Words of equality

22nd March 1996 at 00:00
BILINGUAL LEARNERS IN THE CLASSROOM, By Roz Carter and Ruth Lewis, Video and training notes, Hounslow Language Service Pounds 15 including postage from Hounslow, Education Centre, Martindale Road, Hounslow, TW4 7HE

Eve Gregory welcomes a video for bilingual classrooms.

In 1988, the National Curriculum Council promised that the Education Act would open the doors of opportunity to all children, by taking account of ethnic and cultural diversity and ensuring that the curriculum provided equal opportunity for all, regardless of ethnic origin or gender. Later documents such as Curriculum Guidance 3: The Whole Curriculum (1990) and Starting out with the National Curriculum (1992) maintained that equal opportunities should be an explicit part of the curriculum policy of every school.

However, official documents have so far offered us little practical guidance on what this curriculum policy might look like. Teachers in multilingual schools are turning for help to organisations such as the National Association for Language Development in the Curriculum and staff from specialist language centres.

Roz Carter and Ruth Lewis take up the challenge in their excellent 27-minute video which has won the English Speaking Union's award for the teaching of English in the national curriculum. The authors stress that successful teaching demands close collaboration between the language support and class teacher and examine how this takes place in discussions focused on three areas: classroom organisation, teaching strategies and resources.

Each area of discussion is illustrated by scenes in which teachers work with groups of children in different curriculum areas and at different key stages (maths and science in key stage 2, history in key stage 3, English in key stage 1, geography in key stage 2 and the development of social language skills through games).

The ideas are stimulating and will promote discussion during in-service sessions. Classroom organisation includes planning for differentiation and the value of group work. We see ways in which language support teachers introduce language and concepts to a small group of emergent bilinguals before the theme is presented to the whole class. Teacher strategies include careful consideration of the vocabulary and structures to be presented, the use of strong visual clues and the need to link language with practical experiences. Resources highlight the value of games, work-sheets and so on for additional language learners, many of which can be obtained from or viewed at the Hounslow Language Centre.

The video is technically of excellent quality. It is designed for both initial and in-service teacher education and the accompanying leaflet suggests ideas for discussion after viewing each classroom scene. Above all, the authors highlight the skills and training needed to establish equality of educational opportunity for emergent bilingual pupils. I would like to see a series of videos for different curriculum areas at each key stage; it would make an excellent introduction to the work.

Eve Gregory is senior lecturer in education, Goldsmiths College. Her new book Making Sense of a New World: Learning to Read in a Second Language is published by Paul Chapman

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