Supporting Multilingual Students in the Early Grades

Teachers may appreciate and improve the linguistic skills of kids who speak more than one language in five different ways.

Children in the United States frequently speak many languages. A Guatemalan child may be read bedtime stories in Spanish before learning English at school. They may also communicate in K’iche’ with their grandparents. These multilingual kids could have a lot of potential.

math skills and conflict resolution skills. They may also possess executive functions skills.

By inviting all children, not only bilingual ones, we send a strong message to youngsters from varied cultural and language backgrounds.

In schools, multilingualism should be celebrated and encouraged. The tactics listed below can assist teachers in intentionally and purposefully celebrating and expanding multilingual children’s linguistic skills, as well as encouraging them to participate in learning activities in person or electronically.


Children that are multilingual have a plethora of knowledge and are specialists in their native tongues. Allow space and opportunity for multilingual youngsters to express their thoughts and feelings in all languages.

For example, during partner work, you could invite your children to speak their native languages to share what they know. All multilingual learners, whether they are fluent in English or not, benefit by conversing with someone who speaks the same language as them. When kids can think and share in both of their original languages, learning is enhanced.

Multilingual students might be encouraged to make connections between English words and concepts and English terms. This will aid in the acquisition of linguistic skills. Show students how to pronounce a word in their original language to demonstrate their language skills. When a child is learning about healthy foods, you may show them a pineapple. Then ask them to utilise words from their own tongues.


Anxiety and self-doubt can make learning a second language extremely difficult. These negative emotions can form a barrier between the speaker and the listener, making it difficult for them to understand what is being said. The “affective filters” are responsible for this. To keep the affective filter at a low level, language learners must be able to employ it at a low level.

By revisiting some core topics, multilingual learners might lessen their fear. They will have a better comprehension of the material and will be more confident in what they are studying as a result of this. Anchor words, such as “farm” and “food,” engage children’s native language prior knowledge and offer context for foreign language acquisition.

Children who already speak English at home will not be required to learn these terms. However, having these words in one’s vocabulary will be beneficial to individuals who are new to the English language. Make a list of topic words that multilingual students can learn.


“I like…” and “I learnt…” are two sentence stems, or sentence beginnings, that help new English learners understand and strengthen their oral language skills. When children listen to stories or participate in group conversations, they use them to influence their spoken responses.

Sentence stems are a language model that assists children in responding in full sentences. Stems can help children focus on the message rather than worrying about how to respond. You can teach a few stems and then use them on a regular basis after that.

Because of other difficulties like youngsters having to unmute, sharing their ideas with the entire group, and being camera shy, this method is especially beneficial during a pandemic.


For the first time, English learners are confronted with a sea of words that can be difficult to comprehend. Visual aids can be quite useful in aiding comprehension. Realia (physical stuff) is a fantastic alternative if you’re teaching in person, or photographs if you’re teaching digitally.

Acting out vocabulary terms is a fun way to learn new words. Dramatization can be used to teach kids the difference between washing and cleaning. Then invite them to come along with you. You can also use visuals to allude to an object by pointing or gesturing at it. If you’re reading a book about horses and want to make a reference to one, point to the horse. If you want to express how you’re feeling, point to your temple.


How can you ensure that children, regardless of their language skills, understand you and participate in your interactions with them? Layered questioning is a technique that allows you to ask different types of questions to youngsters based on their language ability.

You can ask a question that needs children to respond with gestures (“Will your youngster point at the pineapple?”). A question can be posed to children that they must answer with a “yes” or “no.” A question that requires children to choose between eating pineapples for breakfast and lunch can be posed to them.” Open-ended inquiries can also be used to encourage children to share their ideas (“How would you describe this pineapple?”).

By asking new questions, it encourages youngsters to think and broaden their knowledge.