Collaborative teaching across languages
Teachers rarely collaborate across language subjects, even though such collaboration could enhance their students` multilingual awareness and language competences in multiple ways.
The aim of the seminar was to raise teachers’ awareness about multilingualism in society, its benefits, and how multilingual practices can be promoted in the classroom to raise the language awareness of both teachers and learners. Around fifty pre-service teachers of Norwegian, English, Spanish, German, and French took part.
The seminar commenced with a lecture by Dr. Åsta Haukås on multilingualism, its cognitive benefits, and the multilingual nature of Norwegian society.
Particular emphasis was placed on how multilingualism can aid in learning additional languages (and improve those already learnt), as well as multilingual approaches to teaching.
The lecture was followed by a three-stage activity that aimed to stimulate participants’ language awareness and promote multilingual collaboration.
During the first stage, participating language teachers were divided into groups and asked to read and make sense of a news article written in Dutch, a language that none of the participating teachers had previously studied. They were then asked to discuss the various strategies and languages they had relied on when trying to understand what the article was about. Deciphering the text proved to be a very engaging activity for the groups and many participants cited a range of different strategies that they had used when trying to make sense of the text, including looking for cognates, identifying repeating word patterns, and trying to understand the context based on what proper nouns were present. Several said that, in addition to using their knowledge of different Norwegian dialects, they had also relied on English, French, and German to make sense of the text.
During the second stage of the activity, the teachers in each group discussed the benefits and relevance of language teacher collaboration, as well as how learners could use the entirety of their cultural and linguistic knowledge across subjects. Discussions were very lively and insightful. Some teachers suggested pointing out the similarities between languages in terms of vocabulary and doing translation-based activities during lessons while others proposed organizing activities where technology, notably software applications, could be used as a mediating tool to promote language awareness. The final stage required each group to design and present a detailed 60-minute lesson plan that could be used in a secondary school context. The lesson’s learning objective had to include the use of all the language subjects studied in Norwegian secondary schools, and, if possible, other languages. The presentations were comprehensive in that they focused on all four language skills and included a range of innovative activities, for example, multilingual role-plays, learning stations, reading texts in a new language, discussing translanguaged texts, and making multilingual posters for the classroom.
The seminar provided a unique opportunity for language teachers to reflect on their own multilingual identity and that of their learners, on how languages interact in the mind, and devise approaches and activities that might result in a more meaningful language experience for their learners in both the language classroom and across subjects. The Multilingualism on My Mind team is looking forward to organizing future seminars on multilingualism, both with pre-service and in-service teachers.