Language ambassadors in grade 1
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Language ambassadors in grade 1

This academic year grade 1 has seen a new and exciting language adventure. Every week, each class celebrates one of the class languages spoken by the students. Why did we start this? Well, ISUtrecht had already been enjoying ‘Greeting of the Week’ where we choose a different language each week for the teachers to use with each other. In this way, teachers have learned 32 different languages for ‘Good Morning’. We then decided to introduce these ‘Good Mornings’ to our grade 1 children.

-by Helen Absalom, English Language Acquisition teacher

Through ‘Greeting of the Week’ grade 1 children have learned a lot about how languages work. For example: some languages have a different form of ‘Good Morning’ depending on whether you are speaking to one person or more than one person. Did you know that in the Xhosa language, we say ‘Molo’ to one person but ‘Molweni’ to two or more?

Home Language

School parent Abbie Geisman reads a lovely story about ‘Grandma’ in Hebrew in Grade 1 Red

Teachers in grade 1, inspired by ‘Greeting of the Week’ asked their students how they would like to celebrate their own Class Home Language of the Week. Children in all four classes brainstormed ideas and came up with: making flashcards of their favourite words from their language and teaching their classmates those words; inviting parents, teachers and older siblings to read in the language; counting the number of children in school and counting down for transitions (where one class activity is coming to an end in preparation for starting the next activity) in the Language of the Week; saying ‘Good Morning’, and ‘Goodbye’ and ‘Thank you’ all week in the Language of the Week; bringing in food at the end of the week which they feel expresses the culture or cultures in which the language is spoken, bringing in books in their home languages to create a book display.

Language Ambassador

They also suggested that we collect songs, cartoons and short video footage from the culture and language that we can listen to and watch at snack and lunch time. Along with the children, we named the child who is representing their language in any week, the ‘Language Ambassador’.

The Language Ambassador for Tamil chooses some words to teach peers in Grade 1 White

Children determined the order of languages through a lottery and a list of the order of Languages of the Week was made and displayed and we prepared a Language of the Week corner in which to place the language flashcards that children had made. The only help from teachers that children asked was to let their parents know through an email to ‘help our parents remember to cook and come in and read’.

Pride, Confidence and Camaraderie

We have been enjoying Language of the Week for some time now and have noticed that when a child is representing their language, the blossoming that they demonstrate is incomparable to anything else we have experienced. The acknowledgement of their identity and heritage instils in them a pride and a confidence which we see manifested through their presentation skills as they teach the rest of the class (and their teachers) words in their language. In the case where the Language of the Week is spoken by more than one child in the class, we have seen such great meetings occur as students plan through their home language how they are going the serve their food or share the teaching. All this has nurtured a special camaraderie between language groups within one class as well as across different classes.

Superpower

In addition, children have experienced the very uniqueness of the superpower of knowing another language as they enjoy special visits from older siblings and parents reading and telling stories and teaching languages to us. A special thank you goes to all those parents who have come in to share their cuisine and language with us.