I could hear her voice from the hall as I approached. It had the tone and cadence of a lesson that is going well, guiding students in a steady flow. I opened the door quietly. As I stepped inside the classroom the full volume of her words, amplified by the sound field system, suddenly surrounded me in an acoustic hug. And there she was at the front, wearing her mic headset, holding a book, and addressing the class. Her students were looking up at her, and then back to their desktops, engaged in the task she was explaining. Her words effortlessly transitioned from English to Hungarian, back and forth. The class was clearly used to hearing other languages in instruction, as evidenced by their intense focus on the activity, attending to her words with casual ease and unfazed expressions. This was, it seemed, a typical Tuesday for them.

While this teacher is fluent in Hungarian, I have also seen her use greetings and phrases in other languages too. And whenever a Multilingual Language Learner joins her class, she always welcomes them, and fully includes them in learning. It shows, too. Her new Hungarian-speaking student was all smiles. 

What an inspiring example of a multilingual learning environment, where first language is used to review and teach content. Where it is used for communication, expression, and connection. In a classroom where it is normal to hear and recognize the value of other languages. 

It is wonderful happenstance that this teacher can speak the same language as her new student. But there are many strategies teachers can use even if they do not have a language in common with the MLLs in their class. For a quick list of high-yield, low prep strategies that enable MLLs to follow whole-class lessons, my blog entry Let that be a lesson for everyone goes over some of the main ones. And for a description of these strategies in action in an actual lesson, Beginner ESL Class: Fluid Dynamics and Bernoulli’s Principle showcases another amazing teacher’s efforts to make her whole-class lessons accessible to all students, regardless of English language proficiency. 

When I think of both these educators, when I picture their lessons in my mind, I see the ways in which their teaching included students who might otherwise have sat in lonely silence. Their efforts ensured that the opposite occurred. And so, in the languages of their new students, Gracias, شكرًا لك, Köszönöm.


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