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

February 28, 2016

This article is part three 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, and part two here.

What is Oxford International Early Years: The Glitterlings?

The Glitterlings is an Interlingual story and play-based English Language course which is the first of its kind. Interlingual Teaching and Learning is, in fact, the essence of the course and what is unique about it. The Glitterlings programme is aligned to the successful Early Years Foundation Stage Framework (EYFS) which originates in the UK. The EYFS combined with the Interlingual Teaching and Learning Goals (ITLGs) ensure the needs of young learners are met in a creative and dynamic way that allows the child and the teacher to become involved in a mutual learning process where each one learns from the other. Learning is not the sole domain of children: teachers have to become learners as well. To this end, teaching and learning goals are grouped together to facilitate the Interlingual approach and to provide a more genuine setting for mutual learning to take place.


Glitterlings poster

Parental Involvement

The Glitterlings New Word Book, along with the ‘write-in space’ in the Story books, allows parents and children to connect key words and concepts from the course to their home or second language. Connecting learning to students’ home lives is a core component of effective instruction.

Interlingual teachers hold parent meetings to inform them about interlingual teaching and learning and discuss the tasks that parents can fullfil such as:

• Taking part in language related activities in the classroom;

• Retelling the stories in their home language;

• Translating classroom materials;

• etc.

By sharing knowledge with parents, teachers can bring about change that will benefit the child as an individual and improve the school community as a whole. Every parent is a valuable resource that teachers and children can count on to diffuse and extend the multilingual, multicultural ethos of the school.

In Glitterling environments children know that their home language is valued and respected and they learn that there is a place for all languages in the classroom.

The Joy of Multilingual and Multicultural Learning

The Interlingual Glitterling classroom empowers children for lifelong learning and enables them to act effectively and powerfully in their personal lives and on the global stage. The nine stories are based around exciting, global themes that are charming, relevant and engaging for children. The Glitterling characters are curious, delightful, fun-loving polyglots that come from ‘two stars left of the moon’. They help children discover the joy of learning about multilingualism and multiculturalism. They challenge them to think beyond the limits of the classroom walls and introduce them to a world of languages beyond their own and the language of instruction.

A Global Child

The Glitterlings Interlingual classrooms are places where, through cultural awareness and respect for other languages, the ideas and responsibilities of ‘world citizenship’ are nurtured and developed. There is cultural and linguistic authenticity in everyday play. Glitterling classrooms are places where international mindedness is seen in action, internationalism is felt and Interlingual children learn who they are in the context of the classroom and the broader society. They learn to work within an international framework of tolerance and respect.

The Multilingual Lens

Cummins says (2015), ‘Inspirational pedagogy becomes a feasible goal when we interpret curricular expectations in light of the funds of knowledge represented by our students and their communities and expand the instructional space within our classrooms by teaching through [an Interlingual,] multilingual lens.’ This involves school and literacy experiences that students are likely to remember throughout their lifetimes.

Screenshot 2015-12-05 17.57.16

We can change our way of thinking through changing what happens in classrooms. Communication expands becoming more inclusive and democratic through the ‘emerging, inspirational pedagogy’ of Interlingual teaching and learning in Glitterling classrooms.

Through such genuine experiences with other languages in the formative years of schooling we can set a trend of international mindedness that will be a step towards our world becoming better, more genuinely democratic, pluricultural and plurilingual.


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.