Highlighted Articles

Teaching and Learning Through a Multilingual Lens in the Early Years (Part 2/3)

January 17, 2016

This article is part two of a guest-author series by Eithne Gallagher – The Glitterlings and Interlingual Classrooms: Teaching and Learning through a Multilingual Lens in the Early Years

Part one can be found here.

Inspirational Pedagogy

Inspirational Pedagogy was coined by Cummins (Cummins and Early, 2015). He describes it as the kind of instruction that you would like your own child to receive. It involves school and literacy experiences that students remember throughout their lives. Cummins explains the concept of inspirational pedagogy in the following points:

• Students are academically engaged and intrinsically motivated;

• Students are generating knowledge, producing literature and/or art, and acting on social realities;

• Students’ intellectual work is being shared with a meaningful audience (peers, parents, teachers, partner classes, etc.);

• Students’ identities are being affirmed within the context of academic learning.

Communication becomes more inclusive and democratic through the ‘emerging, inspirational pedagogy’ of Interlingual teaching and learning.

Screenshot 2015-12-05 17.46.59

Getting Parents or Carers Involved

Effective Early Years teachers help children develop strategies for the identification and resolution of conflict and research tells us that practitioners who engage parents are the most effective in doing this. Sometimes, parents or carers believe that the best way for non-English language background children to integrate into school life is to jump into English and leave their home languages behind. They may even feel that support for their home language will slow their children down in acquiring English. Sadly, this belief is misinformed. Even though we always want to respect families’ views, it is our responsibility to demonstrate the power of current research and best practice. It is crucial that parents or carers are involved in the Interlingual approach. We can help show them the benefits of this approach and explain that respected research demonstrates that children need a strong home language as a foundation to build on. Providing home language support is the way to achieve academic success in English. Children need to know they are accepted for who they are in our classrooms. Allowing them to use their home languages and inviting parents to be part of this educational process contributes to creating in the child a feeling of belonging, of inner well-being and security.

Teachers can facilitate the process by helping children connect key words and concepts from the classroom to their home or second language. This will ensure the Interlingual classroom empowers children for lifelong learning and enables them to act effectively and powerfully in their personal lives and on the global stage.


The librarian at ESF International Kindergarten TsingYi Hong Kong reading Ling A Ling learns a Lullaby a Glitterling story about a Japanese child who misses Japan and her Grandma. The Glitterlings show her that Japan doesn’t have to feel so far away.

Communication and Language

Involving children in critical thinking rather than giving the child knowledge to learn and regurgitate is also a crucial step in the language acquisition process. Children naturally investigate in order to learn, they want to experience things and to ‘have a go’. We know that learning language starts with the child and is controlled by the child. The motivation to communicate comes from within and as a result of other children and adults activating their natural curiosity and moving language development forward. All young children need relevant and appropriate experiences coupled with the support of caring, sensitive and knowledgeable adults in order to learn and develop.


eithneEithne Gallagher is a recognised authority in the field of ESL in International Education and has over twenty years’ experience of teaching in international schools. She has twice been chair of the European Council of International Schools ESL & Mother-tongue Committee; she is a regular presenter at international school conferences and has delivered workshops and lectures for teachers, administrators and parents across the world.

Her writings on ESL & Mother-tongue issues have been widely published in educational journals and magazines and she has published a book entitled Equal Rights to the Curriculum in which she argues for school reform to meet the educational needs of all children growing up in a multicultural society. Eithne’s most recent work is a story-based Early Years programme for International Schools and Pre-schools: The Glitterlings was published by Oxford University Press in October 2015. Eithne provides support and consultancy for schools wishing to implement inclusive, ESL and mother-tongue policies.

Eithne is the mother of three bilingual children and lives with her family on a hilltop outside Rome.

* The Bibliography for this article series can be found here.