Over 20% of children in primary school are identified as having English as an additional language (EAL), however this statistic does not necessarily recognise all multilingual children. The focus is on whether a pupil’s English is ‘good enough’, as opposed to positively recognising the extent of their overall language skills. This creates a duality where English is on one side and all additional languages are categorised as ‘other’, which can result in multilingual children being perceived as disadvantaged in formal education.
‘Lost Wor(l)ds seeks to address this perception, giving teachers ideas and tools to integrate multilingualism into the classroom. Specifically, the project aims to:
- Normalise the sense of multilingualism for all, through language awareness, language use, and purposeful play in the primary school classroom.
- Influence education policy makers to acknowledge and include multilingualism as a strength at all levels of our society.
- Connect children’s home and school experience, by acknowledging and validating the knowledge they all bring of language and culture.
- Empower primary teachers to celebrate language/s in the classroom every day and, in doing so, raise status and normalise diversity.
The project takes its name from and is an extension of ‘The Lost Words: A Spell Book’ by Robert Macfarlane and Jackie Morris, which focuses on reconnecting children with nature and inspiring them to engage with the magic of language. At the same time, we acknowledge that children’s languages are an important part of their identity, and supporting these languages, including in formal education contexts, is a vital part of supporting identity development – if children are unable to develop and connect to their heritage language, they lose an important part of their identity, their world.
While all activities presented here have links to nature, the methods and tools utilised can be universally implemented, to holistically integrate and normalise multilingualism in the classroom. At the same time as supporting multilingual children, the activities raise language awareness for all, encouraging language creativity and playfulness, and opening the door to language learning. Most of the activities will also easily adapt for the mfl classroom.
We are proud to be supporting Schools of Sanctuary – our activities can be used as part of your School’s journey to gain the School of Sanctuary award, showing a language-inclusive environment to all pupils.
‘Lost Wor(l)ds’ builds on the research of Dr Sabine Little (University of Sheffield). It is funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), and supported by the UK Literacy Association and Sheffield Libraries. Original research was funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), the British Academy, and the UK Literacy Association. Sabine convenes the Literacy and Multilingualism Special Interest Group for the UK Literacy Association.
Principal Investigator: Dr Sabine Little, School of Education, University of Sheffield, email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Impact Associate: Dr Rebecca Murray, School of Education, University of Sheffield, email: email@example.com.
With thanks to Hadrian Cawthorne for his expert advice in setting up the website, Katrin Gläsmann for the use of images, and all the teachers, pupils, and families who helped test the activities for us.