Intercultural understanding and well-being
A school community which welcomes and values cultural diversity among students, staff and parents is likely to create a safe and supportive environment for all. A whole school approach (see diagram below) that nurtures love, compassion, justice, reconciliation and hope will enhance EAL students’ well-being and competence to learn, progress and achieve.
EAL students bring a range of cultural knowledge and experiences. Having a cultural and linguistic background which is different from the schooling context is not in itself a disadvantage; rather it is the school’s response to diversity that influences positively (or negatively) a student’s learning and sense of self. Acknowledging and drawing upon an EAL student’s Funds of Knowledge (Moll) is empowering and beneficial for all students’ intercultural understanding. At the same time it cannot be assumed that EAL students have had the same schooling or cultural experiences as their class peers, such as going to the beach, nursery rhymes, excursions or inquiry learning. Further information about intercultural understanding and considerations is available in the ACARA EAL/D: Teacher Resource (Overview and Advice pages 20 – 23) and each of the annotated content descriptions for English, Science and Maths.
Valuing the home language
Although it is tempting for teachers to want EAL learners to practise their developing English away from school, maintenance of the home language, which is intertwined with culture, is important for cognitive development, sense of identity and their ability to communicate effectively with their family and community. Inclusive learning environments value and support multilingual students’ skills.
Being multilingual aimed at encouraging multilingual learners
World Stories is a free UK based website with online books from around the world presented in multiple languages. The collection includes retold traditional tales and new short stories. It enables children to make links between English and the home language and to support EAL parental involvement such as reading with their children.
Unite for Literacy is US based and provides Mainly JP level free digital picture books, narrated in many languages. Users can select one language + English and listen to both the English and other language version per page.
Reads has digital illustrated stories from a range of countries and cultures; some are available in languages other than English.
Resources for intercultural understanding
Intercultural understanding General Capability in the Australian curriculum
Foundation House is a comprehensive website with a range of downloadable resources for schools to support well being in culturally diverse classrooms.
The Victorian DET has a wide variety of resources including teaching resources about multicultural, intercultural and global perspectives; promoting diversity and eliminating discrimination and racism.
The National Centre for Australian Children’s Literature has a Cultural Diversity Database of books which focuses on understanding cultures.
Difference Differently: Together for humanity This interactive online resource is aligned with the Australian curriculum. There is a professional learning section for teachers and a section for students to develop intercultural understanding.
Schools Standing Up to Racism offers a comprehensive range of resources featuring a podcast, video and lesson plans to support secondary schools to address racism and discrimination.
What are your thoughts or experiences?