Article Details

Article Details

Multilingualism in Classroom Instruction: “I think it’s helping my brain grow”

Author: Jim Cummins
Date of Publication: January 2018
Series Title: Scottish Languages Review Issue 33
Notes: DOI: 10.6084/m9.figshare.5925088

School systems in many countries typically view the home languages of multilingual students either as largely irrelevant or as an impediment to students’ educational progress. It is frequently assumed that because the teacher does not speak the multiple languages that may be represented in his or her classroom, there are no instructional options other than use of the national language (e.g., English) as the exclusive language of instruction. This normalized assumption is challenged in the present paper. Drawing on research carried out collaboratively with teachers across Canada over a 15-year period, I document ways in which students’ home languages can be incorporated into classroom instruction. This instructional approach, which I label ‘teaching through a multilingual lens’, is supported by an extensive range of research related to the effects of bi/multilingualism on students’ cognitive and metalinguistic development and the positive cross-lingual relationships between students’ first and second languages. The approach is also consistent with a philosophical and theoretical orientation that instruction should focus on teaching the whole child.

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