assignments, make sure that the goals and criteria for success are clear. Explicitly tell them the purpose, the audience, and your evaluation criteria. Make sure they understand the logistics (due date, format, length), and how to properly cite sources by showing examples.

Familiarize them with the task before giving a graded assignment, and give them opportunities to practice. You may assign an ungraded activity, and provide study questions to let them focus on the framework or formulation of arguments that they need to use.

Give them feedback on the tasks and the opportunity to respond. Have them read and discuss their output with a small group. When marking a student’s errors, help them see patterns of repetitive language errors, instead of simply marking every mistake you find. You should also give them a chance to apply the feedback directly by allowing an immediate revision.

Education should be inclusive. Although it may seem daunting at first, teaching in a multilingual classroom can be a great learning experience, not only for your students, but for you, as well.

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